A Look at the Characteristics of the Red Fox


There are a number of different kinds of fox and they can differ quite a bit in appearance, hunting characteristics and habitat. One representative kind of fox is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), since it is so wide-spread.

To say that a red fox is an interesting creature would be a huge understatement. Those who have had the great fortune to live around these creatures have Probably learned that they possess talents that are hard to match by other carnivorous animals, particularly others in the canine or dog family. Those who haven’t been around foxes often make mistakes in identification and the physical characteristics of the animal are a key giveaway.

The head of red foxes

Foxes are members of the dog family. Still, they have a lot of adaptations that make them almost seem cat-like. For instance, a red fox has upright ears, ideal for hearing and like those of a cat. These foxes can hear the faintest rustling caused by a mouse or vole in much the same way that house cats can, and they are just as quick to pounce on the prey, which they also do in a similar way to a cat.

The muzzle of a red fox is long and slender, giving the fox an excellent sense of smell, while allowing the eyes to face forward. Again, this is similar to a cat in that the red fox can smell its prey even before it sees it and it can detect slight movements, such as in the grass as a rodent moves between the plants. The sense of smell also allows them to track prey, even in deepest darkness.

The legs and body of red foxes

The legs of a red fox are surprisingly short for the length of the body from the tip of the nose to the tail and they are built much more like those of a cat than those of a domesticated dog. This lets the fox move very quickly, changing directions in mid stride, and yet they have a great ability to pounce on animals as previously stated. Once again, cats are the masters pouncing, but foxes come extremely close to showing the same prowess. A playing fox kit will even pounce on a blowing blade of grass or a dead leaf, like a kitten would.

Seeing a fox pouncing and landing head-first in snow is funny. Seeing him come up with a mouse is amazing.

The length of the legs also makes the fox appear longer than they should be, though this is illusion. The dense fur of a fox exaggerates this perception to the point that a totally wet fox looks much like a cat that is wet. Still, the red fox is the largest species of fox in the world.

Climbing ability

The legs, and more specifically its feet, make red foxes excellent climbers. There aren’t many members of the canine family can match the red fox’s ability to climb trees. The paws aren’t appreciably different from other canines, except that the claws are narrow and usually sharp like those of a cat, and the feet are delicate. The pads of the feet are rough, which helps them get traction on steep inclines, like those of trees. They can’t retract the claws, but they keep them in working condition for attacking prey.

Red fox’s teeth

Like most members of the canine family, foxes also have sharp teeth. The teeth aren’t stout for crushing bones or for taking down large prey. Stout teeth aren’t needed, as the main prey for the red fox consists of small rodents. Foxes will also eat a wide variety of other foods, including berries, other fruit, grubs, insects, bird eggs and birds.

Foxes have an instinctive urge to attack movement. This is why, if they get inside a hen-house, they often won’t leave until every hen is dead, even if the number far exceeds the fox’s needs. The startled movements by the chickens will cause the instincts to kick in, and the fox won’t stop until there is no more movement.

red foxOne of the most obvious physical traits for the red fox is its bushy tail. This actually gives the fox quite an advantage when it comes to running, leaping, pouncing or even climbing, as the tail provides a handy counterbalance. The tip of the tail is usually white and the tail is often used to keep the nose warm when the creature sleeps.

Red fox fur

The fur of a fox is soft, thick and full, especially after the fall molt. This helps to protect them against harsher weather. The inner fur is dense and warm. Red foxes meticulously groom themselves and again the fur is almost cat-like in the texture. Foxes do have guard hairs that are coarser, to help them survive temperature extremes, yet to the touch, they are fine enough that the pelt doesn’t feel harsh.

While not a physical attribute, foxes can be easily tamed and are as affectionate as most of the dog family, and in fact, more so than many wild canines. They are also quite playful, rather like a cat is.

Watching foxes in the wild, sometimes it is easy to forget that they are not cats, since their overall appearance and behavior is quite similar to that of a feline in many ways. Nature has done a superb job of adapting the red fox to its environment and this is one reason it is so wide-spread. Having had the distinct honor of helping to raise a red fox, I will say that a red fox’s physical characteristics are such that they are quite hard to mistake for any other animal, though.

It is the physical characteristics of a red fox that makes it stand out, even at a distance. It is also what has made this animal so successful in the wild.




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