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There are two species of fox that come on a black form or "melanistic morph". These are the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus).
Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus)
Arctic foxes come in two main color forms. Those further inland tend to be pure white in winter, and become brown-grey in summer. Those closer to the coast are a blue-black in summer and become grey in winter.
As such a fully white and fully black foxes are rarely seen together due to the difference in range and seasonal coat (although some illustrations may seem to suggest otherwise)
Farmed Arctic Fox
Arctic fox have been farmed since around 1860. This has lead to a semi-domesticated breed and there is some concern they might escape and breed with wild endangered fox.
The farmed fox often shows an exaggerated version of the black morph called the blue fox.
Pet Arctic Fox
Arctic foxes have not been fully domesticated although fur-bred animals will interact readily with people. Arctic foxes are only rarely kept as pets, usually when found as young cubs and hand raised (see: crew man with pet blue fox, 1941)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
A red fox in a black color with a white tail tip and sometimes a frosted coat is referred to as a "silver fox". This fox is widely spread across the Northern Hemisphere. However they are very rare in some countries including the United Kingdom.
An intermediate form exists which is mainly red but with pronounced black markings. This is referred to as a "cross fox" after the black cross shape on its back.
Free roaming black foxes are considered bad luck in Britain, where they are particularly rare.
Farmed Red Fox
Vulpes vulpes has also be farmed for fur since the late 1800s after being domesticated from natural populations on Prince Edward Island the silver morph became particularly in demand. It is still raised commercially today.
Pet Red Fox
A line of foxes was fully domesticated in Russia, leading to the availability of foxes suitable for keeping as a house pet. However pet foxes still require more specialized care than a dog or cat including a carefully tailored diet and secure outdoor exercise area.
In many areas special permits are required to own a fox, and careful research may be required to determine how best to deal with issues such as vaccination.
Under captive breeding conditions many grades and variations of color have been developed and named--many included elements of black or silver coat color--for example the marble or bastard fox.
There are areas where red and arctic foxes live in the same area, thus both types of black fox can meet in tundra areas of America and Eurasia. Red fox can be distinguished by their larger body size and white tail tip.
- Cross, E. C. (1941). Colour phases of the red fox (Vulpes fulva) in Ontario. Journal of Mammalogy, 22(1), 25-39.
- Kukekova, Anna V., Svetlana V. Temnykh, Jennifer L. Johnson, Lyudmila N. Trut, and Gregory M. Acland. "Genetics of behavior in the silver fox." Mammalian Genome 23, no. 1-2 (2012): 164-177.