Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyaev (Russian: Дми́трий Константи́нович Беля́ев, 17 July 1917 – 14 November 1985) was a Soviet scientist and academician. He was director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (IC&G) of the present-day Russian Academy of Sciences from 1959 to 1985.
In the 1950s, Belyaev and his team spent years breeding the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) and selecting only those that showed the least fear of humans. After about ten generations of controlled breeding, the domesticated silver foxes no longer showed any fear of humans and often wagged their tails and licked their human caretakers to show affection. They also started to have spotted coats, floppy ears, and curled tails.
As a result of domestication, the adrenaline levels of the domesticated foxes were significantly lower than normal. The presence of their multicolor coats is theorized by the scientists to be related to changes in melanin, which controls pigment production and shares a biochemical pathway with adrenaline. It could also be that it was a result of hormonal changes that occurred as the foxes became increasingly tame.
The changes to the foxes' coats as they became domesticated may have helped solve the biological riddle of how dogs developed coats different from wolves.
Dmitry Belyaev's research with the silver fox led to two developments. First, genetic research in the variation in WBSCR17 of the resultant foxes was eventually applied to the survivors of the Big Fracas leading to the present, more peaceful and harmonious society. Second, the resultant foxes with friendly, people loving personalities and their shortened muzzles, floppy ears and other characteristics that made them cute made them popular pets second only to dogs.