The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a mammal of the order Carnivora.
It is the largest and most well-known species of fox.
Red foxes has the widest distribution of any canid. They are found throughout much of the northern hemisphere from the Arctic circle to Central America, the steppes of central Asia, and northern Africa. Red foxes have also been introduced to Australia and the Falkland Islands.
Red foxes utilize a wide range of habitats including forest, tundra, prairie, desert, mountains, farmlands, and urban areas. They prefer mixed vegetation communities, such as edge habitats and mixed scrub and woodland. They are found from sea level to 4,500 meters (almost 15, feet) elevation.
The lifespan of red fox is about 2 to 5 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
On average, adults measure 35 to 50 cm (14 to 20 in) high at the shoulder and 45 to 90 cm (18 to 35 in) in body length with tails measuring 30 to 55.5 cm (12 to 22 in).
Coloration of red foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or slaty on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers.
Like a cat’s, the fox’s thick tail helps it balance, but it has other uses as well. The tail of a red fox can be like a flag to communicate with other red foxes. The tail is also something of a food store.
The species often produces individuals with other colourings, including albinos and melanists.
Red foxes are usually together in pairs or small groups consisting of families, such as a mated pair and their young, or a male with several females having kinship ties.
Red foxes are highly adept hunters, and have the necessary senses to help them in their endeavors. Their senses of smell, vision and hearing are all strong.
They use a variety of vocalizations to communicate among themselves. They can produce 28 different sounds to
communicate with each other. They also use facial expressions and scent marking extensively.
The red fox is mostly nocturnal, although it will sometimes venture out in the day. The red fox, unlike other mammals, hears low-frequency sounds very well. It can hear small animals digging underground and will frequently dig in the dirt or snow to catch prey. The fox stalks its prey, much like a cat.
Red foxes are essentially omnivores. They mostly eat rodents, eastern cottontail rabbits, insects, and fruit. They will also eat carrion. Red foxes also store food and are very good at relocating these caches. Red foxes have a characteristic manner of hunting mice. The fox stands motionless, listening and watching intently for a mouse it has detected. It then leaps high and brings the forelimbs straight down forcibly to pin the mouse to the ground. They eat between 0.5 and 1 kg of food each day.
A 2008–2010 study of 84 red foxes in the Czech Republic and Germany found that successful hunting in long vegetation or under snow appeared to involve an alignment of the fox with the Earth‘s magnetic field.
The red fox mates in spring. The gestation period lasts 49–58 days. The average litter size consists of four to six kits, though litters of up to 13 kits have occurred. The female will make one or more dens right after mating. The extra dens are used if the original den is disturbed. Both the mother and father share the care of pups. Even older siblings will help take care of their younger brother and sisters by bringing them food.
Although the red fox tends to kill smaller predators, including other fox species, it is vulnerable to attack from larger predators, such as wolves, coyotes, jackals and medium- and large-sized felines.
Because of its widespread distribution and large population, the red fox is one of the most important furbearing animals harvested for the fur trade.
Too small to pose a threat to humans, it has extensively benefited from the presence of human habitation, and has successfully colonised many suburban and urban areas. Domestication of the red fox is also underway in Russia, and has resulted in the Domesticated red fox.
The word “fox” comes from Old English, which derived from Proto-Germanic *fuhsaz.
The small, slender body of a Red fox allows it to run nearly 50 km/h (30 mph).
Sport fox hunting is controversial, particularly in the UK, where its traditional form was banned in Scotland in 2002, and in England and Wales in November 2004, although certain modified forms of hunting foxes with hounds are still within the law, and shooting foxes as vermin also remains lawful.