Have you ever heard of a hybrid animal? It’s when two different species of animals that would not naturally mate in nature produce new offspring.
Sounds kinda impossible, right?
While it may sound like something from a science fiction movie, did you know hybrid animals do exist in the real world?
You may have already heard about ligers (lion + tiger), wholphins (whale + dolphin), mules (horse + donkey), and zonkey (zebra + donkey).
But recently, a fascinating discovery was made in Brazil. The world’s first ever dog-fox hybrid, a ‘dogxim’, has been identified. This unique animal is a cross between a dog and graxaim-do-campo, the Portuguese name for pampas fox.
Now, you might be wondering how this remarkable creature was discovered.
In 2021, Dogxim, the female dog-fox hybrid, was found when she was hit by a car and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility for treatment.
The staff at the facility initially thought she was a dog. However, they soon noticed a strange mix of physical and behavioral traits.
Dogxim looks and barks like a dog, but she has long, pointed, fox-like ears, thick wiry fur, and a long, thin snout. Not to mention, she climbs bushes and refuses to eat common dog food. Instead, she prefers to eat rats. These exhibiting behaviors were more typical of the local Pampas fox.
This led the caretakers to wonder if the animal was a hybrid of a domestic dog and a local wild canid.
Canid is a family of mammals that includes domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, and dingoes.
Genetic testing later confirmed that Dogxim was a hybrid between a female pampas fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus) and a male domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
It is believed to be the first documented hybrid of a fox and a dog in existence. Further genetic analysis revealed that she had 76 chromosomes, a combination of the fox’s 74 chromosomes (37 pairs) and the dog’s 78 chromosomes (39 pairs).
How a fox met a dog
Now, you might also be thinking, how could a fox and a dog meet?
According to experts, environmental changes may be one of the reasons. Southern Brazil’s grassy plains, where Pampas foxes reside, are experiencing widespread habitat loss and development. Much of it is converted into grazing pastures for cattle ranches and human residences.
Moreover, despite the stable population of Pampas foxes, their territory increasingly overlaps with domestic dogs, creating more opportunities for interbreeding.
Another reason may also be because of abandoned dogs. Although abandoning dogs is a crime in Brazil, it’s still common. This may have resulted in more dogs in natural habitats, including protected areas.
What happened to Dogxim?
In August of 2023, scientists reached out to the caretakers of Dogxim, who was being cared for at Mantenedouro São Braz.
However, when they requested updated photos of the animal, they were informed that Dogxim had passed away six months (March) without any details on the cause or circumstances of her death.
Despite recovering from an injury six months before, Dogxim appeared to be in good health, according to veterinarian and conservationist Ferrari. The Brazilian government has expressed concerns, and the Secretariat of Environment and Infrastructure (SEMA) is currently investigating the matter.
Hybrid animals often face genetic abnormalities that make it difficult to thrive in their environment.
This discovery raises concerns about humans and their domesticated animals’ harmful effects on wild animal populations and the natural world.