Curious Canine: The new kind of fox-dog hybrid discovered in Brazil

Fareeha Arshad

In Brazil, a stray canine discovered in 2021 has been identified as a rare hybrid between a South American pampas fox and a domestic dog, referred to as a "dogxim." The animal's appearance and behaviour puzzled scientists from the beginning. While it barked like a dog and displayed dog-like eyes and dark fur, its pointed ears and long snout suggested a different origin. Interestingly, the hybrid refused dog food, opting for small rats instead.

After a road collision in Vacaria, Rio Grande do Sul, the injured canine was rehabilitated at the Center for Conservation and Rehabilitation of Wild Animals at the Federal University of Grande do Sul. Despite the region being home to four canid species, none matched the rescued canine's characteristics.

Genetic analysis revealed the animal is a hybrid between a pampas fox and a domestic dog—an unusual crossbreeding event between species from different genera. The discovery challenges the notion that species diverged about 6.7 million years ago cannot produce viable hybrids.

The rescued hybrid possessed 76 chromosomes, exhibiting a similar appearance to domestic dogs and pampas foxes. Pampas foxes usually have 37 chromosomes, which could rearrange with a dog's genome to form 38 pairs. Although not precisely matching the dog's 39 pairs, the genetic similarities allowed for rare combinations of functional DNA.

Further analysis of the hybrid's mitochondrial DNA, inherited from the maternal side, indicated that its mother was likely a pampas fox and the father was a dog. While this case is the first documented instance, scientists suspect other hybrids may be in the region.

Tragically, the unique dog-fox hybrid passed away under unknown circumstances at a zoo after recovering from its injuries. Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding its death, adding a poignant twist to the story of this rare and intriguing creature.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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