Foxes are quite sweet creatures, despite the reputation that they seem to have developed over the years. The reality is that while they live quite close to us on the whole, they're happy to let us be, just so long as we do the same to them.
In this article, we're going to share everything that you might need to know about foxes from the UK and around the world. From their eating habits to their habitat, we've got the answers to your questions.
About foxes - What is a fox?
Foxes are small to medium-sized animals. There are a number of different species of the fox all within the general family of fox, but they're considered to be a species of the same animal, as they have a number of similar features.
For example, their skull is generally quite flat on top, and their ears are pointed upright. They look quite a lot like dogs, though generally quite a lot smaller, and with very different coloration.
What does a fox look like?
Generally speaking, foxes can look quite different from one another. The thing that unites a number of different breeds of creatures to all be foxes is the head. They have pointed ears and a flattened skull, which combine to give them quite a unique silhouette. They also have quite narrow, pointed snouts, which can help to identify them in cases of them being tricky to see.
They generally have red coloration, with a white underbelly. Their red color is quite eye-catching and is typically the primary thing that makes its way into illustrations and cartoons of most foxes.
Finally, they're notable for their bushy tail. The tail itself is long enough that it reaches the ground from the fox's hindquarters, which isn't that rare. Impressively, though, it's quite an exceptionally bushy tail, being quite wide and thick relative to its length.
Foxes in the garden
The fox is a surprisingly common thing to spot in your garden, whether it's a cape fox, a swift fox or an arctic fox might escape your notice, thanks to the fact that the taxonomic differences between different types of fox can be more than a little confusing. The thing to bear in mind is quite simple - foxes are generally quite chilled out in our gardens. They have an exceptionally poor reputation, but they mostly are happy to simply exist in a space near us.
Foxes will almost always avoid confrontations unless they're provoked. This means that as long as you don't threaten or corner a fox, it's unlikely to go for you in any meaningful way. It's important to bear in mind that they're still wild animals, though - so they shouldn't be treated as you would a tame pet. This makes their bushy tail agonizingly cute since you know you shouldn't pet it.
Foxes themselves are intelligent - there's a reason they're known to be cunning. They're happy to adapt to different living situations, including urban areas that have become more built up over recent years. Gardens can be a really wonderful environment for a fox, since they're typically full of interesting smelling and tasting things, from flowers to bugs. Much like a cat, a fox is incredibly curious - they'll often be enticed by an interesting garden.
A top reason why foxes might come into your garden is that there could be a water source. In urban areas, safe water sources are often few and far between. This means that any security cameras are likely to see red foxes returning night after night - if they know they're safe, they'll come back to slake their thirst.
Another great reason could be if the fox thinks that there could be food up for grabs in your garden. Whether it's the smell of leftover pet food or the knowledge that you have a family of garden birds in your tree, foxes will seek out that food. If it's not there, or tricky to get, foxes will likely know that the effort isn't worth the reward. If a guinea pig hutch is well secured and locked, for example, a fox will realise that they'll get an easier meal elsewhere, and go in search of it.
Fox's diet - What do foxes eat?
We've spoken a lot about opportunistic omnivores, and it's a good job - foxes are a classic example of that type of animal. They will eat nearly anything that they can get their paws on, from pet food to table scrape, and from small mammals that they've successfully hunted.
Generally speaking, the majority of the diet of a fox depends upon where the fox lives. On the one hand, urban foxes are likely to live off scraps and odds and ends that get thrown away. This could be gathered by going through bins on large estates, or by simply having a network of houses that they go to gather scraps that they're fed.
Foxes that live in the countryside are more likely to hunt and eat food that's mostly small mammals. While red foxes and other species will be perfectly happy to subsist on rubbish in and around homes, those homes are fewer and further between. To that end, they tend to catch mice and other small animals to make up their diet.
What family are foxes in?
Foxes around the world, and in the UK, of course, are part of the Canidae family. This is the same group of creatures that wolves and domestic dogs belong to, which is quite evident by looking at foxes - they are quite dog-like.
Within the canidae family group, there are several different groups. Foxes generally belong to the genus vulpes - with vulpes vulpes being the red fox. Vulpes velox is the swift fox, while vulpes lagopus is the arctic fox. In most circles, this doesn't mean too much, though it's handy to know that if a species has the genus 'vulpes', then it's one of the true foxes.
There is a slew of fox species out there, and we're going to run through a few of them that we're particularly fond of. There are many, many more, and we'd recommend looking up some online - they're truly beautiful! It's easy to see why fox pelts were such a big thing in years gone by.
The red fox is, for want of a better term, the classic fox that you think of when you picture a fox. It's present throughout the northern hemisphere, with there being a red fox in Northern America, Europe, and Asia.
The red fox is present in some parts of North Africa, too, which is a true testament to how widespread the species is - it's rare for a species to cross the Mediterranean like that.
The red fox is the largest of all the true foxes, being around fourteen kilos heavy as a fully grown adult.
The kit fox is something that you certainly won't see in the UK - it's native to The southwestern US, and some regions of Mexico. It's somewhat of a bat-eared fox, with it having larger, more prominent ears than the red fox.
These foxes are some of the smallest in the world, and they're the smallest of the four species of fox in North America. They do look quite small when you see them in isolation - they're a lot skinnier than the red fox, though their tale is still bushy, and quite intense.
When they're seen in their native habitat, though, they can be considered to be a little more reasonably sized - there aren't a lot of places to hide in the arid regions of the US and Mexico, which means that these creatures do well by virtue of being quite small and hiding quite well.
Urban foxes are typically the same species as the red fox - vulpes vulpes. It's interesting to consider, though, that since they're quite socially different, foxes in urban areas and foxes in rural areas could be considered, socially, to be two species.
Foxes themselves have done very well in urban areas - they're famously and intensely adaptable, meaning that they'll eat whatever they can find, and sleep wherever they can curl up. These foxes couldn't be mistaken for a pale fox or a gray fox - they're intensely red across their body, and quite large, too.
Understanding male foxes & female foxes - What is the difference?
Across different species, from the gray fox to the Tibetan fox, there are differences between the male and female of the species.
Typically, a male fox grows to be a little larger than a female fox, as well as has slightly bigger skulls. In a number of red fox scientific studies, these things have been found to be quite subtle indeed, and tricky to notice unless you spend a lot of time observing foxes.
There are also not that many noticeable behavioral differences between male and female foxes. A male can sometimes be a little more aggressive, in terms of fighting, marking territory, and finding mates, but this isn't a universal rule.
The only real way to tell the difference between a male and a female fox would be to take them to a vet - upon inspecting them, the vet would be able to discern their sex from their genitals.
How many foxes are there in the world?
There are, quite frankly, an enormous number of foxes in the world. They're an extremely adaptable species, which means that they can find their spot in almost any civilization. For this reason, it's nearly impossible to give any kind of estimate on the number of foxes in the world, aside from one species.
Darwin's fox, which lives in Australia, is an endangered species. There are between ten and twenty thousand individuals in the entire world, which is quite a low number for a fox species. There are a number of conservation efforts going on at the moment to ensure these foxes don't disappear, and it's worth pointing out that these are the only foxes on the endangered species list - other species are simply not on the list at all.
How long do foxes live?
In the UK, foxes live for roughly three to four years. This might not sound like a long time, but considering the fact that they're a family group that lives on rubbish and is exceptionally adaptable, this is about the age you might expect.
Considering the fact that larger dogs tend to live shorter lives, as do stray and wild dogs, this number seems very real indeed. The reason the fox's lifespan can be shortened on average, though, is that threat from predators and natural disaster is fairly constant. For a number of foxes, the world is an extremely dangerous place.
Where do foxes live?
A fox makes its living in a den, throughout the UK and the rest of the world. These dens are ideal for them since they are often well ventilated and cool, while also providing protection from predators.
In the wild, they're likely to live in a number of different forested areas - if they're a red fox. Other species will live in different environments that they're more adapted for.
In urban areas, a fox will happily make a home in a small copse of trees, or it could make a home under a shed - they're very adaptable, which means they're happy pretty much anywhere they're safe.
Five facts about Foxes
A fox will happily eat a piece of fruit - they're omnivorous and love fruit from time to time.
They're related to dogs - while they belong to a different species, they're in the same family.
A fox is capable of making forty different sounds to communicate with its neighbors and family group.
The unique shape and placement of fox ears mean that their hearing is incredible - they can be very skittish upon hearing a noise from a long distance away.
Like a cat, a fox will use its large tail to aid with balance, and also protect from the cold.