The foxes were kept as Bronze Age pet animals before 4,300 years ago and were buried together with their human masters, according to a new study.
The rest found in two ancient cemeteries in Spain showed that the foxes were set to rest together with their people and their dogs thousands of years ago.
Foxes are harder to die than other animals because of a "stubborn wildlife," experts say, so we thought they were never domesticated.
Two ancient cemeteries, where foxes were buried thousands of years ago, suggest that humans were once as close to animals as we do to dogs (a photograph file)
But the discovery of four foxes – and a large number of dogs – in the areas of Catalonia in Barcelona and Lleida, known as Can Roqueta and Minferri, prove something different.
The survey also revealed that burial of humans along with pets was a widespread funeral between the 2,300 and 1,000 BC. – the Early to Middle Bronze Age.
Dr Aurora Grandal-d Anglade, a paleontologist at the University of Coruña, Spain, said: "The case of the Can Roqueta fox is very special because it is an old animal with a broken leg.
"The fracture is still in the healing process and shows that it has been immobilized and healed by man.
"Feeding this animal is very unusual, as it is more akin to a puppy's dog.
"We interpret it as a pet that lived for a long time with people."
The study published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences found that both foxes and dogs were domesticated and their diet was similar to that of their owners.
Dr. Grandal-Angle said, "We found out that in some cases the dogs received a special kind of food. We believe this is linked to their function as working dogs.
"Besides, one of the foxes shows that he was already a pet at that time."
The remnants, found in Spain, showed that they had been put to rest together with their people and their dogs (a photograph file)
The findings of her team are based on an analysis of fox bones, 37 dogs, 19 goats, cows and sheep and 64 people.
They exported chemicals known as isotopes that revealed the food the animals would have eaten thousands of years ago.
The three Minferri foxes had a varied diet – similar to that of dogs.
In two of the tombs revealed in the area, the ruins of three people were found along with various animals.
Dr Ariadna Nieto Espinet, an archaeologist at the University of Lleida, said: "In one there was the body of an old man with the remains of a whole cow and the legs of up to seven goats.
"The ruins of a young woman were also found with the offer of a whole goat, two foxes and a beef horn."
Another contained the body of a person, possibly a woman, accompanied by the whole body of two cows and two dogs.
Nieto Espinet said: "We still do not know why only a few people would have the right or the privilege to be buried with this type of offer, unlike what happens with the overwhelming majority of burials."
In Can Roqueta, there were clear differences in pet deposits in the tombs of men, women – even children.
From this we can deduce the existence of a social status legacy from birth.
Dr Nieto Espinet said that pets are a very important part of the Bronze Age farming and livestock farming – and the assets of some people in life.
He added: "These could be an indicator of the wealth of the deceased person or his family or his family."
"It seems that species such as cattle and dogs, the two of the most recurring animals in the funeral, are those that may have played a fundamental role in the economy and the work, as well as in the symbolic world, making the elements of imagination, prestige and of protection '.
Foxes are harder to rob by other animals because of a "stubborn wildlife," experts say, so we thought they were never tamed (a photo shoot)
In Can Roqueta, there was also a specific cereal-rich food preparation that was recognized for larger dogs most likely used for cargo transport – and for at least one of the foxes.
The author, Dr. Silvia Albizuri Canadell, an archaeologist at the University of Barcelona, said: "These samples also show signs of spinal disorders associated with the transport of heavy objects.
"People are probably looking for a high carbohydrate diet because the animals have developed more active work, which required direct calorie costs."
Cows, sheep and goats were mainly herbivorous. Their function was most likely to provide milk, meat or wool instead of serving as a workforce.
Humans and dogs showed moderate consumption of animal protein.
Dr. Grandal said: "Not necessarily much meat – they could, for example, come from milk."
Objects that have also been discovered in the excavations included sieves that served as "cheese-making devices".
The fundamental role of dogs in the Bronze Age, when livestock, together with agriculture, was the basis of the economy was that of supervising and guiding herds.
They were also responsible for the care of human settlements, given the danger of the frequent presence of dangerous animals such as wolves or bears.
Similar pathologies have been recently detected in the Siberian paleolithic dogs' vertebrae, suggesting that one of the first tasks since their early domestication was to haul helicopters apart from hunting.
His role as a transport animal in the first movements and human movements through glacial Europe could be fundamental and much more important than he believed until recently.