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Fox

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Fox
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Tribe: Vulpini
Genera

Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids (slightly smaller than the median-sized domestic dog), characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail (or brush). They are also well known for being incredibly cunning.

Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to the Vulpes genus of 'true foxes'. By far the most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), although various species are found on almost every continent. The presence of fox-like carnivores all over the globe has led to their appearance in both popular culture and folklore in many cultures around the world (see also Foxes in culture). The gray fox is one of only two canine species known to climb trees; the other is the raccoon dog.

Contents

[edit] Etymology

The Modern English word "fox" is Old English, and comes from the Proto-Germanic word fukh – compare German Fuchs, Gothic fauho, Old Norse foa and Dutch vos. It corresponds to the Proto-Indo-European word puk- meaning "tail of it" (compare Sanskrit puccha, also "tail"). The bushy tail is also the source of the word for fox in Welsh: llwynog, from llwyn, "bush, grove".[1] Lithuanian: uodegis, from uodega, "tail", Portuguese: raposa, from rabo, "tail"[2] and Ojibwa: waagosh, from waa, which refers to the up and down "bounce" or flickering of an animal or its tail.[3] Male foxes are known as dogs or reynards, females as vixen, and young as kits, pups, or cubs.[4] A group of foxes is a "skulk", "troop" or "earth".

[edit] General characteristics

The Fennec Fox is the smallest species of fox.
Arctic fox curled up in snow

In the wild, foxes can live for up to 10 years, but most foxes only live for 2 to 3 years due to hunting, road accidents and diseases. Foxes are generally smaller than other members of the family Canidae such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs. Reynards (male foxes) weigh on average, 5.9 kilograms (13 lb) and vixens (female foxes) weigh less, at around 5.2 kilograms (11.5 lb). Fox-like features typically include a distinctive muzzle (a "fox face") and bushy tail. Other physical characteristics vary according to habitat. For example, the fennec fox (and other species of fox adapted to life in the desert, such as the kit fox) has large ears and short fur, whereas the Arctic fox has tiny ears and thick, insulating fur. Another example is the red fox which has a typical auburn pelt, the tail normally ending with white marking. Litter sizes can vary greatly according to species and environment - the Arctic Fox for example, has an average litter of four to five, with eleven as maximum.[5]

Unlike many canids, foxes are not usually pack animals. Typically, they live in small family groups, and are opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey (especially rodents). Using a pouncing technique practised 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 normally extremely wary of humans and are not usually kept as indoor pets; however, the silver fox was successfully domesticated in Russia after a 45 year selective breeding program. This selective breeding also resulted in physical and behavioral traits appearing that are frequently seen in domestic cats, dogs, and other animals, such as pigmentation changes, floppy ears, and curly tails.[6]

[edit] Classification

Skeleton

Canids commonly known as foxes include members of the following genera:

[edit] Diet

A Chilla fox in Pan de Azúcar National Park in the coast of Atacama Desert.

Foxes are omnivores.[7][8] The diet of foxes is largely made up of invertebrates. However, it also includes rodents, rabbits and other small mammals, reptiles, (such as snakes), amphibians, grasses, berries, fruit, fish, birds, eggs, dung beetles, insects and all other kinds of small animals. Many species are generalist predators, but some (such as the crab-eating fox) are more specialist. Most species of fox generally consume around 1 kg of food every day. Foxes cache excess food, burying it for later consumption, usually under leaves, snow, or soil.

[edit] Conservation

Foxes are readily found in cities and cultivated areas and (depending upon species) seem to adapt reasonably well to human presence.

Red foxes have been introduced into Australia which lacks similar carnivores other than the dingo, and the introduced foxes prey on native wildlife, some to the point of extinction.

Other fox species do not reproduce as readily as the red fox, and are endangered in their native environments. Key among these are the crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous) and the African bat-eared fox. Other foxes such as fennec foxes, are not endangered.

Foxes have been successfully employed to control pests on fruit farms while leaving the fruit intact.[9]

[edit] Relationships with humans

A Red Fox on the porch of an Evergreen, Colorado home.

Fox attacks on humans are not common but have been reported. In November 2008, an incident in the United States was reported in which a jogger was attacked and bitten by a rabid fox in Arizona.[10] In July 2002, a 14-week-old baby was attacked in a house in Dartford, Kentucky.[11] In June 2010, 9-month-old twin girls were bitten on the arms and face when a fox entered their upstairs room in east London.[12]

[edit] Fox hunting

Fox hunting is a controversial sport that originated in the United Kingdom in the 16th century. Hunting with dogs is now banned in the United Kingdom,[13][14][15][16] though hunting without dogs is still permitted. The sport is practiced in several other countries including Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the United States.

[edit] Domestication

The Russian Silver Fox, or Domesticated Silver Fox, is the result of nearly 50 years of experiments in the Soviet Union and Russia to domesticate the silver morph of the Red Fox. Notably, the new foxes not only became more tame, but more dog-like as well: they lost their distinctive musky "fox smell", became more friendly with humans, put their ears down (like dogs), wagged their tails when happy and began to vocalize and bark like domesticated dogs. They are also more likely to have piebald coats. The breeding project was set up by the Soviet scientist Dmitri K. Belyaev.

[edit] In culture

In many cultures, the fox appears in folklore as a symbol of cunning and trickery, or as a familiar animal possessed of magic powers.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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