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National Fennec Appreciation Day, celebrating 300 years of Tiny Foxes!

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National Fennec Appreciation Day! July 12th, 2018

 

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Pixie, the Royal Fennec, and the Official National Animal of Pallamara.

 

Today, all over the nation, fennec owners and enthusiasts are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the tiny, nonnative fox as Pallamara's national animal, and the tricentennial of their first arrival on our nation's  shores.  The pair of kits, named Tristan and Isolde, were diplomatic gifts presented to Grand Duchess Adelheid in 1708.  The royal court was charmed by the little creatures, and soon all the leading families wanted one.  This occurring during the heyday of the VOC, money was in no short supply for the wealthy of the isle, and soon parties were being dispatched to distant Alharu, to procure more of them.  Unfortunately, even there the fennecs weren't commonly pets, nor available in local markets, meaning that those who wanted them, had to seek out the foxes in their harsh, native habitat, found out that they were elusive and very hard to capture.  Eventually, mostly using help, some were finally captured, and brought back, though these early wild caught specimens weren't the best pets, but they were considered adorable enough that their worst habits could be overlooked.  Of course, with all the trouble that bringing one all the back back to the Pallamara entailed, the cost was tremendous.  The asking price for one of these fennecs was more than the creature's weight in gold, which just increased the demand even further, as they were now considered perhaps the ultimate status item, even spawning a new term, "Fennekfurore" to describe the sensation.  


This demand sent more intrepid adventurers scouring the deserts of Alharu for the big eared creatures, and slowly, over time, more made their way back here.  Eventually, someone more clever than his fellows, a sea captain named Johannes Van Eijk, after an epic escapade on the continent, had the fantastic good fortune to manage to locate and capture three dens of the creatures, which included females with young.  Bringing them back to Pallamara, he sold off some couple of older ones, (making enough to buy a comfortable estate in the process) and retiring from the sea, set about learning how to raise the canids, becoming the first fennec breeder.  It wasn't long before others followed his example, and soon Johannes had a number of imitators who began comparing notes, and arranging for exchanges of breeding stock.


Meanwhile, demand didn't fade away like it did for so many other fads, with the upper class just as enthusiastic about the animals as ever.  Even those who couldn't afford one of the fantastically expensive foxes could at least arrange to rent one to display at a party or other social gathering, or as became quite the fashion, to include the creature in a specially commissioned painting of oneself, resulting in them becoming a common theme.  While some wanted the fox openly displayed, being prominantly held, other artists would find clever ways of hiding the fennec, making finding it in the portrait something of a game.

 
Gradually, however, as more owners took to breeding them, their numbers on the island, grew, and the cost came down, though they were still an expensive, exotic pet.  They were also fast, clever, good diggers, and excellent escape artists, resulting in many finding their way to the countryside, where luckily, there weren't many predators.  As for their own inclinations in that regard, they preferred rodents and insects, and one of the best sources of both, were local farms, so it wasn't long before bemused farmers were reporting seeing the strange creatures, but when it was observed they weren't any kind of danger to livestock, and actually occupied much the same niche as farm cats, they came to be seen as kind of good luck symbols, with the colloquial name of "Feevos" or "fairy Fox" being applied to them.  Many of the farmers, (probably in most cases their wives or children) started leaving out food for them, which encouraged the fennecs to build their dens nearby and over time, some of these were caught as kits, and raised as pets, and so ownership of a fennec no longer became something strictly for the upper class.

 
Gradually, over the next couple of centuries, the number of foxes increased to the point where nearly anyone could own one, and they were eagerly embraced by the populace.  One was reason for this was that dogs were never particularly numerous on the island, with the main domestic pet being cats, which were common on ships of the time to control the rat population, which were also a problem ashore, along with another imported intruder, rabbits. It was noted that over time the fennecs, normally very skittish and high strung animals at best, became notably less so around people, to the extent they were as relaxed as any other common house pet in the presence of humans, leading to them famously being used as a case study in the mechanisms of domestication during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In 1834, there was an attempt to farm the foxes for their amazingly soft, rich fur, but public outcry at this prompted Grand Duke Aadrian III to issue an edict banning any trade in fennec fur, cutting that enterprise short.  


Though native to the sands of Alharu, the tiny canid became associated with Pallamara by the rest of the world, to the point of it being part of the Pallamaran identity, and featuring prominently in a variety of cultural stereotypes, becoming a something of an unofficial national mascot.  Well before the mid 20th century, they were the most popular house pet, and featured in countless advertising, stories, cartoons, and other media, so it was hardly surprising when in 1978, as something of a publicity stunt intended to generate more public interest in the political process, a nationwide referendum was placed about what Pallamara's national animal should be, with the fennec sweeping the vote by a landslide, much to the annoyance of the reigning Grand Duke, Valen, who would have vastly preferred something actually native to the land, but grudgingly gave the law his official seal.


Looking back at the past three hundred years, one can rightfully say that, while no longer worth their weight in gold, the "Fennekfurore" has never really died down, and with the digital age, and the internet, Pallamarans make sure the fennec has an ample online presence. One of the other lingering effects of the fennec's domestication has been the domestication of other breeds of fox, with the two most popular being Swift and Blandford's Foxes.  With dogs never being common, and the Pallamaran love for being different, the fox suits the islander's mindset almost perfectly, and no doubt the 21st century will see even more species start to become adopted.

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