30 Facts About the Fennec Fox That Will Make You Love Them More
To see a fennec fox is to love the fennec fox. Their adorable little nose, framed with long black whiskers, large liquid dark brown eyes and, of course, those ears, make them look like a stuffed animal come to life. It’s no wonder many people are immediately charmed and even think of owning this darling wild animal.
But how much do you really know about them? Read on to learn 30 facts about the fennec fox.
The Fennec Fox Is Native to Africa
This cute fox can be found in its natural habitat in North Africa.
It makes the Sahara Desert its home and can be found east, toward Sinai and Arabia.
They Are Members of the Canid Family
Like wolves, coyotes and other foxes, the fennec fox is a member of the canid family.
There are 11 members of the canid family that call Africa home.
The Fennec Fox Is the Smallest Species of Fox
Weighing just 2 to 3.5 pounds when fully grown, the fennec fox is tiny.
Their body is usually around 12 to 16 inches in length, with their tail adding up to another 12 inches.
They Have a Fairly Long Lifespan
In the wild, the little fennec fox can live between 8 and 10 years old.
Captive fennec foxes usually have a longer lifespan, when properly cared for, and often live up to 14 years.
Let’s Talk About Those EARS!
The fennec fox is recognizable almost immediately for its giant ears that look like they belong to another canid species.
Adult fennecs can have ears that are between 4 and 6 inches in length!
Those Large Ears Serve a Purpose...
And those ears aren't there just to up their cuteness factor by 1,000.
The fennec fox has large ears to help cool them in the hot desert and to hear prey underneath the sand.
...And So Does the Large Amount of Hair on Their Feet
Another adaptation that helps them survive on the hot African sands is those tufted paws.
The large amount of hair gives them traction to run on the sand — weighing next to nothing probably helps, too! — and provides protection for their paw pads against burns.
Fennec Foxes Are Omnivores
The dessert-dwelling fennec fox is an omnivore, eating a fairly wide assortment of animals, from insects and lizards to small rodents and birds. They will also eat the eggs of those animals.
As omnivores, fennec foxes also enjoy roots, fruits, melons, dates and leaves.
They Don’t Need to Drink Water
In their natural habitat, it only rains 3 inches a year.
So, the fennec fox has an amazing ability to get the water they need from the food they consume, which is how they survive in the dry climate.
They Don’t Pant Until It Gets Really Hot
Your domestic dog probably starts to pant when temperatures are in the mid-70s, especially if they have a big coat.
According to the LA Zoo, “[Fennec foxes] keep their tongues curled to conserve salvia and only start to pant when the temperature is above 95 degrees.”
Their Name Is Persian and Arabic
The world fennec, according to the LA Zoo, is Arabic, derived from a Persian word — “fanak” or “fanaj” — which is used to mean a variety of furry animals.
What’s the Persian word for cute? That might have been more accurate…
Fennec Foxes Can Jump High in the Air
Fennec foxes are good at hunting.
That's because they have strong leg muscles and can jump as high as 3 feet into the air to pounce on their prey.
They Live Underground
To get out of that hot sun, the fennec fox creates borrows and tunnels under the sand.
These tunnels can be 3 feet underground and over 30-feet long.
Fennec Foxes Are Mostly Solitary
While they are considered solitary animals, hunting alone, fennec foxes live in close proximity of one another, usually in groups of 10.
Sometimes, their borrows and tunnels will connect.
You’re Going to Want a Leash
Why? Because a "leash" is one of the words for a group of fennecs.
They are also called skulks, but that just doesn’t seem cute enough for them.
They Are Nocturnal
It's not surprising that fennec foxes are nocturnal — after all, another way to beat the heat is to do your work at night.
When the sun goes down, the fennec fox is busy catching prey.
Fennec Foxes Mate for Life
Fennec foxes mate for life, picking their partner in January or February when they reach sexual maturity.
Could they get any cuter?
They Have Small Litters
Since the vixens — female foxes — are so small, it’s no surprise they don’t have large litters.
They usually have one litter a year of two to five kits.
Gestation Is Less Than 2 Months
The fennec fox’s gestation is just 50 to 53 days.
Males will bring food to the vixens for four weeks while she nurses her kits.
They Reach Maturity at 10 months
Born with its eyes closed, the fennec fox reaches sexual maturity at 10 months old.
Male Fennec Foxes Mark Their Territory
Like most other canid — including your dog! — male fennec foxes mark their territory by urinating around the perimeter.
The Fennec Fox Is the National Animal of Algeria
The cute fennec fox is the national animal of Algeria.
They can be found in the arid regions of the country.
They Are Also the Name of the Algerian Football team
The Algerian football (soccer) team is called Les Fennecs, or The Fennecs.
They don’t have an image of the cute fox on their jerseys though — their loss!
Fennec Foxes Have Few Predators
One of their main predators is humans, who hunt them for their fur. Natural predators include birds of prey such as raptors.
Hyenas sometimes catch them as well if a fennec fox happens to venture out during the day.
They Are Fairly Quick
The fennec fox can travel rather quickly, though, at around 20 miles per hour.
This helps them catch small rodents.
Is It Illegal to Own a Fennec Fox?
This depends on where you live. In the United States, most states actually allow you to own fennec foxes with the exception of Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada and Washington.
Some states require a special wildlife permit, so be sure to check your state before getting one.
Do They Make Good Pets?
They are considered wild animals. Fennec foxes are not domesticated, and owning one will not be like owning a tiny dog with big ears.
The Thomasville Veterinary Hospital in North Carolina explains that they are not cuddly and do not really like to be handled by people. In addition, they make some pretty loud screaming noises that can upset neighbors.
They Need a Special Habitat
Fennec foxes will also need a special enclosure to keep them safe. You cannot keep them in your backyard and home like you would a dog. They need to be able to burrow but not burrow under your fence, which means you’ll need to bury the fence.
You will also need a top on the enclosure as they can climb out. They also cannot be left outside in areas where the weather dips below 68 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
How Much Does a Fennec Fox Cost?
A fennec fox runs about $2,500 to $3,500, according to Thomasville Veterinary Hospital.
You may have to pay for shipping on top of that if you do not live near a breeder.