Every day at 5 p.m., Irina Mukhamedshina takes her pet fox out for a walk.
They take the elevator down from her sixth floor apartment and walk out into a snowy yard. The fox, on a leash, runs out and immediately starts tunneling into a pile of snow.
Irina's fox is named Viliya and is both a pet and Irina's dissertation project. Irina is a graduate student at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics outside of Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia.
She walks Viliya through apartment blocks and playgrounds. The fox waits patiently to cross the street.
As they walk, groups of women coo at the fox, “what a beauty,” almost like it's a baby. Grown men stop, stare, and snap photos of Viliya. An elderly woman walking past asks, “Is that a wild animal? Or a domesticated pet?” Irina answers that the fox is somewhere in between.
In fact, Viliya is the result of decades of calculated selection to see if it's possible to repeat the domestication of a wild animal, like a wolf, into a pet, like a dog.From a story on PRI's The World, originally broadcast 3/20/2014. Listen here.
Above: video of Vilya the fox performing tricks.