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A fox is a member of any of 27 species of small omnivorous canids. The animal most commonly called a fox in the Western world is the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), although different species of foxes can be found on almost every continent. The presence of foxes all over the globe has led to their appearance in the popular culture and folklore of many nations, tribes, and other cultural groups.
Fox terminology is different from that used for most canids. Male foxes are known as dogs, tods or reynard, females are referred to as vixens, and their young are called kits or cubs, as well as pups. A group of foxes is a skulk.
With most species roughly the size of a domestic cat, foxes are smaller than other members of the family Canidae, such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs. Recognizable characteristics also include pointed muzzles and bushy tails. Other physical characteristics vary according to their habitat. For example, the Desert Fox has large ears and short fur, whereas the Arctic Fox has small ears and thick, insulating fur.
Unlike many canids, foxes are not pack animals. They are solitary, opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey (especially rodents). Using a pouncing technique practiced from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. Foxes also gather a wide variety of other foods ranging from grasshoppers to fruit and berries.
Foxes are nearly always extremely wary of humans, and are not kept as pets, but the Silver Fox was successfully domesticated in Russia after a 45 year selective breeding program.
Foxes include members of the following genera:
Alopex (Arctic Fox) Cerdocyon (Crab-eating Fox) Dusicyon (Falkland Island Fox) Fennecus (Fennec, or Desert Fox) Lycalopex (Hoary Fox) Otocyon (Bat-eared Fox) Pseudalopex (four South American species, including the Culpeo) Urocyon (Gray Fox and Island Fox) Vulpes (the ten species of "true" foxes, including the Red Fox (vulpes vulpes)
Foxes do not come together in chorus like wolves or coyotes do. Fox families, however, keep in contact with a wide array of different sounds. These sounds grade into one another and span five octaves; each fox has its own characteristically individual voice. Fox noises can be divided, with a few exceptions, into two different groups: contact sounds and interaction sounds. The former is used by foxes communicating over long distances, the latter in close quarters.
"Wow-wow-wow" The most well-known vulpine noise is a sort of barking that spans three to five syllables. "Conversations" made up of these noises often occur between widely spaced foxes. As their distance decreases, the sound becomes quieter. A cub is greeted with the quietest version of this sound. The alarm bark This monosyllabic sound is made by an adult to warn cubs of danger. From far away it sounds like a sharp bark, but at closer range it resembles a muffled cough, like a football rattle or a stick along a picket fence. Gekkering This is a stuttering, throaty noise made at aggressive encounters. It is most frequently heard in the courting season, or when kits are at play. The vixen's wail This is a long, drawn-out, monosyllabic, and rather eerie wail most commonly made during the breeding season; it is widely thought that it is made by a vixen in heat summoning dog-foxes. Contrary to common belief, however, it is also made by the males, evidently serving some other purpose as well. This noise fits into neither the contact nor the interaction group.
In some countries, such as Australia, with no strong competitors, imported foxes quickly devastate native wildlife and become a serious invasive pest. On the other hand, many fox species are endangered.
Foxes can be used for helpful environmental purposes as well. They have been successfully employed to control pests on fruit farms, leaving the fruit intact.
Historians believe foxes were being imported into non-native environments long before the colonial era. The first example of the introduction of the fox into a new habitat by humans seems to be Neolithic Cyprus. Stone carvings representing foxes have been found in the early settlement of Göbekli Tepe in eastern Turkey.
In Japanese, the word "kitsune" mainly means fox, though there is a lot of misconstrued information about the word.
Foxes in Fiction
- Miles Prower, Sonic's cute two-tailed sidekick. Tails is the only fox in the Sonic series.
- Fox McCloud, James McCloud and Krystal from Starfox.
- Todd from The Fox and the Hound.
- Kyubi from Naruto.
Among many others.