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This is why we can’t have nice things.Adopting stray dogs off the streets is always a nice thing to do but it does come with some risks. You can never be sure what you’re getting — the animal might have behavior problems or unexpected illnesses.Or it might not be a dog at all.

That’s the story of the first ever known dog-fox hybrid, or dogxim. The name stems from the combination of “dog” with “graxaim,” the Portuguese name Pampas fox.

It was previously thought that dogs and foxes could not produce offspring, at least none that would live. Yet, a lucky accident in 2021 confirmed that this assumption was wrong.

The dogxim was brought to a veterinary hospital after being struck by a car. The vets treated the gangly creature as a stray dog, although it exhibited some bizarre behavior.

A recent study confirmed that the female animal wasn’t a dog. She was a mix of a Pampas fox and a domestic dog — a thing that shouldn’t be according to our current understanding.The animal is a sensation! It’s also now dead.

When the scientists who studied the dogxim contacted its care facility in August to get some photos of her, they were bluntly told that the animal had died six months ago. That came as a shock, as she had seemed perfectly healthy the last time the researcher saw her.

The conservation center where the dogxim stayed appears to have tried to keep its death hush-hush. As a result, a state environmental agency in Brazil has now launched an official investigation to find out what happened to this one-of-a-kind animal we may never see again.

Living in Two Worlds
The dogxim was first discovered in January 2021 in the town of Vacaria in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The discovery could’ve easily spelled the unique creature’s doom, as it got hit by a car.

Fortunately, the creature survived and officials sent her to a local veterinary hospital. As she arrived there, the vets didn’t quite know what they were dealing with.

The creature had the eyes of a domestic dog, a similar build to a medium dog, and big pointy ears. Yet, its dark, black-brown coat was thick like a fox’s.

Its behavior was as bizarre as its looks. The animal barked like a dog but didn’t have the human-friendly disposition of your usual dog. Yet, it didn’t show the kind of aggression you’d expect from a wild fox.

The animal was shy and cautious but did eventually allow some vets to approach her if they remained calm. At times, she’d even allow herself to be petted and would play with some toys every now and then.

Feeding her was equally strange. She wouldn’t eat dog food, yet when she was handed a live rat, she would chow down immediately — just like a fox.

A Foxy Mom
The animal’s unusual dual nature got the veterinary clinic wondering if she was a hybrid. That shouldn’t have been possible but how else were you going to explain this animal?

To figure out the mystery, Dr. Rafael Kretschmer, a cytogeneticist from the Universidade Federal de Pelots, ran a genetic test on the animal. The results, published in August 2023 in the journal Animals, confirmed that she was the first ever known dog/fox hybrid.

The Pampas fox has 74 chromosomes, while the domestic dog has 78. This creature had 76.

Only one other canid, the maned wolf, has that number of chromosomes and it’s so different that the Brazilian critter—now dubbed a dogxim—couldn’t be that. So, the only conclusion was that she was a hybrid.

According to Dr. Kretschmer, the dogxim’s mother was a Pampas fox while her father was some kind of a dog. We can never know whether she would’ve been able to produce offspring of her own, since she was neutered at the veterinary hospital while the vets still thought she was just a weird dog.

Six Months Dead
Sadly, the unique dogxim is no more. While Dr. Kretschmer was studying her genome, the Secretariat of Environment and Infrastructure (SEMA) in Rio Grande do Sul approved moving the dogxim to the Sao Braz conservation center.

In August, just as the study was published, Dr. Kretschmer called Sao Braz to ask for photos of the dogxim. He received heartbreaking news.

“They informed me that she died approximately six months ago. They did not answer me about the exact date and cause of her death,” Dr. Kretschmer told the Telegraph.

It’s a mystery why the creature died. According to the veterinarians who looked after her, she was perfectly healthy with no indication of any health problems.

There are no records that Sao Braz would’ve carried out an autopsy on the animal. In fact, they seem to have attempted to stay silent and forget the dogxim ever existed.

Something certainly smells rotten in Sao Braz — and SEMA thinks so too. The environmental agency has launched an official investigation to determine why the unique animal died and Sao Braz didn’t let anyone know about it.

“SEMA is investigating the circumstances of the animal’s death and informs that in the reports sent periodically by the entrepreneur [Sao Braz], there was no communication to this department about the animal’s death,” the agency said in a statement.

Here’s hoping they can get to the bottom of it. This one-of-a-kind creature certainly deserves it.