The animal, known as a ‘dogxim’, was discovered in Brazil in 2021 after being hit by a car. Staff at the veterinary hospital providing treatment were unable to determine whether the female was a dog or a fox, as she exhibited physical and behavioural characteristics of both.
Genetic testing revealed that she had 76 chromosomes, a combination of the 74 chromosomes of a fox – a Pampas fox specifically – and the 78 chromosomes of a dog, proving to be the first officially recognised dog-fox hybrid in the world.
The animal looked like a medium-sized dog with large, pointy ears, a long snout and a jet-black nose. She had brown eyes and a black-brown coat with specks of white and grey.
The team noted that the dogxim showed characteristics of both animals, refusing food and eating live rodents but barking like a dog.
A study confirming the dogxim’s special existence was only published last month, but by this point the animal had already died – and nobody knows how or why.
After receiving veterinary treatment and undergoing genetic testing, the dogxim was moved to the São Braz conservation centre in south Brazil in November 2021.
According to The Telegraph, when scientists who studied the animal asked for photos in August, they were told she had died six months earlier, with no autopsy appearing to have taken place.
The Secretariat of Environment and Infrastructure in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the animal was found, has now launched an investigation.
‘When she left she was healthy, there were no indications of any health problems,’ said Flávia Ferrari, a conservationist who helped care for the dogxim before the move.
Speaking to The Telegraph, she added: ‘Health check-ups were carried out periodically, including blood tests.’
Dr Rafael Kretschmer, from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas who conducted the genetic analysis, told the paper: ‘We are very sad about her death, especially because we do not have the answers about the exact date and the cause of her death.
‘We only discovered that she died because I called Mantenedouro São Braz to request some recent photos of the hybrid.
‘They informed me that she died approximately six months ago. They did not answer me about the exact date and cause of her death.’