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Lets say I was a mountain man going to live in Alaska during the early 1870's (also in a fantasy setting) and a trader comes to me offering either a domesticated fox or dog to take as a pet. Why would I want a fox? I know that foxes are not great pets, but why would I want one over a dog? Note: the fox will always be outdoors in the wild with me.

(I'll take criticism on how to make a better question).

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    $\begingroup$ A "domesticated wolf" is a dog. Do you mean a wolf that has been tamed? There is a big difference. $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Aug 29 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ There were no domesticated foxes in 1870’s so any answer will be speculation. The results of the Soviet breeding program started in the 1960s are debatable. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Aug 29 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you want to skin it and sell off the fur? This sounds like a story based detail. Maybe it was really cute. Or your really liked the look of it. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Aug 29 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyn, OP is not providing any evaluation metric for ranking the answers. Without that the question is POB. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Aug 30 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Aaron If you ask that question, I would very temped to say that a Fox is not going to be better than a Dog. It sounds like you have already partnered the mountain man with the fox and are trying to find some way to justify this decision. The only reason you really need is, the man liked the fox more than the dog. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Aug 30 at 5:33
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The fox is strangely enthusiastic about the mountain man.

From the get go, the fox loves the mountain man. It is not at all clear why to any involved. The former owner of the fox has never seen anything like it. The fox makes a beeline for the mountain man on first sight, nipping his boot, capering around and generally acting silly. From then on the fox stays in his vicinity.

The mountain man does not really have a choice. The fox adopts him.

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A mountain man who is going to be outside a lot needs the companion who can help him most. First off:

  • Foxes can climb trees. This is a good thing in pretty much any circumstance.
  • They can see well in the dark. Foxes have vertically oriented pupils which allow them to see easily in dim light.
  • They have excellent hearing, which combined with their use of the earth's magnetic field makes them skillful hunters.
  • Foxes are faster than dogs. Well, most of them. Foxes can run at 31 mph, while the average for dogs (varying according to size and breed, of course) is 15-20 mph.
  • Finally, something important in Alaskan mountains, they can stand the cold well, especially Arctic foxes, which are comfortable until -70 degrees Celsius.

In the end, the mountain man's decision rests on what exactly he'll be doing in the mountains, and what he's looking for in his companion. Does he want a guardian? Just a pet? Maybe the fox wouldn't do as well as a guardian, but it has a pretty impressive set of skills.

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Some ideas:

  • Foxes are said to be shy and prone to biting strangers. The mountain man may want to ensure his pet's loyalty by having an animal that's naturally reluctant to dealing with people who aren't family members.
  • Foxes can't actually be domesticated; they remain wild creatures throughout their lives despite increased levels of human-taught 'politeness'. Perhaps the mountain man thinks it a kindred spirit and prefers its company over a dog's.
  • Depending on the dog's breed, the fox may just be more useful to the mountain man (hunting, keeping guard, etc.).
  • Foxes may have some sort of emotional relevance for the mountain man. Perhaps he owned one in his youth or his mother's hair was a similar russet colour.
  • The mountain man may just like the novelty of owning a fox.

You could also play with the fact that it's a fantasy setting and create some sort of magical reason why foxes are superior to dogs as pets when it comes to living in the Alaskan wilderness. Maybe they have fire-fur that keeps them and whoever has earned their trust enough to be able to hug them warm. Maybe foxes can act as compasses (there's scientific studies on foxes using Earth's magnetic fields to hunt more successfully) if their owner places a hand on the crown of their head. Maybe there's something else.

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  • $\begingroup$ Foxes can be domesticated. Almost any animal can be, given enough time and breeding. More importantly, foxes have been domesticated: pbs.org/newshour/science/… $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Aug 30 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Xavon Science fiction or fantasy stories often happen in alternate universes where the course of history has been different. So an alternate universe where foxes have been domesticated for decades or centuries before the 1870s seems quite tame considering the OP specifies "fantasy setting". The fundamental laws of nature could be quite different there with magic, etc., so why balk at a slightly alternate history? $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Aug 30 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe not, @Chickensarenotcows. It just proves that that portion of the answer is not correct. In an alternate world, this could have been done far earlier. And in a fantasy world, it could have been done easier, by accident, or even happened naturally. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Aug 30 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Xavon_Wrentaile You're quite correct, this would be an indication that the question needs to be better defined, though it was closed for a different reason. $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Aug 30 at 19:35
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Foxes hunt vermin and rodents. If raised from a kit, it could come to trust him. It might be stand offish, but if it lived around his habitat, then it could help control the population of vermin that would be attracted by his food stores — grain, flour, dried beef, salt pork, and Hershey bars — an Alaskan staple for centuries.

Their nocturnal nature might help the man avoid attack by humans seeking to gain advantage by raiding his cabin when he is asleep. The fox could bark or yip or whatever it is that foxes do, if others with bad intentions tried to sneak up on the house, cabin, and camp sight.

While the observations made about foxes being wild, and there wasn’t any domestication attempts in the mid-20th century. But, that doesn’t preclude a natural domestication, or partial domestication by Inuits or sequences of trappers and explorers.

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    $\begingroup$ Foxes are canines, not felines. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Aug 30 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ Foxes are vulpines, not canines or felines. They are part of the family Canidae, but are not considered canines because they are not pack animals. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Aug 30 at 2:23

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