Animals seem to get a reputation for how they look, where they live, or how they behave. Dogs are friendly. Cats are introverts. Owls are wise. And foxes are sly.
In many, if not all cultures, foxes are associated with being sly and cunning. That is highly attributed to the animal’s great ability to catch prey, patience, slow, silent movement, and strategic thinking. That is to say, foxes have a bad reputation for having super abilities!
In total, there are 12 fox species. Unlike many other animals that have specific habitats, foxes are pretty much found on every continent except for the southernmost continent of Antarctica. Their habitat has a collective area of 70 million km².
The largest and most famous of those 12 species is called the red fox. The red fox itself has around 45 named subspecies and this is what we are exclusively discussing in this article. So let’s hop into it.
A red fox is one super attractive and very distinct fox species. Although it diverged from a small-sized fox ancestor, it is the largest fox species. It has beautiful reddish-orange, rusty fur. But despite that, it can produce either pale white or black offspring. That is because of some changes in the melanin levels.
That long, silky, fluffy fur the red fox enjoys has sadly made the animal a hunting target for humans who take advantage of and trade that fur. The fur is used to make clothes such as scarfs, jackets, coats, and capes. One thing that encourages such inhumane behaviour is that the red fox is found in large numbers, almost in each of its habitats.
In other words, the red fox’s blessings of beautiful fur and high reproduction levels, as we will see later, have turned into a curse and encouraged humans to kill the animal.
Thankfully, this killing does not seem to affect the red fox’s numbers since it breeds more frequently and has many more offspring than many other animals. As a result, the red fox was listed as ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This means the animal population is plentiful and does not require conservation.
Despite having a permanent residence in Zootopia which only God knows where it is located, the red fox inhabits most of Europe, parts of Asia, northern Africa as well as North America. The red fox also has a quite large population, around several million individuals, in Australia.
When it comes to senses, the red fox is superior. The red fox has an intense sense of hearing. It can hear even tiny, low-frequency sounds. For example, it can hear mice sounds at a distance of 30 metres away. The red fox’s sense of smell is very sharp too.
As we have mentioned a few paragraphs ago, red foxes have had a reputation for their excellence in catching prey. In human culture, just like wolves, red foxes seem to symbolise bad traits such as trickery, deceit, cowardness, weakness, and cunning.
Male and female red foxes do not look that different though they do possess some physical differences. A female red fox is usually called a vixen while males are called dogs. Cubs are known as kits.
Speaking of their appearance, red foxes are medium-sized animals, but still the largest fox species. They have somehow long bodies, covered with a dense, soft fur coat that gets even denser during winter.
The fur is typically reddish-brown and rusty. However, some special mutations may result in the fur being black and silver or cross. Cross red foxes’ fur has a combination of reddish-orange and black hairs.
Red foxes have a long fluffy tail measuring 30 to 55.5 cm. It touches the ground when the fox stands on all fours. Red foxes are also characterised by their long, triangular, upright ears. These can be up to 12.5 cm long. Adult males are 35 to 50 cm tall at the shoulder.
Vixens are usually 20% smaller than dogs. Males weigh between 2.2 and 14 kg. The largest red fox reported in the UK was found to be 17.2 kg and had a body length of 1.4 m.
The red fox can tout, like horses. Its touting speed reaches 13 km/h. Yet, it can run much faster than that, reaching up to 50 km/h. And it is a good swimmer too. In other words, the red fox can easily win a triathlon.
In addition to all these super abilities, the red fox enjoys pretty sharp senses. For instance, it has a very good sense of sight and an intense sense of smell. The hearing ability is excellent too, allowing the animal to hear clearly from a distance.
Red foxes are never solitary. They usually live in family groups. A family typically consists of a fox couple and their offspring. The couple is in charge of the family. They feed and take care of their cubs.
Family members usually have strong bonds. Even when the young of one generation grow a little older, they stay within the group to help bring up their younger siblings.
Red foxes are mature by the age of one year old at maximum. This is when they can mate and start a family. Mating usually happens once a year, typically from late December to late March. A female red fox stays pregnant for 50 to 60 days and gives birth to four to five cubs. Sometimes, females produce more cubs, up to 13 cubs in one litter.
At birth, cubs are extremely helpless. They cannot see or hear and they have no teeth at all. They are also so small, weighing as low as 56 gm and 110 gm at maximum. They are only 14.5 cm long with a tail of 7.5 cm in length. Their fur is dark brown but it changes colour the older they get.
The mother stays with her cubs for around three weeks to take care of them. She helps them neither get cold nor hot since their bodies are still too weak to adjust their own temperatures.
During that three-week period, it is the father who takes care of feeding his family and bringing food to the den. If the mother died, the father would step in and take full responsibility for his cubs, in case they were not fully developed yet.
Cubs open their eyes around two weeks after birth. At the age of four weeks, they are reasonably developed. By then, cubs can see and hear and they are able to eat solid food too. Still, they keep nursing until they are seven weeks old at maximum.
Cubs become mature at around 8 to 10 months of age.
Red foxes have a lifespan of five years only if they are in the wild. But if in captivity, they can live up to 15 years.
Like many predators, red foxes are meat-eaters but they can feed on plants as well. They have a large variety of food choices to choose from. Primarily, red foxes eat rodents such as hamsters, squirrels, and mice. They also eat birds, rabbits and hares, reptiles, raccoons, and insects.
Speaking of plants, red foxes consume fruits including almost all types of berries as well as cherries, apples, grapes, and plums. They also eat grass.
Unlike wolves who go on hunts in groups, red foxes forage alone. They typically go to search for food in the early morning and late evening. But if food is abundant, red foxes may gather to feed.
Red foxes may sometimes prey on livestock—animals domesticated by humans on a farm. They usually catch lamb and domestic rabbits if they happen to be in an open area. On very rare occasions, red foxes attack cats and kittens and feed on them.
First off, red foxes are territorial. That means, they like to occupy areas of their habitat and claim them to themselves. Then, they mark these territories using their urine so as to tell other red foxes not to cross it and stay away.
Inside these territories, red foxes establish their own homes. More precisely, they dig them into the ground. To protect themselves from bad weather and keep their cubs, red foxes usually dig burrows on mountain slopes, ditches, depressions, or rock clefts. They usually choose areas where the soil is completely dry and drained so the dens do not collapse.
The den usually comprises two parts. Red foxes first dig a tunnel which ends with a relatively spacious area used as the living room. Red foxes also use their dens to store food.
Sometimes, red foxes may use dens abandoned by other animals.
Speaking of superiority, red foxes seem to have already established it among other fox species, mainly to secure food. To avoid competition and deadly confrontations with the red fox, different other fox species abandoned the areas where they may come across the red fox. They moved to more barren regions just because they know the red fox will not follow them there due to food scarcity.
That said, the red fox does compete with the corsac fox and the grey fox. These two are other superior fox species. Though the corsac fox might not be as strong or a good hunter as the red fox, it can hunt in dry, semi-desert areas which is something the red fox lacks.
And so we finish today’s journey.
In this article, we have explored the red fox, the largest and one of the most distinct fox species on Earth. Though it has a reputation for being tricky, cunning, and sly, the red fox is as extraordinary as it is different.
We have learned some interesting facts about the red fox males and females as well as their beautiful cubs which can sometimes have pale white or black coats. We also understood how this exceptional, silky fur coat gets the animal killed by humans.
Then we moved to the red fox’s interesting behaviour of determining its territory, den building, and how it uses it as a hideout to escape bad weather, protect its cubs, and store food.
Last but not least, we have looked into the red fox’s superiority among other fox species and how they may get into competition to secure food.
We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we loved writing it for you. Tell us in the comments what you like the most about the red fox and whether or not you have seen one in real life.
If you enjoyed learning about this facinating animal why not check out more fantastic facts about other animals: Koalas, Ostriches, Land Animals, Sharks, Raccoons, Moon and Sun Bears, Rats, Sheep, Chickens, Cats, Pandas, Monkeys and Whales.
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