Unique mix to date: Stray turns out to be a dog-fox hybrid

This article first appeared on n-tv.

Unique mix to date: Stray turns out to be a dog-fox hybrid

This article first appeared on n-tv.de.

Researchers in Brazil have identified a dog-fox hybrid. According to a genetic analysis, the female animal was a mix of a South American pampas fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus) and a common domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) – and a chance find.

The wild animal was hit by a car near Vacaria in southern Brazil in 2021 and was seriously injured. Animal rescuers took it to the veterinary clinic at the University of Grande do Sul, and it was later transferred to a wildlife clinic. When it came to the shy young animal, the employees on site were initially unsure whether they were looking at a fox or a dog. "For us biologists and veterinarians, it is normal to look at all animals differently. We are trained to pay attention to what is common and different when observing an animal. And that is exactly what happened," says Cristina Araujo Matzenbacher, who at who was involved in the genetic study of the animal, was quoted by "Newsweek".

The animal barked like a dog and its eyes and dark fur also looked like a dog's. However, his pointed ears and long snout suggested otherwise. In addition, it did not eat dog food, only small rats. "It wasn't as docile as a dog, but it also lacked the aggressiveness you'd expect from a wild fox," a conservationist who helped care for the animal was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

Because of the unusual appearance and atypical behavior, the supervising veterinarian, Flavia Ferrari, contacted genetic engineering expert Thales Renato Ochotorena de Freitas. A genetic test was carried out shortly afterwards. When evaluating the data, the researchers saw that it was actually an offspring of a pampas vixen and a domestic dog of an unknown breed. The animal carried a total of 76 chromosomes. For comparison: a pampas fox has 74 chromosomes, a dog has 78.

According to the researchers, who published their results some time ago in the journal Animals, this is the first documented case of this kind. "So far we have no scientific evidence that there are other hybrids in this region. We suspect "However, this case we describe is not the only one," said Bruna Szynwelski, who was involved in the study, according to Newsweek.

The animal was quickly given different names such as “Graxorra” and “Dogxim”. "Graxorra" is a combination of "Grax" and "orra" - Graxaim-do-campo means pampas fox in Portuguese, "Cachorra" means female dog. "Dogxim" is a combination of "Dog" and "Xim", which comes from Graxaim-do-campo.

It is unclear whether the dog vixen could have reproduced. She was castrated during her treatment at the clinic and died for reasons that are still unclear in March 2023 at the state zoo that took her in. The state authorities had announced, according to the Telegraph, that they now want to investigate the previously unclear circumstances surrounding the death of the unique animal.

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