The Rise of the Superpet
Eihab Boraie examines the latest crop of 'superpets' and hybrid animals created by breeding and genetic manipulation.
Pet culture is a growing industry around the world. Historically, pets co-evolved with humans who domesticated useful animals, seletively breeding them for desirable qualities such as loyalty, friendliness, strength and docility, depending on their intended use. Today, pets have climbed the hierarchy, advancing from utility animals to a status practically akin to that of (spoiled) children in some households. You can dress your puppy in the latest brands, and buy condos for your kitten but are ordinary animals enough these days? Modern day breeders think not! Behold the latest generation of superpets, designed to meet your insatiable desire to have a bigger, better and cooler pet than your sister-in-law.
The Silver Fox
In Soviet Russia, Stalin outlawed any research on Mendelian genetics...but one rebel/mad scientist named Dmitry Belyaev payed no attention and set up in the Siberian arctic to secretly experiment with the wild Silver Fox. Within four generations of selective breeding for the most desirable puppy-like traits, he had created wild foxes that were tame: they wag their tales, whine for attention and play and slobber all over you as a normal dog would. Today you can buy these adorable little guys as pets if you have a small fortune to spare. Although you'll want to make sure that you don't accidentally get one of the uber-nasty killer foxes that Belyaev also intentionally bred to be aggressive and hostile towards humans.
Those who revel in all things equestrian need look no further to one-up their fellow horse lovers. Behold, the zebroid; part zebra, part other horse-y creature. While attempts to domesticate zebras have failed miserably over the years, it has been found that they have no problems getting down and dirty with their equine cousins. Zorses, Zonies and Zonkeys now exist from crossbreeding horses, ponies and donkeys with wild zebras. Oh, humans, what will you meddle with next?
The Savannah Cat
So much more than your average household kitty, the Savannah cat was bred from the wild African Servil in the 1980s by a breeder who probably doesn't like dogs, and wanted a giant cat to scare off potential intruders. This cat can weigh over 20 pounds, though has the look of a smaller and sweeter wild cat.
Glow in the Dark Bunnies
The slightly more controversial method to create a superpet is through genetic modification, where scientists incorporate useful and outlandish traits that shouldn't exist in the natural order of things. However, since they do exist, why not embrace some of the cuter franken-animals that have been brought into existence through gene splicing and test tubes? No longer do you have to purchase a rabbit AND a nightlight; just get a fluorescent bunny. Although it may not be ethical to add jellyfish genes to a rabbit, we have to admit how adorable the outcome is.