Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226444185 Published March 2017
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How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)

Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution

Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)

Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

240 pages | 17 color plates | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226444185 Published March 2017
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226444215 Published March 2017
Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking.

Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all.  In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today.

To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.
Contents
Prologue: Why Can’t a Fox Be More like a Dog?
1: A Bold Idea
2: Fire-Breathing Dragons No More
3: Ember’s Tail
4: Dream
5: Happy Family
6: Delicate Interactions
7: The Word and Its Meaning
8: An SOS
9: Clever as a Fox
10: The Commotion in the Genes
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Review Quotes
New York Times Book Review
"A story that is part science, part Russian fairy tale, and part spy thriller. . . . Sparkling."
Wall Street Journal
:Dugatkin is a veteran science writer with a knack for turning sprawling subjects into compact, enjoyable narratives. Ms. Trut, now in her 80s, is both a co-author and a subject of the book, an unusual arrangement. But her intense participation adds a rare degree of intimacy to this science story."
Publishers Weekly
"A cheerful, easy-to-read account that expounds upon the wonders of scientific achievement. . . . The authors weave other charming histories of other scientific studies and events throughout the book, including the discovery of hormones, pedigree analysis, animal communication, human evolution, and Belyaev's travels in international scientific circles. Writing a simple, straightforward narrative suitable for lay readers, Dugatkin and Trut spin complex genetic science into a fascinating story about adorable foxes."
Scientific American
“Our furry companions evidently descended from wild wolves—resulting from thousands of years of human selection. Nearly 60 years ago Russian researchers Trut and Dmitri Belyaev decided to domesticate wild foxes to learn in detail how the journey from wild beast to household pet happens. They set up their experiment on a farm in Siberia and over the following decades mated the tamest animals from each successive generation. In this book, biologist and science writer Dugatkin and Trut recount this grand experiment. The result: a host of docile foxes and the identification of the genetic underpinnings for their domestication.”
 
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Can new kinds of animals be brought into being outside of DNA tinkering and Frankensteining? Most certainly, as a long-running Russian experiment reveals. . . . The science is profound, but the authors write accessibly and engagingly—and their vulpine subjects are awfully cute, too. Of compelling interest to any animal lover and especially to devotees of canids of all kinds.”
Library Journal
This intriguing, well-written account of an ongoing experiment in canid domestication should delight readers interested in the origins of the human-animal bond.”
 
The Hoopoe, NHBS
"It’s a story of science. . . .But it's also very much a human story. . . . It's a story of persistence against all odds."
Science News
"Trut and Dugatkin lovingly recount some of the experiment's milestones, including the first fox born with a wagging tail and the first one with droopy ears. . . . At every step, the authors skillfully weave the science of domestication into the narrative of foxes becoming ever-more doglike."
Times Literary Supplement
"It is an extraordinary story, and How to Tame a Fox tells it well. . . . By the end of the book, the thesis that wolves may have been no less complicit in the process of their domestication than humans has come to seem entirely probable."
Los Angeles Review of Books
"Written for a general audience, it chronicles the story of a scientific gambit that was more successful that even its creators had dreamed. It's an inspiring reminder of how much we still don't know about the world, and how much can be learned by taking bold chances. It's also a cautionary tale about the risks of state-funded science that has nearly as much relevance to Trump's United States, where federal research budgets are in danger of being slashed right and left, as it does to Stalin’s Russia."
 
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
"Written in an accessible style, How to Tame a Fox provides a general reader with an engaging summary of the fox experiments and the people who carried them out. . . . It would make a good book to assign to undergraduate studying the social dimensions of science."
 
Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
 “In the first book on the famous ‘Siberian fox study,’ this extraordinary chronicle recounts one of the world’s most important animal studies. It has not only provided stunning insights into how domestication works and how fast it can happen. It also helps us understand the origins of our deepest non-human bonds—our friendships with our dogs—and where and how they came into being.”
Carl Zimmer, author of Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
“Over the course of decades, Russian scientists transformed wild foxes into friendly pets. They used no science-fiction genetic engineering. They simply guided evolution. This landmark experiment tells us some profound things about domestication, behavior, and ourselves. Finally, someone has written a book-length account of the experience—and a fascinating one at that.”
Pat Shipman, author of The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction
“Dugatkin and Trut have collaborated to produce a well-written and engaging account of one the most influential biological studies ever: the fox farm experiment. Over sixty years ago, a Russian geneticist dared to start an experiment to see if foxes could be domesticated and what variables contributed to the changes domestication brought. The courage involved in starting such an experiment in the USSR of the 1950s was remarkable; the dedication and curiosity that have kept it going ever since have led to stunning new insights on the mechanisms of domestication. Every biologist should read this book!”
Aubrey Manning, coauthor of An Introduction to Animal Behaviour
“An excellent book. The writing is clear and makes for fascinating popular science. This book will attract a wide audience, and I know of none other with such a dramatic combination of good science and social history.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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