Novelty and Narcissism
Dr. Coren says, "There's a real thing about novelty value with animals--everyone wants the most exotic breed of dog, for example." In the same way that some might flock toward the All-American golden retriever, others might want, say, a rare Norwegian Lundehund. Your pet can be a reflection of yourself, and having a rare animal can emphasize your own uniqueness and individuality. And what's rarer than a pet spotted genet or arctic fox? Exotic animals "reinforce your own identity and bring you social attention, which is very, very rewarding for human beings," says Coren.
this list of presidential pets. Back when a president was allowed to own up to his wealth and social standing without having to pretend to be a regular guy, presidents had insane pets. Herbert Hoover had two crocodiles. Teddy Roosevelt had a pet badger named Josiah. Benjamin Harrison had two opossums, perhaps the ugliest mid-sized North American mammal, and named them Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection. Calvin Coolidge, if he tried to maintain his collection today, would be thrown in jail about twelve times over--dude had a wallaby, a duiker, a black bear, two lion cubs, a pygmy hippo, and a bobcat.Going along with that is our own stupid vanity. Having a rare purebred dog doesn't just say "I am a special snowflake with a cool dog," it also says "I am rich as hell, and can afford to import a puffin-hunting dog from the remote fjords of Norway." Take a look at
Not a one of those presidential exotics would make for a good pet. Probably half of them would have loved nothing more than to kill and eat its Commander in Chief. But having a pet bear says "I am tough." Having a pet duiker says "I am worldly and informed." Having a pet wallaby says...actually, I'm not sure what that says. Coolidge was a loony.
There's a dark, dominant side to our desire for exotic pets. "It's a very male notion in some respects," says Coren. "If I've tamed a tiger and it lives in my house, I'm really quite macho." Even aside from atypical pets like foxes, many domestic-wild hybrids are increasing in popularity. Coydogs (dogs crossed with coyotes) and wolfdogs are more and more common. Hybrid cats are even more so--you can breed a domestic cat with almost any small wild feline and have yourself a pet that looks like it should be catching guinea fowl in the Serengeti. And it's yours, in your house.
Tamed wild animals--because, almost exclusively, these are not properly domesticated animals, but merely wild animals raised by humans--are an even bigger sign of your dominance. That arctic fox in your family room? It curls up on your area rug and eats pet food from the bodega, because you have conquered it. You are not afraid of the wild; you have bent the wild to your will, and your will is for that arctic fox to watch New Girl with your family on Tuesday nights.
This reason is the darkest because it often turns dangerous. The US Humane Society considers wolfdogs wild animals--they are listed as the breed with the sixth-highest bite statistics, and given their relative scarcity, that's something like 15-20 times higher than non-hybrid dogs. Tamed red foxes are incredibly destructive to property, often have a strong musk odor, and can be dangerous to strangers or other pets. And some animals just can't really even be tamed; Dr. Adam Miklosi from Hungary once tried an experiment in which three-day-old wolf pups were given to testers. You'd think the wolves would grow up tame, calmer. Not even close; domestication is a genetic process, not a learned behavioral process, and after 18 months the experiment had to be shut down because a whole bunch of people had wolves in their homes.
So, I want a pet fox. But I won't get one. Foxes do not make good pets; they have almost all of the bad traits in our Wheel of Exotic Pets. And in my current state of residence, New York, no species of canidae are permitted short of domestic dogs and fennec foxes. No pet red foxes allowed. So in the meantime, I will continue to go hiking here in the hills of the Northeast, where foxes are common, and I will take pictures of them and post them on my Facebook, and I will still probably talk about how much I wish it was in my living room. But I don't, not really. Well, maybe a little.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.