Fascinating Fox Facts We Never Knew
We just discovered that domesticated foxes are a thing, and we shouldn't be trusted with that information. Baby foxes are truly terrible pets, but our inner Disney princess loves the idea of befriending one.
Since feeding wildlife is frowned upon, we'll settle for learning about them instead.
There Are More Than 30 Species of Fox
The red fox is the largest and most widespread, but there are tons of fox varieties.
If you go to a zoo, you might have a chance to see an Arctic fox, Fennec fox, Bat-eared fox, Gray fox or Tibetan fox, all of which are smaller than the common red fox.
The Red Fox Is the Most Widespread Carnivore Worldwide
The red fox lives on every continent in the Northern Hemisphere, including Central America. They were also introduced to Australia, and they thrived so well there that they're now considered to be invasive pests.
But those faces don't look like pests to us.
Red Foxes Are Extremely Adaptable
While there are dozens of fox species, the red fox is the most adaptable. They can survive in almost any environment, including crowded cities.
That's why red foxes are still thriving while other species are threatened or endangered.
Foxes Are Solitary in Comparision to Other Canines
Some foxes live in small groups, but they're not known for having closely bonded packs as wolves do.
They usually hunt alone and often bury their spoils to save them for later rather than sharing them with other foxes.
Foxes Have Unusual Gender Names
Male foxes are known as "reynards," while females are called "vixens." Fox babies are called kits.
Foxes were historically seen as pests, but beautiful ones, which is how the word vixen became a term for an attractive, wily woman.
Foxes Technically Bark
Well, sort of. They don't bark as dogs do, but they are extremely vocal. They have short, high-pitched warning barks to alert other foxes of approaching danger, plus about 20 other calls to communicate.
Some of their calls sound like the cries of human babies, but the most classic fox sound is the "gekker." It's similar to a chuckle and is often used during play or to express excitement.
Fox Relationships Vary Almost as Much as Human Ones Do
Some animals mate for life, while others are mostly solitary and only interact with each other for a brief period during mating season. Foxes are different. Their family structure varies widely, with some staying in tight-knit groups and others living mostly on their own.
Red foxes most commonly have a small family unit with one dominant pair and up to five other companions. Usually, only one dominant female has babies, with the others helping to raise them. And, if a mother fox passes away, male foxes have been known to raise the babies all on their own.
Young Adult Foxes Sometimes Serve as Babysitters
When baby foxes grow up, most run off to look for mates by about 18 months of age. Those that don't run off continue hanging out with their parents and often help out with younger siblings without ever having babies of their own.
Sometimes, they do this for life.
When Foxes Are Domesticated, They Begin to Look Different
In the 1950s, a group of scientists in Russia launched an experiment to domesticate foxes. They had some success, breeding domesticated animals within 10 generations. They judged the foxes' level of domestication by their temperament when interacting with humans, including how aggressive they were and how much they tried to avoid human contact.
The foxes that were the tamest were bred to each other, and future generations of foxes ended up quite receptive to human affection and company. During the process, some were born with spotted coats, curly tails and floppy ears as well as different balances of testosterone and adrenalin than wild foxes. Basically, they became more dog-like.
However, the program is no longer funded because domesticated foxes were still very difficult to keep as pets.
Fox Fur Coats Are Still Popular
While the fur industry has slowed down drastically in favor of humanely produced faux fur, foxes are still hunted for their warm, soft coats. Fox fur coats and hats are easy to care for, are extremely warm and are more affordable than mink coats.
We'd much rather go for a fake option and let these foxes run free.
Foxes Have Relatively Short Lifespans
In captivity, these cute critters can live up to a decade. In the wild, four years is about as long as they last. They're often trapped for their fur, and life as a fox is pretty risky.
They live near human settlements where they can easily be hit by cars, poisoned or taken down by domestic dogs. In the wild, wolves are one of the biggest threats to foxes.
A Silver Fox Is a Real Thing
The term "silver fox" is used to describe attractive, older men with silver hair, but it's a color morph of the red fox, too. Silver foxes have more melanin, displaying dark silver or black coats with a white tip at the end of their tail.
Red is a much more common coloration, but foxes can come in several different colors.
The Arctic Fox Is the Only Fox That’s Pure White
Most of the time, that is. The Arctic fox spends most of the year with a thick, white coat that blends in with the surrounding snow of their harsh, chilly habitat in the Arctic. During the warmer months in late spring and early summer, however, Arctic foxes shed their white coat and grow a dark brown one instead.
Come fall, they molt again and regain their white coat. They have additional adaptations to help them weather the Arctic tundra, including paws that function like snowshoes and an extra-fluffy tail that they drape over their muzzles to stay warm while they sleep.
Foxes Don’t Love Water, but They’re Still Good Swimmers
Foxes had to be good swimmers to escape predators, but they avoid water whenever possible.
When their fur is wet, it's not as efficient at trapping heat. Wet fur also weighs them down.
Most of the Time, Foxes Sleep Out in the Open
You know how dogs walk in a circle before curling up into a ball to sleep? Foxes do the same thing, and they usually do it out in the open.
Making a tight circle helps them to retain heat, especially when they don't have the shelter of a den or burrow.