Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fox, any species of the Alopecoid, or Vulpine, section of the family Canida?, sometimes made a separate genus ( Vulpes), but generally included in the genus Canis, from the typical members of which the Alopecoids differ chiefly in some minor characters of the skull and dentition, and in their more elongated body. The pupil is generally oblique, the muzzle pointed, and the tail bushy; but this last character is also. possessed by the South American dogs, which have wolf-like skulls. Foxes are widely distributed, chiefly in the northern hemisphere, but none are found in South America. The common fox of Europe ( Canis vulpes = Vulpes alopex) either as we know it, or under more or less well-marked varieties, - some of which have been elevated to specific rank (Proc. Zool. See., 1887, p. 635), has nearly the range of the family. The average length is nearly four feet, of which the tail takes up more than a quarter. The legs are slender, and the long lank body is thickly covered with reddish-brown hair, which makes the animal look larger than it really is. There is some white on the under surface, the ears and toes are black, and black hairs occur plentifully in the tail, the tip of which is mostly white. Foxes are solitary, nocturnal animals, generally living in burrows or "earths," with several exits. They rarely excavate a burrow for themselves, but drive out rabbits or badgers from their holes, though they are said sometimes to share a retreat with these last-named animals. Occasionally they make a dwelling under rocks or stones. They often lie in cover in woods; and a vixen (for so the bitch-fox is called) has been known to whelp under a rick-staddle in a farmyard. Little of an animal nature comes amiss to foxes in the way of food. Their principal diet consists of hares, rabbits, partridges, poultry, and occasionally young lambs, though they do not disdain rats, mice, and frogs. They eat putrid meat readily, and in some cases are said to resort to the seashore to feed on molluscs and crustaceans. Foxes pair early in the year; the period of gestation is about nine weeks. The cubs attain full size in eighteen months, and the duration of life is said to be thirteen or fourteen years. Foxes are not easily domesticated; but when taken young they have been tamed (see Field, October 8th, 1892), but their strong smell renders them anything but agreeable pets. The cunning of the fox is proverbial, and it was one of the first animals in which the habit of feigning death as ee means of escape from danger was noticed. The skin is valuable for its fur, and on this account foxes are shot and trapped without mercy everywhere except in England, where to kill a fox except in orthodox fashion with horn and hound is little short of a crime. [Fox-hunting.] The difference between the British and the American fox (C.fulvus) is very slight; but the latter has the tail covered with soft fur uniformly mixed with long hair. In the grey fox ( C. virginianus) and the shore fox (C. littoralis), also American forms, there is a ridge of stiff hairs on the upper line of the tail, and by some writers they are on this account made a separate genus (Urocyon). The Asiatic species are about three feet long, and the African forms still smaller. [Fennec.] The habitat of the Arctic fox (C. lagopus) is indicated by its distinguishing epithet. It is about three feet long, of which the tail counts for a foot, with a very bushy tail, and the soles of the feet are thickly furred. It was long the custom to cite this animal as a good instance of protective coloration, the fur being said to be greyish-blue in summer, changing to white in winter; but Dr. Robert Brown asserts that the blue and the white foxes are distinct varieties, and the colour is totally independent of the season. These animals are cleanly in habit, and playful in disposition. They feed on mice and lemmings, and when food is plentiful hide it in the snow for a future day. The blue skins are more valuable than the white.