By Ewan Foskett
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
GENETIC tests on a black fox found in Bassingbourn have revealed it was a crossbreed of Russian origin that could have escaped from a fur farm.
A team of scientists from Anglia Ruskin University tested the unusual animal, which was mown down days after appearing in the Crow in March and uncovered some unusual results.
Helen McRobie examined the 18-month old male fox’s DNA and found it was a very close match to a Russian raccoon dog.
The 44-year-old lecturer in bio-medical science said: “We found it had particularly thick fur and the video suggested it was quite tame.
“I did find one gene that’s related to pigmentation and found it was strangely a very close match to a racoon dog that’s found in Russia and from the thick fur it is almost certainly a fur fox from Russia.” Soviet scientist Dmitry Belyaev famously selectively bred tame silver foxes - another name for a black fox - in the 1950s.
His discovery that they became more dog like in appearance and behaviour with passing generations puzzled experts and Mrs McRobie thinks it may be a descendent of the famous foxes.
“I think it is one of those that made its way to the UK by some means or possibly it was an exotic pet that someone found too difficult to manage,” she said.
The scientist also discovered two new mutations but said it was not unusual to find those in nature.
If the fox had bred with any native specimen there is a chance the pups would be “smokey reds” - with black legs and tails with a red head and body.
A local claims to have spotted the elusive creatures putting forth the possibility the black fox’s off spring live on.
“Someone said they had seen a fox matching that description and I would be interested to hear if any of your readers have seen them,” Mrs McRobie said.
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