Remember that time I was randomly obsessed with wolverines? This time it’s foxes, because my sister’s dog recently chased a fox (which was much faster than him) and we couldn’t decide what kind it was. Naturally, I took to Google. While I still haven’t answered that burning fox-species question, I now know some more facts about foxes, the main one being that they are very cute.
The scientific name for foxes is Vulpes Vulpes. I assume this is because the scientist who decided the Latin name was so taken aback by the fox’s adorable face that he stammered repetitively and would later not admit it. Vulpes is also the name of the fox in Jean Craighead George’s delightful children’s/middle grade book, Vulpes the Red Fox. I happily read many of her books as a wee bookworm and was particularly fond of Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain. I still have not achieved my life goal of having a falcon named Frightful, though.
Getting back on track with foxes, there are 12 members of the genus vulpes, including red fox, arctic fox, fennec fox, and gray fox. Fennec foxes win in two categories: Most Petite, and Biggest Ears. Their ears can be up to 15cm (6 inches) in length, and help to keep them cool in their native desert climate. Typically, the only weigh about 2 pounds (1 kg).
Foxes are found everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and parts of Australia. Their coats and body type typically reflect their habitat. For example, during winter, arctic foxes are white, to blend in with the snow of the frozen north. Their fur changes to brown in the summer, to better match the tundra. They are well suited to the cold climate, with rounded bodies to reduce the amount of heat escape.
Unlike most other canines, foxes do not bark much, and prefer non-verbal communication. You might say they are the subtlest of all canines. Foxes communicate with body language and yelps, some of which are blood-curdling and sound like torturous screams. The sounds are the only thing about foxes which are not charming.
For proof, please consult this YouTube video where a fox is randomly trying to play with a dog (adorable) and then makes some weird noises when the dog won’t play (creepy). Side note, my dog got quite excited when I played this video. I have a feeling he would have played with the fox.
Foxes are nocturnal, which is handy for them to make those sounds while you’re sleeping. They are believed to be among the most adaptable animals in the world, which ties into the saying ‘clever as a fox.’ They can quickly deal with changes to surroundings and food sources. ‘Urban foxes’ have adapted to human encroachment on their territory by learning to live within cities. It’s estimated that there are about 33,000 urban foxes in Britain alone.
Baby foxes are called kits or cubs. Similar to puppies, they are born deaf and blind. They are not able to thermo-regulate from birth, and need their mother to keep them warm. Fox kits stay inside the den with their mother for about a month, until their eyes have opened and they have gained some mobility. They are inquisitive and playful, learning the hunting skills they will need to survive. Fox kits grow up fast – they begin to venture out on their own around 7 months of age.
This little fox kit is building neck strength and coordination by adorably carrying a leaf.
(I’m sorry, I couldn’t choose just one). This fox kit is about to learn what that expression on Mom’s face means.
Fox kits learn to defy gravity from a very young age. These arctic fox kits have brownish coats to blend in with the brownish summer landscape of the tundra.
Foxes are often depicted in mythology and popular culture, usually being portrayed as a cunning trickster, who may be quite charming and likable. One of the best examples of this is the fox version of Robin Hood, in Disney’s 1973 film, a fox so powerful that he inspired a generation of surprising adolescent crushes. Exhibit A; B; C; D – see, I’m not making this up. In fact, Disney has included a lot of foxes in their movies, although they seem to have varying levels of intelligence and Robin Hood is clearly the pinnacle of foxhood.