The Unknown Fox Cousins Of Red Foxes

Red foxes are well known to most people, especially here in the United States, even if they aren't an animal we see everyday. What isn't thought about much, is the fact that they are wild relatives of the dog.

Among the wild relatives of the dog, the Red fox is the best known to most people. Civilization holds no terrors for this animal. Give it a limited amount of woodland, a bush lot or two, or a meadow in which to hunt mice, and it is at home, even using the cultivated fields of a farm as a hunting ground.

Indeed, today, with human encroachment upon landscape, seeing a Red fox stroll through the neighborhood or along the highways is not that unusual of a sighting.

The Red fox has a very extensive range thorough North America, During, and before, early colonial times, it was unknown in the south-eastern states, but since that time it has spread southward.

It is known that some of the colonists imported the European Red fox into Long Island and Virginia. Many people believe that the foxes of the southeastern states are descendants of those European red foxes, which mixed with native foxes from farther north.

As the Red fox is found in so many different environments throughout this extensive range, differences of size, shade of color, and texture of the coat would naturally occur.

The Red fox is not limited to North America. In its many species and sub-species, it is found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere -- in Europe, most of Asia and northern Africa. It was also introduced into Australia.

Red fox
Red fox
Sand Fox
Sand Fox
Corsac Fox
Corsac Fox

Many Cousins of the Same Species

Of the many forms of the Red fox, the European is the best known of all. Included in the kinds found in Asia are the North China Red fox, the South China Red fox, the Desert Red fox of the Gobi, the Tibetan or Hill fox, which dwells in the Himalaya area.

Then, there is the white-footed fox found in the drier districts of northwest India, along with the Bengal fox found throughout most of India.

The Egyptian Red fox and the Barbary fox are found in the arid regions of north Africa. Additionally, there are the small, long-nosed foxes, known as Sand foxes, and the Corsac fox, which are also both relatives of the Red fox and the wild dogs.

The Corsac fox is found in central Asia, and the Asiatic Sand fox in Tibet and Nepal, while other Sand foxes are found in the desert regions of southern Asia and northern Africa.

Egyptian Red Fox
Egyptian Red Fox
Tibetian Fox
Tibetian Fox

Dietary Habits of Red Foxes

Throughout his range, mice and other small rodents make up a large portion of the food of the Red fox. However, other small mammals, including birds, eggs, reptiles, insects, fruits, and berries are included in his fare.

Many people believe that poultry and game birds form the Red fox's chief bill of fare, but these fowl only make a small percentage of his diet.

There once was a scientific study in which a scientist examined more than two hundred stomachs of Red foxes killed in New York and New England. He discovered that only seven per cent of them contained poultry or game birds. Almost fifty per cent contained mice, and twenty-five percent contained rabbits.

However, it is important to remember that this study was conducted between October and March. So it is likely that in the spring and summer more game birds, insects, and fruit would have been eaten.

Gray Fox
Gray Fox

Homelife of Red Foxes

The home of the Red fox is generally a hole dug in a bank by the foxes themselves, although in the eastern United States, they may enlarge an old woodchuck hole to suit their needs.

In the spring, the young are born in this den. They may number from four to nine. Both the father and the mother are devoted parents and scour the countryside for food which they bring home to the young.

The cubs are blind until they are nine days old and do not venture above ground until they are more than three weeks old. They stay in or near the den for about three months. After that, they follow their parents on hunting expeditions.

At first they learn to catch grasshoppers and mice, but soon become skillful in capturing larger and more difficult prey.

Red Fox Pups

Silver Fox
Silver Fox

The Colors of a Red Fox

The Red fox is constantly being hunted by men with dogs, and is being trapped and poisoned. Yet, for all that, the animal is well able to take care of himself, at least in comparison to other animals.

In Europe and in some sections of the United States hunts are held, where a fox is followed by trained hounds and mounted hunters until he is run down and captured by dogs. In the eastern United States he is chased by trained hounds until he is driven past a waiting hunter, until he is shot. In the past he was widely trapped for his fur. So he was made a victim for recreation and profit.

The color phases (changes) of the Red fox frequently occur, especially in Canada and Alaska. The Black fox, Silver Fox, and Cross fox are all true red foxes and a litter may contain any of these colors and red as well.

In the past when it was fashionable to wear fur, black and silver skins were of considerable value and large numbers of these foxes were being bred in captivity in fox farms. During that era the Silver fox was developed. It is of a light smoky blue color and was also known as the Platinum fox.

Kit Fox (aka Swift Fox)
Kit Fox (aka Swift Fox)

The Kit or Swift Fox

The Kit, or Swift fox, and the Desert fox (aka Long-eared fox), are small relatives of the Red fox and inhabit the plains and deserts of western North America.

The Kit fox is found on the plains from Saskatchewan and southern Albert, south to northern New Mexico. The Long-eared fox is a desert dweller and his range extends from California and Nevada south into Mexico and Lower California.

These little foxes are very close relatives and are of a buff color, with gray flecking on the back and sides. The Long-eared fox differs from the Kit fox in his lighter color and larger ears.

Their food consists of small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, insects and vegetable matter. Their homes are burrows and the young are generally three to five in number. Surprisingly, little is known about the habits of these foxes.

They are exceedingly fast afoot and often seek refuge in a burrow when chased or surprised by an enemy. Today, Kit foxes are an endangered species.

 

Gray Fox (one of the few wild dogs that climb)
Gray Fox (one of the few wild dogs that climb)

The Gray Fox

The Gray fox is found throughout southern North America. Its range extends as far south as Columbia and to northern South America. Although the Gray fox prefers forests to open farm lands, and lacking the cunning of the Red fox, which results in the consequence of being more readily trapped -- he still multiplies close to civilization.

In the east, the den generally is among rocks or it may be a burrow under a large rock. Occasionally, the family may have a burrow in a hillside. Hollow trees are sometimes also used as a den. There are three to five young in a litter. These are born in the spring and they are cared for by both parents.

In the Southwest, the Gray fox lives in the semi-arid districts and is as much at home among the thorn bushes and cacti of that region, as he is in the forests of the East. He is also found on several of the island off the coast of California.

The Gray fox differs from the Red fox, in the fact that he has a number of dens in which he sleeps and retires during bad weather. A Red fox prefers to sleep in the open under a bush or near a stump, and the worst winter weather has no terrors for him.

The Gray fox is noted for his ability to climb. In this skill he exceeds all the other wild dogs. Not only will he seek shelter in a tree when pursued, but on numerous occasions he has even been observed sleeping or sunning himself on a hawk's or a squirrel's nest high up among the branches.

Gray Fox

Fennec Fox
Fennec Fox

Many More Cousins

There are many more species of foxes. Some of the noteworthy ones are like the Arctic fox of the Far North, particularly in Alaska. Then, there is the Chama or Silver fox of South Africa. Another species, is the Fennec fox, who is thought by many to be the prettiest of all the foxes. Other foxes and wild dogs include:

  • African Long-eared fox
  • Maned wolf (who is actually a fox)
  • Crab-eating dog
  • Colpeo
  • Falkland dog (aka Antarctic wolf)

Fox Hunting At Snow

More by this Author


Comments 19 comments

Nemingha profile image

Nemingha 7 years ago

The Fennec Fox certainly is unusual and friendly-looking. Thanks for such an informative and interesting Hub.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Good point about the dietary habits (the months they were studied.) I think foxes are GORGEOUS. There's just something about them. Seeing that fox hunt in the snow was fantastic. I wish it were longer! Their tails are amazingly beautiful. The photo of the silver fox is hypnotic. It's like looking at a story. Imagine being the one to take that photo! Nice find. Okay, I'll stop blabbing. Long story short, I love this. Oh my, anything else up you sleeve for this series? (Now that I'm addicted, lol).


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

the fox has almost as much of a place in folklore as the coyote/both can be tricksters and both can be helpers to those who are of value or virtue...the kitsune in Japan is a magical being (means fox),much like the fey of western folklore and the more tails the kitsune has the wiser, stronger, older etc the being is...Hmmm...cool story thread eh? and really cool hub JeriLee!!


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

The fox truly is a beautiful animal but also a little merciless, as anyone who keeps chickens will probably know. When they manage to get in to a chicken coop they seldom kill one, they prefer to get them all probably with a view to returning for more feeding sessions later on. This and for other reasons unfortunately turns them into a target for farmers protecting their livestock.

I guess the problem being that foxes do not hold moral codes such as humans do and are consequently branded as being evil, but actually they are not so much evil as doing what comes naturally.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Nemingha! Indeed, some people keep them as pets, although I don't recommend it.

Thanks Frieda Babbley! Probably only one more on this topic, but not sure when. I planned out the next 150 hubs over the next 20 weeks and tried to mix them up so I wouldn't bore people.

Thanks RNMSN! Knowing both the Huron and Chitimacha tales of my ancestors, I would certainly agree it's a cool story thread.

Thanks Brian S! That's true when it comes to foxes and poultry. We never lost a chicken to foxes though because our chicken coop was deliberately placed next to our dog kennel and run. Nothing like 8 baying hunting dogs to deter predators. Of course, as smart as the foxes and coyotes were, they didn't hold a candle in the cleverness department to the raccoons who figured out that those dogs were but a mere alarm. That took our Great Dane let out of the house to catch and kill them. The moral codes of nature are complex and it's best to work with them.


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 7 years ago

Jerilee, it is as you know, a common sight here to see red-fox even along the main HY. love ya


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Ginn Navarre! They are pretty common here in Florida too. love you!


Mardi profile image

Mardi 7 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

Thanks for this. I enjoy seeing wildlife right on the farm. We have a family of foxes that live in our horse pasture and it is great to see them out and about. We have chickens, but more problems with raccoons than foxes!! Excellent hub.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Mardi! The raccoons were our problem too until we got a Great Dane who would tree them, shake them out of the tree, shake them to death and then walk away totally not interested once they were lifeless.


bengriston profile image

bengriston 7 years ago

There was a baby red fox running around the edge of my property this summer. He was adorable but after a couple of months I saw him dead by the road. It is rare to see one and I wished he had made it.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks bengriston! Unfortunately, they and many wild animals have very high mortality rates.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Jerilee, I agree with Frieda: foxes are gorgeous!

About five years ago, when Sword was in Kindergarten, I was visiting her class when a fox wandered onto the empty playground. All the children went to the windows to look, but the teacher made them get back in their seats.

I loved the video of the fox hunting. He seemed to be having so much fun!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Aya! Teaches like that miss opportunities to really teach and encourage children to look at the world with wonderment.


Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 7 years ago from USA

These little creatures are so beautiful...Great article and beautiful pictures...


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Nancy's Niche!


Halley 5 years ago

Foxes are considered ''vermin''. This is a lie. Despite popular belief, foxes actually rarely hunt chickens. They prefer bugs or rabbits.

And, yes, I agree, foxes are gorgeous animals. I don't know what bit I like best. The glossy tail? The auburn red shine of their fur? Hey, I have a good book some of you will (probably) LOVE. It's called Finding the Fox, bu Ali Sparkes. It's about a boy who discovers he is a shapeshifter, able to shift into a fox, and back.

If you don't read it, you're missing a lot! It's a fantastic book for fox lovers!

x


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Halley! I'll check it out.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

This is such a beautiful and well done hub that I've made two decisions:

1. I'm currently working on a hub about gray foxes, and I'd like to link this hub in mine, and will, unless you specifically tell me not to do so.

2. I'm probably not going to write about red foxes on this website, as you've already done a great one on the subject.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Wesman Todd Shaw! Glad you enjoyed it. Link away. And as for the red fox, I think there is always room for more information on any topic. What I do is try to tell something that others missed or didn't know on every one that I write, regardless of subject.

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