About the Book
Title: Fox Talk
Author: L.E. Carmichael, PhD
Book Designer: Michael Penman
Illustrator: Jody Bronson
Photography: Brian Dust
Publication Date: August 8, 2013
Publisher: Ashby-BP Publishing
Recommended Age: 8+
SummaryWhen you talk to a dog, does the dog talk back? Many people think so. But for a long time, scientists didn't know how our furry friends learned to communicate with people. Luckily, Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev had a plan. If he could tame wild red foxes, he could learn how dogs first came from wolves. By studying the way these foxes changed during domestication, the mystery of communication would be solved at a last. More than 50 years after the experiment began, Belyaev's foxes have become so tame, you can have one as a pet! Packed with eye-popping photos and first-hand research, FOX TALK reveals the story of these amazing animals... and everything they've taught us about wolves, dogs, and communication.
Wolves and Dogs and Foxes, Oh My!
Have you ever wondered how dogs came from wolves? It’s
amazing when you think about it. In many parts of the world, wolves are
competition for people, hunting livestock or wild game species that we rely on
for food. How did they go from being shy predators that avoid people, to
creatures that eat from our hands and let babies pull their ears?
The origin of domestic animals like dogs, cats, and horses
was a difficult puzzle to unravel, because the process began so long ago.
Recent evidence for dogs, the first species to make the change, suggests they
may have started the transition as much as 35,000 years before the present.
Dmitri Belyaev was fascinated by domestication. To
understand how it worked, he decided to try recreating the process – this would
allow scientists to watch as changes occurred. He bought red foxes from fur
farms and tested their responses towards people, then allowed the tamest
animals to breed. Over the generations, the previously wild foxes became
domesticated – they went through an evolutionary process that altered their
DNA, turning their fear of people into a fierce desire for snuggles.
I first read about these amazing foxes in 2000, when I was
starting my PhD on the genetics of Canadian wolves and arctic foxes. My very
first thought was “I want one!” My second thought was that kids would want one
too, and that’s how the idea for Fox
Talk: How Some Very Special Animals Helped Scientists Understand Communication
came to be. While I was writing the book, I read all of the research studies
that have been done on these animals, talked to some of the scientists
involved, and even got to spend an entire day watching and interacting with
them in real life. Best day ever! J
As a result, I want my very own domestic fox even more. Just
think – an animal that’s as tame as a dog or a cat, but still has all of the
energy and agility and mischievousness that makes it a fox. How cool is that?
Unfortunately, I live in Canada, and our government hasn’t
yet realized that Belyaev’s foxes are a unique domestic species. Here, they are
still considered wild animals, and you’re only allowed to have them if you’ve
got at least ten and you’re going to raise them for fur or research. Other
countries are a bit more accepting, however, and domestic foxes are now living
as pets all around the world. And as Belyaev intended, they’ve answered some
critical questions about domestication, and are now giving us irreplaceable
information about how our pets think and communicate.
What about you? Would you like a fox of your own? What
animal would make a perfect pet for you?
ReviewWe learned so much about foxes in this book. "Fox Talk" is so informative. The interactive version was great for the Beanie Babies when they were lacking attention spans. It was really neat to see the short video clips while we were reading about the foxes. Most of the text was easy enough for the Big One to read on her own. She liked that we let her read aloud. When we asked if they enjoyed the book, both yelled "yes!"
The Big One: I liked this book. It was good and I learned a lot about foxes. The pictures were really good, too. I think we should get a fox.
Ms Middle: YAY! We're getting a fox!
The Hubs: No, we're not!
Ms Middle: But the Big One said we are, and I want one.
Me: I don't think it's a good idea to have a fox in the house.
Ms Middle: Well, the fox could stay outside.
Me: Let's talk more about the book. What was your favorite part?
The Big One: The whole thing. It was SO good!
Ms Middle: I liked all the facts.
Me: Facts, Ms Middle?
Ms Middle: The information, mom!
Me: Oh, ok.
While we're not getting a fox, I'm very excited for our next adventure to the zoo. I think the Beanie Babies will have a little but more appreciation for the fox exhibit now. It will be fun to see how much the Beanie Babies remember from the book. We'll probably read through it again right before we go. Maybe we'll spend a little more time at their section this go around.
Early Buzz About the Book
"Fox Talk is an educational non-fiction title exploring the domestication of dogs by studying fox behaviour and communication. The information is presented with beautiful photographs, illustrations, bubbles/boxes of brief information, and descriptions of the research findings using age-appropriate language. I think this would be an excellent resource in elementary schools or for homeschoolers in particular and I highly recommend it." ~ 5-Star Review, Mother Daughter Book Reviews
About The Author: L.E. Carmichael