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Can Wolves and Foxes Mate? (Fox-Wolf Hybrid)

Can wolves and foxes mate? 

No, wolves and foxes can’t mate. Wolves can’t mate with foxes because they’re two different species of animals. A fox-wolf hybrid can’t exist, because they have a different number of chromosomes.

Cross-species breeding has been achieved with a lot of species, the Zorse being a good example. But not with wolves and foxes.

All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts) x
All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts)

This article will explain the science behind why this can never happen, and also talk about some other interesting types of hybrids.

Can Wolves and Foxes Mate?

Wolves and foxes can’t mate. They are two different species, with different amounts of chromosomes, so they can’t produce offspring together.

Both wolves and foxes are members of the Canidae family, yet can’t interbreed. Even if they were to breed, they still wouldn’t be able to produce offspring.

For two animals to be able to breed, they need to have the same number of chromosomes, as these are what make up the DNA of the offspring.

Wolves have 78 chromosomes, while red foxes only have 38 (some fox species have more chromosomes, such as the fennec fox with 74).

Close up portrait wolf in autumn forest background

Now, other animals within the canine family can breed, since both the wolf, coyote, jackal, and domestic dog have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs.

Charles Darwin was the first to put this theory into words and prove it. [1]

Two scientists, Theodosius Dobzhansky and Hermann Joseph Muller did genetics research that proved that hybrid incompatibility is genetic. These two scientists used backcrosses and other techniques to show that this trait was genetic. [2]

Why Do Wolves and Foxes Not Mate?

Wolves and foxes can’t mate because they are genetically different. Now, they can technically mate without producing any offspring – but since they’re different animals, this won’t happen.

Crossbreeding

On Biology Online, they define crossbreeding as:

“The act or process of producing offspring by mating purebred individuals of different breeds or varieties” [3]

Meaning, producing offspring by pairing different animals, such as zebras and horses, or wolves and coyotes.

However, crossbreeding doesn’t always end well.

Sometimes crossbreeding can result in unhealthy offspring that can lead to problems later on for them or even death. Some offspring, such as the mule, are born sterile, and hence can’t reproduce.

wolf pup alone

Do Fox-Wolf Hybrids Exist?

No, a fox-wolf hybrid does not exist. The two animals are incapable of breeding, meaning a hybrid is impossible to produce. The two animals have different amounts of chromosomes, which is needed for breeding hybrids.

What Is a Fox and Wolf Hybrid?

If a fox-wolf hybrid were to exist, we can assume that it would have traits from both animals. The size of it would be a mix between foxes and wolves.

For appearance, we can assume it would have a long snout, sharp teeth, and pointy ears since these are seen in both animals. They would have a long bushy tail and most likely have a very good sense of smell and hearing.

fox active at night

What Is the Science Behind It?

Wolves and foxes can’t mate because of their genetics. The main reason is the difference in chromosomes, but there are also other underlying genetic differences.

Experts suggest that one of the main reasons is attributed to alleles in different loci.

Alleles are variations of a gene, located in the same position, or genetic loci (plural for locus). Locus can be described as the specific physical location of a gene.

Norman A. Johnson also talks about this in his study.

While this doesn’t line up between foxes and wolves, wolves can mate with other animals within the Canidae family. Wolfdogs and coywolves do exist.

Wolfdog

What Other Wolf Hybrids Exist?

As mentioned, wolves can mate with other members of the Canidae family, more specifically:

  • Coyotes
  • Jackals
  • Dogs

Wolfdog

Wolfdogs are hybrids between wolves and domestic dogs. It’s a canine produced by mating a domestic dog with a gray wolf, red wolf, eastern wolf, or Ethiopian wolf.

Dogs and gray wolves are considered to be the same species and are very genetically alike.

This breed has been recorded to appear in the wild and is also bred in captivity for various reasons.

It’s even believed that wolves co-evolved with humans, rather than humans taming the wild beast that is wolves. [4]

Wolfdog in the forest

Coywolf

A coywolf is a canid hybrid of the coyote and gray wolf. The animal can be identified as a coyote from its stature and skull, or as a wolf from the size of the legs.

It can live in different habitats such as prairie, forests, and swamps. In urban areas, it can adapt to cities too.

They are found throughout North America all the way down to Central America including parts of Mexico.

Genomic studies suggest that all North American gray wolf populations contain some form of coyote DNA.

wolf dog close up

When Did Foxes Become a Species?

It’s believed that foxes became a species around 12 million years ago. The first fossil of a fox only dates back to about 3.5 to 5.08 million years ago. This fossil is of the extinct species Vulpes Qiuzhudingi, an ancestor to the Arctic fox.

The first fossil of a red fox is significantly smaller than the red fox we know today, which tells us the ancestors of the fox were much smaller.

Foxes later spread to different parts of the world, adapting to different climates, from North American to Antarctica.

Do Foxes Originate From Wolves?

Yes, foxes do originate from wolves. It’s believed that foxes split from the lineage of wolves about 12 million years ago, where they diverged into their own species.

While we don’t know the exact path from wolf to fox, or from wolf to dog, we do know they’re related, due to their genetics.

Their appearances and behavior also give us a clue.

Their head shape is very similar. Foxes have pointy noses, while wolves can either have a broad or pointed nose. Both animals are also hunters, with a very keen sense of smell and hearing.

Related: What Is a Fox?

Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, standing and Arctic Fox, Vulpes lagopus, lying, isolated on white

Can Dogs and Foxes Mate?

Dogs and foxes cannot mate, as they have different numbers of chromosomes. Dogs have the same number of chromosomes as wolves, while foxes have significantly fewer.

Dogs can breed with other canines like wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and jackals but not (and should not be) with a fox. 

Both animals are descendants of the wolf, but yet have evolved so differently, that mating isn’t possible.

lone wolf in the forest as omega wolf

Conclusion: Wolves & Foxes Can’t Mate

While canines and canid species can interbreed, wolves and foxes can’t crossbreed. They are too different genetically to reproduce together successfully, as they have a different amount of chromosomes. 

Wolves can, however, mate with dogs, jackals, and coyotes, and they have done so in the wild. Most North American gray wolves contain some amount of coyote admixture.

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.