Humans domesticated wolves sometime around 30,000 to 10,000 years ago. They, together with bees and goats, were some of the first animals to be partnered with humans. However, other animals have been domesticated as well since then.
Like the fox.
NPR reported in February 2011 that humans may have tried domesticating foxes as early as 16,000 years ago. A man’s grave in northern Jordan contained a fox skeleton, arranged similarly to how dogs would be buried with their masters four thousand years later. However, the trend did not continue and the pet Jordan fox died out. Unlike wolves, foxes are naturally solitary and reclusive, which may have made their domestication simply too more trouble than it was worth.
On the other side of the world, however, foxes were successfully used by people for a much longer time. During Darwin’s time on the Beagle he spent a long amount of time describing the natives of Tierra del Fuego, their habits, and their use of a ‘doggie’ that was used to hunt otters. This animal, known as the perro Yaghan or the perro Fuegan was a domestic strain of Pseudalopex culpaeus, a South American fox species. Unfortunately, little has been written about this animal and the strain is now extinct.
More recently a line of silver foxes have been purposefully domesticated in Russia. The project has been going on since 1959 and while it suffered during the collapse of the Soviet Union, an American company (SibFox) is currently looking to sell the animals as pets. Interestingly, the breeding program has also brought up many dog-like traits in the foxes. In addition to becoming friendlier and calmer around humans the foxes have also started barking and wagging their tails, traits not expected or chosen by the researchers. They have even been described as ‘like golden retrievers’. The foxes are, understandably, quite expensive, so unless you have $7,000 to spend, you should probably stick to a dog.