University of Chigaco Press
(April 2017)



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Lee Alan Dugatkin, Lyudmila Trut

Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution

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.

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16. November 2016, Quote
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


16. November 2016, Quote
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,


16. November 2016, Quote
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. -- Aubrey Manning, Edinburgh, Scotlan


31. May 2017, Review
A cheerful, easy-to-read account that expounds upon the wonders of scientific achievement. (...) Writing a simple, straightforward narrative suitable for lay readers, Dugatkin and Trut spin complex genetic science into a fascinating story about adorable f

Publishers Weekly

31. May 2017, 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 sub

Kirkus Reviews

31. May 2017, Review
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... her intense participation adds a rare degree of intimacy to thi

The Wall Street Journal

31. May 2017, Review
Sparkling... A story that is part science, part Russian fairy tale, and part spy thriller.

The New York Times Book Review

1. June 2017, Review
In 1959, two Soviet geneticists, Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut, embarked on an experiment that is still continuing today, and has revolutionized the scientific understanding of domestication:...It is an extraordinary story, and How To Tame a Fox tells

The Times Literary Supplement

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