No, a fox-wolf hybrid does not exist, because wolves and foxes have different numbers of chromosomes, making it impossible for the two species to interbreed.
Wolves have 78 chromosomes while foxes have 38 chromosomes. They have different genetic structures, which means that even if they do breed, they wouldn’t be able to create a hybrid through breeding.
Even though both foxes and wolves belong to the Canidae family of animals, they cannot breed with each other. However, some other members of the Canidae family might be able to create hybrids, such as the coywolf.
Why a Fox-Wolf Hybrid Cannot Exist
The main reason why a fox-wolf hybrid cannot exist is their differences in genetic material and the evolutionary divergence between the two species.
Throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, there have been many experiments with animal hybrids.
Many of these experiments have born fruit and created exceptional hybrids of differing colors, shapes, and sizes. This has created famous hybrids like the mule and other animal hybrids that have since become their own species.
The prospect of creating a hybrid animal has baffled scientists ever since Aristotle.
However, the breakthrough of analyzing hybrids has only been made since the 17th century when science became advanced enough to analyze the genetic structure of hybrids and their parent animals.
Charles Darwin was the first zoologist and scientist to prove the theory behind hybrids. He thought that some animals are not compatible with each other for making hybrids because of their evolutionary differences, which ultimately led to a change in their genetic material.
More contemporary studies have confirmed Darwin’s theory. Some of these studies are very specific, but the underlying base for all of these studies is the fact that these animals all have a different genetic structure in one way or another, which makes them incompatible.
More specifically, one of the main reasons why scientists believe that foxes and wolves cannot mate is because of alleles in different loci that don’t go well together.
This thesis was presented by Norman A. Johnson in his study, which might also be one of the main reasons behind the sterility of some hybrids that can get created.
And many of the animals that have a similar structure, like the donkey and the horse, create hybrids like the mule that is sterile, so the species cannot reproduce effectively.
In short, the main reason for the incompatibility between foxes and wolves is in their number of chromosomes and some other slight differences in their genetics.
Read Also: Can you Tame a Wolf and keep it as a Pet?
What Other Wolf Hybrids Exist?
The wolfdog is the most common hybrid of wolves, while the coywolf is another potential hybrid that is still being explored by scientists.
The wolfdog, particularly, is an interesting hybrid to observe.
It is believed that this hybrid was created hundreds of years ago already, and it is possible that these hybrids have been around ever since the two species were created.
The wolfdog has an overall physical structure that more closely resembles a wolf, but it has a head that looks like that of a dog.
What is more, the behavior of the wolfdog is tamer than the behavior of a wolf. It’s highly affectionate but not the friendliest species to be around, even though it’s significantly friendlier than the wolf.
Breeding between wolves and dogs is believed to have started in the 18th century already. However, more and more wolfdog hybrids started to be created in the 1960s, when people started experimenting more and more with wolf and dog hybrids.
Most of the hybrids created subsequently have been hybrids between the gray wolf and a Siberian husky.
The other more common wolf hybrid is the coywolf.
A coywolf is a hybrid between the coyote and the wolf. The main reason why this breeding is possible is that both wolves and coyotes have 78 chromosomes, making it possible for them to breed with each other and create hybrids like the coywolf.
These hybrids tend to behave more like the coyote but have an appearance that resembles the wolf a bit more closely. It is found all over North America and more specifically, in Massachusetts.
It’s also found in other states and especially in Canada in provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and in other parts of Canada and the USA, too.
The hybrid between wolves and coyotes is believed to be slightly more recent than the wolfdog. It was only created in the 1960s and the 70s, although they became slightly more widely distributed only in the late 20th century.
Read Also: European vs North American Wolves (Key Differences)
Can Foxes Breed with Dogs?
No, foxes cannot breed with most other members of the Canidae family because they have a slightly different chromosomal structure.
They have fewer chromosomes than dogs, coyotes, and wolves. As a result, the three mentioned species are more closely related to each other while the fox is still a member of the canid family, just with a different genetic structure.
However, it is still possible for wolves and foxes to get along perfectly well. In fact, wolves and foxes do not find each other as enemies and won’t actively hunt each other. However, they might get territorial over each other.
It’s usually the wolves that win out, especially if they form packs and confront foxes that come into their territories.
Wolves are also stronger and larger in stature, enabling them to instill fear in the fox and scare it away from its territory. And foxes also don’t form packs as much as wolves do.
To conclude, wolves and foxes do not mate because foxes only have 38 chromosomes, while wolves have 78.
This is a crucial difference to know and it’s something that has baffled many scientists since centuries ago. However, only with Darwin have we started to learn the reasons why these species cannot breed and create hybrids.
A wolf still has hybrids with some other animals, and they can create interesting hybrids like the coywolf or the wolfdog.
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