Cuteness mostly comes from a particular configuration of facial features, along with other attributes like cleanliness and appearance of warmth. The sight of a cute mammal (and sometimes non-mammal, like certain bird species) triggers "releasing mechanisms." It's not complicated; we like things that look like babies (even if they're adult things--that's called "neoteny"), because it's in our best interest to want to protect and care for babies. That usually means, compared to body size, we are drawn to very large eyes, a short nose, and a large round head. We like symmetry and we like a lack of blemishes, because a symmetrical and blemish-free baby is more likely to be a healthy baby. So, duh. Baby animals are cute, we want to nurture them. That explains the popularity of exotics like the kinkajou, which looks like a furry human baby, even though it's closely related to raccoons than to primates.
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.
Dan, Mitch Calmanson sounds a great deal like my father and I believe your description is ill-chosen. "Speaking ones piece" and then remaining silent isn't unusual. It creates opportunity for intelligent conversation. Those who can't keep up their end of a conversation might find it off-putting. Those whose intent is to learn listen.
The headline reminded me of something I saw on TV years ago.
Then I read the article and it is EXACTLY the same research I saw on TV years ago.
I thought we would have done more with that knowledge by now.
Why are animals still endangered? Where is my miniature pet elephant?
Its simple animal breeding anyone can do. We should have domesticated versions of all wild animals by now. Especially those that are easy to breed.
This story was covered in a PBS special called "Dogs Decoded" about canine DNA and domestication. They were using these foxes as an example of how domestication can actually change the physical traits of these animals, such as shorter snouts, floppy ears and more "expressive" eyes. If you have Netflix, it's on there.
Foxes are awesome!
The work done to make more tame fox's were not in any way an attempt to make a pet. They were to be used as animals for the fur trade. Wild animals would be tested to see which ones tended to be less wild and then bred to less wild ones. The changes brought on by this breeding was to make very tame fox but failed in the attempt to make good quality fur. (lucky for the fox)
All of this is on a PBS show.
Who the heck has $8000 for a pet fox? I mean seriously.
I have to wonder about the domestication project. What exactly happens to all of the non chosen ones? Were they destroyed as unsuitable - or left to enjoy life at club Russia?
Those would seem to be the choices -- especially in the later stages. As the project progressed, some indivduals involved would certainly not thrive in the wild, while also not being suitable as companions.
Great feature. I've always wondered why so many people seem to want exotic animals. Honestly I've questioned their sanity any number of times (especially the ones with "extreme" animals). After reading the article, I'm not quite so sure about having such strong thoughts about those people. All I can say is that I certainly don't want one. An ordinary house cat is more than enough for me. Also, I'm not comfortable with the idea of even domesticated exotic animals. Just because an animal is domestic does not mean it can't go nutty and attack a neighbor.
I thought this story sounded familiar and sure enough that's because it was in Scientific American in 2010.
And the great thing about it, their version is written for grown-ups, it's not written in lolcat trying to be down with the kids.
you created an account for that comment?? The article you referenced is only about the Russian fox study and barely even mentions pets. How is that the same as this article (see title)?
But When Can I get Bunnygirl?
Don't be surprised if it eats your cat.
It seems weird to me to genetically engineer an animal to love us...
at least when we initially domesticated wolves they served a purpose, we needed them to help us with livestock, to hunt vermin, etc...
we're breeding these poor animals in labs merely for our own amusement... it doesn't seem fair or humane.
I will be speaking to the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board on Feb 9 to make a case for making foxes legal pets in AL (currently ALL foxes are illegal regardless of origin). Please consider signing my petition at Change.org/petitions/domestic-fox-legalization. If you have any advice or if you know someone willing to write a short paragraph or two about their experience, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!!
I live in Georgia where we have an ample supply of (common) possums. I had the occasion to rescue some baby possums, which I later learned was illegal to do (without a wildlife rehab license of some sort). I'll tell you, baby possums are really fun to play with, and fully-grown possums are not the disgusting, filthy, vicious animals you may think. Their behavior is roughly comparable to cats: they keep themselves clean, but don't have much personality or a complex behavioral repertoire, and I never had one bite or scratch or otherwise act aggressive toward me (I'm not referring to wild possums but the ones I rescued and raised). They can be trained to use a litter box. An expert will probably tell you there's dangers trying to tame or domesticate possums, and I would defer to a true expert. I just regret that an interesting and fun animal that is at the opposite extreme of being endangered is illegal to own.
The very nature of this is been repeated in humans and yet current modern human culture is in denial about the document written history given to them from the (beings that come down from above) who created humans to serve the GODS, via the Sumerian tablet history.
Prior to the Sumerians culture, no such story existed before like this, so it is documented history, not hand me down myth. There is a large difference.
You know, Neanderthal is documented to be an independent bunch living in groups of 10 with larger brains than modern humans. The GODS need to domesticate the local primates, enable their communication skies, instill them a high desire to gather\greed, with the imagination and intelligence to do so. It is said, as we obey the GODS, they are please.
What a perfect domesticated pet, lol!
Hmmm I know people who own Bobcats here in Texas. And have seen first hand how these animals will cuddle and play with their owners. So..I think it all depends on the individual animal and how its hand raised. My friends Bobcat even plays with his dog lol! Not all animals from the wild will try to bite your face off!
I believe there are some animals that people have tried domesticating in the same way the Institute did, but were unsuccessful. I think this has been tried with zebras several times but for whatever reason, never works.
Far Out Man, my comment was as much about the writing style as the repetitiveness. I don't think the pet aspect of the story added anything because it was so casual and rambling. "So, I want a pet fox. But I won't get one. I will take pictures of them and post them on my Facebook." I would rather read about actual science more than Dan Nosowitz's diary. This site seems to be making a big push to get young male readers, all the video game and smart phone app "news" and dumbed-down headlines, and I like grown-up science articles, not rambling personal stories speculating about people being "weirdos" and narcissistically centered on the author's feelings.
Social media just sells better.....
I don't know about foxes, but my wolf is a butthole.
very well then. I found the article to be quite interesting and well written. Of course I'm coming from the side that wouldn't want a wild animal as a pet, so I'm sure that caught my attention right away. The article covered all the bases nicely and as I indicated, it did make me sit back and ask myself if I was being too judgmental. However, even now I'm asking myself why Dan would want a fox ... and I certainly don't want my neighbor to have a wildcat as a pet!
Help Stop Fox and Coyote Hunt Pens. Please read and pass on the more people who know the facts the better. o-called foxhound training facilities, or fox pens, as they are more commonly known, are parcels of land with a minimum size of 100 acres, which are entirely fenced to create an escape-proof enclosure into which foxes are released, ostensibly for the purposes of training foxhounds to follow the scent of foxes and pursue this quarry. Foxes are live-trapped from the wild within a 50-mile radius of the facility, and stocked into these enclosures at densities determined by the owners. Then, for a fee paid to the fox pen operator, hounds are allowed inside the facility to pursue these foxes. While owners and advocates of these facilities contend that the foxes are not harmed by this confinement and pursuit, the fact that approximately 4,000 foxes have been introduced to fewer than 40 such facilities in the last few years seems to contradict such statements. Go the The Wildlife Center of Virginia website for more info.
Come here, little fox, let us inbreed you into submission :p
dammit, this article really fires me up...I want a pet fox so badly now!
Make me think of this:
“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near--
Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . ."
Yes, that is so," said the fox.
But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
Yes, that is so," said the fox.
Then it has done you no good at all!"
It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Foxes are beautiful, but I still prefer the many dogs and cats we have now! To me, foxes belong free in the wild so we need to help protect them and their natural habitats. - Author Janette of the new poem Beloved Cat: Once Mortal Enemy, Now Immortal Friend at
Am I really the ONLY reader who was reminded of "Kevin & Kell" (a web comic) while reading this article?!?!
When tame wild animals grow up they retain the characteristics of their wild counterparts and not those of a domesticated pet. So why would an animal that is affectionate and social by nature acquire an uncharacteristic behavior, like becoming anti-social?
I have pet red fox, Aspen and pet raccoon, Savannah that I purchased from Tiny Tracks in Ind, I live in FL, and I love them like they are my children. Savannah follows me around and loves to be petted. Aspen loves to run in fenced in yard, she also loves to be petted and lots of attention. She is good on leash when attached with my little dachund, she thinks she is her mother, Aspen would play 24/7 if any animal would play with her, she is very friendly and loves all dogs so I have to watch her around dogs so they don't get her! She has gotten out in the neighborhood and always comes back. (2x). I do spend alot of time with them and they have a big 10 x 20 pen with lots of toys and high places to sit anda den to hide in. I love my pets! Sav. can come in house anytime, but Aspen marks too much so she is outside and garage which is set up with chairs and tv, a hangout area.