Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Carnivora / Canidae / Vulpes / Species
Vulpes vulpes - Red fox (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Fox
  • Silver fox
  • Cross fox
  • Renard (French)
  • Renard roux (French)
  • Rotfuchs (German)
  • Vulpes fulva (B51)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] abietorum; [Genus] acaab; [Genus] aegyptiacus; [Genus] alascensis; [Genus] alba; [Genus] algeriensis; [Genus] alopex; [Genus] alpherakyi; [Genus] alticola; [Genus] anadyrensis; [Genus] anatolica; [Genus] anubis; [Genus] arabica; [Genus] atlantica; [Genus] aurantioluteus; [Genus] bangsi; [Genus] barbarus; [Genus] beringiana; [Genus] cascadensis; [Genus] caucasica; [Genus] cinera; [Genus] communis; [Genus] crucigera; [Genus] daurica; [Genus] deletrix; [Genus] dolichocrania; [Genus] dorsalis; [Genus] eckloni; [Genus] flavescens; [Genus] fulvus; [Genus] griffithii; [Genus] harrimani; [Genus] himalaicus; [Genus] hoole; [Genus] huli; [Genus] hypomelas; [Genus] ichnusae; [Genus] indutus; [Genus] jakutensis; [Genus] japonica; [Genus] kamtschadensis; [Genus] karagan; [Genus] kenaiensis; [Genus] kiyomasai; [Genus] krimeamontana; [Genus] kurdistanica; [Genus] ladacensis; [Genus] leucopus; [Genus] lineatus; [Genus] lineiventer; [Genus] lutea; [Genus] macrourus; [Genus] melanogaster; [Genus] melanotus; [Genus] meridionalis; [Genus] montana; [Genus] necator; [Genus] nepalensis; [Genus] nigra; [Genus] nigro-argenteus; [Genus] nigrocaudatus; [Genus] niloticus; [Genus] ochroxantha; [Genus] palaestina; [Genus] peculiosa; [Genus] pennsylvanicus; [Genus] persicus; [Genus] pusilla; [Genus] regalis; [Genus] rubricosa; [Genus] schrencki; [Genus] silaceus; [Genus] sitkaensis; [Genus] splendens; [Genus] splendissima; [Genus] stepensis; [Genus] tobolica; [Genus] tschiliensis; [Genus] ussuriensis; [Genus] vafra; [Genus] variagatus; [Genus] vulgaris; [Genus] vulpecula; [Genus] waddelli; (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles


Names for males

Dog, dog fox

Names for females


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General Appearance

Canid with a long, slender low body, long bushy tail held horizontally, relatively short thin legs, long narrow muzzle, large pointed erect ears. Variable colour but generally reddish-brown (B142, B147, B148).

Similar Species

None in UK.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males generally 20% larger than females (B142).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B51, B52, B141, B142, B143, B144, B147, B148, B221

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Canidae

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Canidae

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Head-body length: Males 68cm, females 66cm (B52);1.6-3ft/ 50-90cm (B144); 45.5-90cm (B147); up to 80cm (B148); British range males 540-777mm, females 560-744mm (B142).
  • Tail length: Males 44cm, females 42cm (B52);12-20in./30-50cm (B144) 30-55cm (B147); 40cm (B148); British range males 222-493mm, females 277-491mm (B142).
Height Shoulder height:  14-18in./35-45cm (B144); 30cm (B148).
Adult weight General 3-14kg (B147); generally 8-10kg in central Europe (B147). 5.5-22lbs./2.5-10kg (B144).
Male 5.9kg (B52), 4.5-5.4 average in North America (B147); British range 4.0-9.3kg (B142).
Female 4.1-5.4kg (B52), 4.1-4.5kg average in North America (B147); British range 4.0-6.9kg (B142).
New-born weight 50-150g (B147). 2.8-5.3oz./80-150g (B144).
Growth rate --

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  • Skull: Generally dog-like, but narrower, with canine teeth prominent and sharply pointed. Usually prominent sagittal crest in males (B142).
  • Nose: Muzzle long and slender (B142, B147, B148).
  • Ears: Erect, pointed, black (B142, B147, B148).
Dentition (Teeth) (i 3/3, c 1/1, pm 4/4 m2/3) x2 =42 (B148, B147).
Eyes Yellow (slate blue in cubs to four/five weeks old). Highly reflective: eye shine as in cat, blue/white if seen head-on, pinkish if not looking directly at light source. Pupil contracts to vertical slit. Nictitating membrane only moves when eye closed (B142).

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Legs and Tracks

  • Digitigrade.
  • Hind foot four digits, fore foot five digits.
  • Blunt unretractable claws.
  • Forefoot 5cm long by 3-4cm wide, hindfoot smaller and narrower.

(B147, B148).

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Long and bushy, rounded end, often with white or black tip, generally held horizontally (B142, B147, B148).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • Dorsal: Pale sandy/yellowish red or yellowish grey-red to deep reddish brown or henna, also described as rust or flame-red (B52, B142, B147, B148). Eye to muzzle black stripe, lips and nose dark brown (B142).
  • Ventral: including muzzle white, pale ashy grey or darker slaty grey to black (B52, B142, B147, B148).
  • Distal legs: usually black (B142, B147, B148).
  • Tail: has patch on dorsal surface near base (supracaudal gland) black, tip often white or black (B52, B142, B147).
  • Ears: black (B147, B148).
  • Caudal scent gland: black patch (B142).
Variations (If present)
  • Abdomen: may become pinkish March-April, particularly in vixens. May be brick-red during lactation (B142).
  • Scrotum: cream (B142).

Colour variations:

  • "Cross fox": reddish brown with dark dorsal stripe down back and second stripe across shoulders (B147). Mainly seen in North America, very rare in Britain (B142).
  • "Silver fox": variable strong silver to nearly black (B147). Mainly seen in North America, very rare in Britain (B142).
  • Melanic black fox also found in North America, very rare in Britain (B142, B147).
  • White: with normal eyes, rare (B142).
  • Albino: rare (B142).

Coat variation:

  • Samson or woolly: Coat lacks guard hairs, either totally or partially e.g. on tail (B142).
Moult Spring moult conspicuous, starting April with new coat appearing first on legs and spreading dorsally. Autumn moult (October to November) inconspicuous, with new growth thickening coat (B142).
New-born / Juvenile At birth: Short black fur, tail tip white. Three weeks: black eye streak visible. Four weeks: white muzzle, red patches on cheeks. Six weeks: adult coat colour but woolly. Eight weeks: shiny guard hairs covering coat (B142).

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics


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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: Scrotal testes (B142). Vulva at oestrus swollen and often pinkish. Usually four pairs of nipples but variable (B142).
  • Scent glands - anal glands, glands between toes, supracaudal gland on dorsal surface of tail near base, marked by patch of black hair (B52, B142).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season Varies depending on latitude:
  • December-January in southern Europe.
  • January-February in central Europe.
  • February-April in northern Europe (B147).
  • Mating season January to March (B148).
  • Mating December to February with birth peak March in Britain (B142).
Oestrus / Ovulation Monoestrous, oestrus 1-6 days (B147); oestrus period 3 weeks but fertilisation only over 3 days (B142).
Gestation / Pregnancy 49-56 days, usually 51-53 days (B147); 52-53 days (B142); 60-63 days (B52).
Parturition / Birth Birth peak March in Britain (B142); in burrow, also under hollow tree,under house, in long grass (B52).
Neonatal development
  • Blind, deaf and helpless but fur-covered at birth (B142, B147).
  • Eyes open 9-14 days (B147); 11-14 days (B142).
  • Unable to thermoregulate effectively for first 2-3 weeks.
  • Ears erect and muzzle elongating about four weeks old (B142).
  • Emerge from den 4-5 weeks (B147).
  • First solid food from four weeks (B142).
  • may be catching some food items e.g. earthworms by 5-6 weeks (B142).
  • Full set of deciduous (milk) teeth by 7-8 weeks (B142).
  • Disperse from home in autumn, moving average 10km (females), 40km (Males).
  • Adult size by September (Britain), with further weight increase to end of year (B142).
Litter size
  • 1 to 13, average 5 (B147). 4-7, maximum 10 (B144) 3-12 (B148). Mean 4-5, maximum 10 (based on placental scars): larger litter size reports may be due to pooling of litters (B142).
  • Average varying 4-8 depending on habitat (B52).
Time between Litters / Litters per year One litter a year (B52).
Lactation / Milk Production Weaning 8-10 weeks (B147) 7-9 weeks (B144), 7 weeks but may try to suckle to 14 weeks (B142).
Sexual Maturity 1 year (B144); ten months (B142).
Longevity Potentially 12 years, normally few more than 3-4 years, particularly where heavy hunting/trapping pressure (B147) Up to 15 years in captivity, rarely >7 years in wild (B144). Maximum 12 year (B143); 10-12 years (B148).

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Natural Diet

  • Small mammals, birds, insects, earthworms, carrion, fruit, berries.
  • Earthworms important food item - may provide 60% of calorie intake in some months (B142).
  • Deer and sheep carcasses may be important in winter in upland areas in Britain.
  • Lagomorphs, wood mice and field voles preferred mammals.
  • Fruit includes blackberries, windfall apples, pears, plums.
  • Birds including hen partridges while brooding, other game birds such as pheasants, domestic poultry. Also e.g. gulls and terns at nesting colonies, and other birds.
  • Daily consumption about 0.5-1.5kg (B147); estimated food requirement 121kcal (507 kJ) per kg body weight for captive foxes (B142).
  • Pups 13-14 weeks old estimated 223kcal (934 kJ) per kg body weight (B142).

(B52, B142, B144, B147, B148)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
  • Often deposited on prominent object.
  • Black when fresh, with characteristic odour.
  • Usually pointed if contain much fur or feathers, may be linked together by hairs.
  • Vary according to diet.


Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes --
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Pounce on mice, leaping up and bringing forelegs straight down on prey (B147).
  • Catch rabbits by combination of stalk and rapid dash (B147).
  • Scavenging important in many habitats (B142).
  • Cache excess food by digging hole and burying.

(B52, B142, B147).

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Parental Behaviour

  • Cubs cared for by female.
  • Initially (about first three weeks) female remains in den, later lies up near den but above ground, returning to feed cubs.
  • Male brings food to den.
  • Non-breeding females may assist with cubs - seen definitely in captivity.
  • Move cubs to different den if any disturbance form humans or dogs.
  • Male occasionally recorded in earth with cubs, usually but not always with one or more vixens also present.

(B52, B142, B147)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Social systems are variable and adapted to habitat type.
  • Territorial with little overlap of home ranges (B147)
  • Largest in winter, smallest when new-born cubs are present (B147).
  • Live in family groups sharing joint territory: adult male, one or two adult females and their offspring sharing home range.
  • Female cubs may remain on parental territory, particularly where habitat favourable (B142).
  • Usually only one female in family group breeds, but occasionally more than one: in such cases litters may be found mixed in one den for short or longer time.
  • Forage separately.
  • Territory size varies greatly depending on habitat type and food availability.
  • Home range may be 5-12 square km in good habitat, 20-50 square km in poor habitat (B147).
  • Territory may be as small as 20 hectares in urban areas and as large as 4000 hectares in hill areas (B142).
  • In very favourable habitat territories do not decrease further in size but overlap between home ranges increases.
  • Scent mark territory with urine and faeces.
  • Dispersal mainly at 6-12 months old (B142).

(B52, B142, B144, B147)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Mainly monogamous (B142).
  • Partnership female and male, although female may mate with several males before partnering with one (B147).

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

  • Generally terrestrial, usually moves by walking/trotting.
  • Can gallop for long distances (many kilometres) and can reach 48km/hr.
  • Able to jump up to 2m.
  • Able to swim well.
  • Use pathways between dens, other resting sites, food stores, favourite hunting areas.
  • Move up to 8km per night.

(B142, B147).

Reduced activity on cold wet nights (B142).

  • Mainly nocturnal and crepuscular.
  • Activity more likely to continue after dawn in summer, particularly in vixen feeding young cubs.

(B142, B144, B147).

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Wide range, from deep forest to Arctic tundra, open prairie, grasslands, farmland, sand dunes.
  • Also urban and suburban areas.
  • Prefer fragmentary/diverse vegetation pattern rather than large areas of homogenous vegetation.

(B51, B52, B142, B143, B144, B147)

  • From sea level to 4,500m (B147); Up to 3000m (B143).

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Large den in ground which may have one or a large number of entrances.
  • Tunnels up to 10m long and chamber 1-3m below surface.
  • Preferred site loose soil on sheltered well-drained slope.
  • Larger den may be constructed for rearing pups.
  • Sometimes share badger sett, or take over disused badger sett, also enlarge rabbit warrens.
  • In urban areas often make earths under sheds or other buildings.
  • Also have one or more emergency burrows.
  • Often rest in protected spots such as dense cover rather than in earth outside breeding seas.

(B142, B147, B148).

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

  • Northern Hemisphere, Arctic circle southward to deserts of North Africa and Central America and steppes of Asia (B52).
  • Palearctic to Indochina, Canada, USA (B51).
  • "Eurasia except south-eastern tropical zone, northern Africa, most of Canada and the United States" (B147).
  • "Mainly Holarctic. Palearctic from north-western Africa to China and Japan, also Arabian peninsula, north of Indian subcontinent, Sikkim, Bhutan. North America but not its Arctic Islands. Within Europe, not found: Crete, smaller Greek islands, Balearic Islands, Malta, Elba, Lipari, Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, Faeroes, Iceland (B143).
  • Absent: Scottish islands except Skye, Scilly Isles, Channel Islands (B142).
Occasional and Accidental --

Australia, USA, various islands in Pacific Ocean (B51, B52).

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Intraspecific variation

  • North American red fox sometime been considered separate species Vulpes fulva but now generally accepted as conspecific (B142, B147): Vulpes vulpes fulva (B52).
  • British fox formerly considered separate subspecies Vulpes vulpes crucigera (B142).
  • 48 subspecies (B52).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Wide distribution, large numbers (B144).
  • Population stable, spring population in Europe (not including Russia) 750,000-1,000,000 (B143).
  • Common (B148).
  • In Britain: native, probably increasing in numbers as well as range. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 240,000, including 195,000 in England, 23,000 in Scotland, 22,000 in Wales. Population estimate was "based on a very limited amount of information for the species" although additional knowledge "may not necessarily have made a substantial difference to the estimate". (B221).
General Legislation --
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Deliberate poisoning may threaten populations locally (B221).
Captive Populations --
Trade --

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