London, Jan 28 (Agencies): New archaeologist findings have suggested that pre historic man may have preferred fox to dog as an animal companion.

Researchers analysing remains at a prehistoric burial ground in Jordan have uncovered a grave in which a fox was buried with a human, before part of it was then transferred to an adjacent grave.

The University of Cambridge-led team believes that the unprecedented case points to some sort of emotional attachment between human and fox. Their paper, published in PLoS One journal, suggests that the fox may have been kept as a pet and was being buried to accompany its master, or mistress, to the afterlife.

If so, it marks the first known burial of its kind and suggests that long before humans began to hunt foxes using dogs, our ancestors were keeping them as pets - and doing so earlier than their canine relatives, a university release said.

The cemetery, at Uyun-al-Hammam, in northern Jordan, is about 16,500 years old, which makes the grave 4,000 years older than the earliest known human-dog burial and 7,000 years earlier than anything similar here involving a fox.

Writing in the open-access journal, the researchers also suggest that this early example of human-animal burial may be part of a bigger picture of growing cultural sophistication that has typically been associated with the farming societies of the Neolithic era, thousands of years later.

Sadly for fox-lovers, however, the relationship between man and that particular beast was probably short-lived.
The paper also says it is unlikely that foxes were ever domesticated in full and that, despite their early head start, their recruitment as a friendly household pet fell by the wayside in later millennia as their masters took to the more companionable dog instead.

"The burial site provides intriguing evidence of a relationship between humans and foxes which predates any comparable example of animal domestication," Dr Lisa Maher, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, said.

"What we appear to have found is a case where a fox was killed and buried with its owner. Later, the grave was reopened for some reason and the human's body was moved. But because the link between the fox and human had been significant, the fox was moved as well, so that the person, or people, would still be accompanied by it in the afterlife."

The research focused on the contents of two particular graves at Uyun-al-Hammam, which is situated on an ancient river terrace in the small river valley of Wadi Ziqlab.