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Can Foxes Breed With Dogs? (Scientific Explanation)

No, foxes can’t breed with dogs. The two are too genetically different to breed, due to a different number of chromosomes in their genes. Foxes also cannot breed with wolves, coyotes, or jackals.

This may sound confusing as both dogs and foxes are members of the same genus (family). 

However, there are many reasons why they can’t. 

The primary reason is that their biological and genetic differences make them incompatible as mates. 

In this article, we’ll break down some of these differences, to give you a better understanding of why foxes and dogs can’t produce offspring.

Can Foxes Breed With Dogs?

No, foxes cannot breed with dogs. The species of foxes branched off from the genetic evolution of wolves more than 12 million years ago. This has caused their genetics to evolve much more different than that of wolves and dogs.

Where dogs have 78 chromosomes (39 pairs), foxes have 34 chromosomes, plus a few B chromosomes, making a pairing impossible.

The two species simply cannot mate, even if they are both from the family Canidae.

Fox sitting in grass

The Science Behind It

The best way to explain why foxes cannot breed with dogs is through biology. Specifically, their genetics. 

Since foxes branched out into a different genus from their Canidae family members millions of years ago, they’ve had an enormous amount of time to develop their own genetic characteristics. 

Over the many years, the DNA and genetic composition of foxes have changed so much, compared to wolves and dogs, that they’re simply not compatible anymore.

For crossbreeding to take place, two species of animals need to share the same amount of chromosomes, or at least be extremely close (such as donkeys with 62, and horses with 64, who can procreate and create a sterile mule with 63 chromosomes).

DNA

Chromosomes

In genetics, offspring can only be produced by very similar parent species that have the same genetic pattern and the same chromosome count. 

Domestic dogs have 78 chromosomes in their DNA. 

The chromosome count varies for the different fox species: 

  • The Bengal fox only has 60 chromosomes. 
  • The fennec fox has 64 chromosomes.
  • The red fox only has 34 chromosomes.

The vast difference between the red fox’s and dog’s chromosome count dramatically lowers the likelihood of ever breeding successfully.

chromosomes

Are Foxes Related to Dogs?

Foxes and dogs are related to each other. They both belong to the same genus of animals, Canidae. 

The present-day dogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes, and jackals all come from the Caninae lineage.

Around 42 million years ago, the order of Carnivora in the category Mammalia, split into two groups: Feliformia and Caniformia, also called cat-like and dog-like animals.

The first true foxes are believed to have appeared about 10-12 million years ago, as a subgroup of the Canidae family.

Related: What are foxes?

domesticated fox

Do Fox-Dog Hybrids Exist?

There are no known recorded examples of fox-dog hybrids. It’s simply not possible to create a fox-dog hybrid.

While there have been claims through the years, none have managed to genetically verify their findings while more recent researches haven’t been able to replicate these claimed hybrids. 

None have also been sighted or documented in the wild. 

What Is Crossbreeding & Hybridization?

Crossbreeding is the process where two animals of different breeds of the same species mate. This process involves animals of the same species, while hybridization involves two animals from different species. 

Crossbreeding is usually used to produce offspring that are genetically more superior than the parents. [2]

For example, to produce a kind of poodle with curlier hair, dog breeders will mate two poodles from lines that have consistently shown very curly hair for the desired results.

Breeding animals of different species is called hybridization. Some common hybrids are the following pairs: horse-zebra (Zebroid), donkey-horse (Mule), and tiger-lion (Liger). 

Lion Cub and tiger cub

Hybridization Within the Canidae Family

Hybridization or mating among species within the Canidae family is possible and is known to happen, but with the exclusion of foxes. 

The canid species that can mate with each other are wolves, dogs, coyotes, and jackals. They all have the same number of chromosomes, and can hence breed with each other. 

All grey wolves in North America are believed to contain some amount of admixture (a mix of genetics) from coyotes.

Conclusion

Foxes and dogs can not breed, as they have different chromosome numbers. Dogs have 78 chromosomes (39 pairs), and foxes have between 34 and 64.

Despite their being related through a common ancestor, they cannot breed with each other. Their genetic make-up is the main factor that they cannot produce offspring. 

Foxes are related to dogs but the latter is much closer to wolves. While dogs have only branched off from their grey wolf lineage during their domestication around 30,000 years ago, the line of foxes has been evolving separately from the wolves for 10 million years. 

Breeding between certain species in the Canidae family is possible. Wolves can breed with domestic dogs. Dogs can also breed with coyotes and jackals.

FAQs

Can Foxes Breed With Wolves?

No, foxes cannot breed with wolves. This is because they have different genetic makeup where the red fox only has 34 chromosomes while the wolf has 78 chromosomes. 

As the gap between the chromosome count of two species becomes bigger, it becomes harder for them to breed and have offspring. 

Can Foxes Breed With Coyotes?

Coyotes cannot breed with foxes. This is for the same reason that foxes cannot breed with wolves or dogs. They have different chromosome counts. 

Coyotes have a chromosome count of 78 which is 44 more than what the red fox has. 

Other species of true foxes like the fennec foxes have more chromosomes with a 64 chromosome count but they still can’t mate with coyotes either. 

Can Foxes Breed With Cats?

Foxes cannot breed with cats because they belong to totally different family groups. Foxes are from the Canidae family (dog-like animals) while cats are from the Felidae family (cat-like animals). 

They also possess different chromosomes from each other, making breeding impossible.

Why Can’t Foxes Breed With Dogs?

Foxes cannot breed with dogs primarily because of their genetic and biological differences. They have different chromosome counts which make reproduction virtually impossible.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.