Is it a dog or fox? Scientists finally make a decision on 'amazing animal'

The female animal mystified veterinarians after being taken in for care following a collision with a car.

Scientists have published the results of a study which looked into determining whether an animal found in Brazil was a fox or dog.

In 2021, a female animal featuring physical characteristics of both mammals was handed into the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul veterinary hospital after being hit by a car.

Upon its arrival, staff were unable to conclude what the animal was, prompting scientists from local universities to analyse its genetic make-up.

Sadly, the animal died this year of unknown causes.

But the results of the research intro her genetic make-up have now been made public.

So, was it a dog or a fox?

After careful analysis, experts believe she was the world’s first dog-fox hybrid, with a pampas fox as its mother and a domestic dog for a father.

Scientists named the animal a “graxorra” and “dogxim”. The first title derives from the Portuguese common name for the pampas fox – “graxaim-do-campo” – and “cachorra” which translates as “female dog”.

The moniker dogxim is a merger of “dog” and “xim” from graxaim-do-campo.

Shaped like a medium-sized dog, the dogxim has large, pointy ears and a thick, wiry fur coat. Under observation, it refused food, choosing instead to eat live rodents, and was initially wary of people.

Flavia Ferrari, a conservationist who worked with the animal during its recovery, described her as an “amazing animal”.

The animal was brought to a veterinary hospital, in 2021, after being hit by a car. / Credit: Flavia Ferrari

“It was not as docile as a dog, but it also lacked the aggressiveness expected of a wild canid when handled,” she told The Telegraph.

“She had a shy and cautious personality, generally preferring to stay away from people. Over the time she was hospitalised for treatment, I believe she started to feel safer.”

The dogxim is unable to sexually reproduce as it was neutered while receiving treatment, but scientists believe it would have been possible otherwise.

Hybrids of domestic dogs and other wild species have been noted before.

But these had only involved interspecific breeding of animals in the same genus – how an animal is biologically classified.

Scientists believe the dogxim is the first instance of a hybrid being created after a dog bred outside of the same genus.

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