The Fox Family
As members of the Canidae family, foxes are closely related to dogs, wolves, and jackals. This family relationship can be seen in their appearance. They often resemble small to medium-sized dogs with bushy tails, long fur, pointed ears, and narrow snouts.
Strictly speaking, the name refers to the 12 species of “true” foxes from the genus Vulpes. However, there are several other species that belong to genera other than Vulpes. These include the North American gray fox, five species of South American foxes, and the Arctic fox, among others.
Unlike their canine relatives, foxes are solitary animals. However, they do live in small families in underground burrows while raising their young. These groupings are referred to as a “skulk” of foxes. The word skulk is derived from a Scandinavian word that generally means to wait, lurk, or move stealthily. Which makes it a fitting term, given the animal’s reputation for cunning. But outside of these family groups, they prefer to hunt and sleep alone.
The Omnipresent Red Fox
Of each of the species within the genus, the red fox is the most widespread by far. In fact, it has the largest natural distribution of any land mammal except humans. They can be found throughout virtually all of Europe, temperate Asia, northern Africa, and most of North America. In Australia, they are considered an invasive species, but they’ve still managed to establish themselves throughout most of the continent.
Most commonly, the red fox has a coat of long guard hairs, soft underfur that is typically reddish-brown, a white-tipped tail, and black ears and legs. However, the coloring is variable. In North America, black and silver coats are even occasionally seen.
One characteristic that has helped the red fox thrive is adaptability to a wide variety of environments, from the Arctic tundra to the arid desert. They have also managed to adjust well to human presence. Populations can be found in both remote areas and highly populated cities and suburbs. Unsurprisingly, given their resilience, their diet is not picky and includes mice, voles, rabbits, eggs, fruit, and birds. They’ll also eat other found foods if necessary, like grain, unattended pet food, domestic poultry, and garbage.
Smallest Of The Bunch
The smallest member of the Canidae family is the fennec fox. When fully grown, they’re typically 14 to 16 inches long and 2 to 3 pounds. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their ears, which can grow between 4 to 6 inches in length, making them noticeably large in comparison to the rest of their body.
The large ears help them both hunt and dispel heat in the deserts and arid regions of their native Africa and Arabia. They also have other unique methods for surviving in the hot climate, including extreme panting. When the heat rises, the breathing rate of the fennec fox can climb up to 690 breaths per minute to help regulate their body temperature.
Despite their small size, fennec foxes are surprisingly skilled jumpers. Adults can jump up to 3 feet in length from a standstill. This, combined with the sandy color of their coat which makes for great camouflage, allows them to leap on unsuspecting prey in the desert.
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