A domestic dog (L) and a pampas fox (R).
The first known hybrid between a pampas fox and a domestic dog was discovered in Brazil.
The “amazing” creature shared visual and behavioral characteristics with both animals.
This type of hybridization can be a threat to wildlife conservation, scientists said.
The first known hybrid of a dog and a fox has been discovered in the wild after being hit by a car in Brazil.
The animal, nicknamed dog-fox, was found after it was taken to a vet in 2021, and hospital staff could not determine what it was, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported.
Scientists studied the animal’s genes and revealed in a recently published study that the animal’s mother was a pampas fox. Her father was a domestic dog of an unspecified breed.
View a photo of the unique animal here.
The dog-fox resembles both a dog and a fox and shares characteristics with both animals, scientists said.
She refused food and preferred live rodents, barked like a dog but had a thick coat of hair similar to a fox, and was initially cautious of humans but would eventually warm to them, per The Telegraph.
Flávia Ferrari, a conservationist who worked with the animal, told The Telegraph that she was an “amazing animal.”
“It was not as docile as a dog, but it also lacked the aggressiveness expected of a wild canid when handled,” she said.
“She had a shy and cautious personality, generally preferring to stay away from people. Over the time she was hospitalized for treatment, I believe she started to feel safer.”
When she started to feel comfortable, she occasionally allowed herself to be touched and caressed and sometimes even played with toys, Ferrari said.
Other names suggested for the animal were “graxorra” and “dogxim,” which reference the Portuguese names for the pampas fox and female dog.
This type of hybridization between species from different genera is relatively rare and has not been previously documented in South America.
While there have previously been recorded cases of hybridization between domestic dogs and wild canids – a family of mammals that includes wolves and foxes – this was the first case of these two specific species cross-breeding and the first on the continent.
“In our study, we recorded the first case of hybridization between one species of wild canid and the domestic dog,” study author Bruna Elenara Szynwelski, a PhD student in genetics and molecular biology at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, told The Telegraph.
“But, different to cases of hybridization studied in North America, Europe, and Africa, this hybridization occurred between species from the distinct genera: lycalopex and canis.”
This type of hybridization can threaten wildlife conservation due to risks of introgression and disease transmission by the dog, the study said.
The dog-fox was neutered as part of her treatment, so it is not clear whether she could reproduce, but scientists believe it would be possible, The Telegraph said.
The animal recovered at the veterinary hospital of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and was then transferred to conservation center Mantenedouro São Braz in Santa Maria city, per The Telegraph.