Vulpes is a genus of the Canidae. The members of this genus are colloquially referred to as true foxes, meaning they form a proper clade. The word "fox" occurs on the common names of species. True foxes are distinguished from members of the genus Canis, such as dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals, by their smaller size (5–11 kg) and flatter skulls. They have black, triangular markings between their eyes and noses, and the tips of their tails are often a different color from the rest of their pelts. The typical lifespan for this genus is between two and four years, but can reach up to a decade.
For animals commonly known as "foxes", but which are not true foxes, see Fox#Classification.
Temporal range: Serravallian–recent
|Various true foxes: left to right, then top to bottom: red fox, Rüppell's fox, corsac fox, Bengal fox, Arctic fox, Blanford's fox, Cape fox, and fennec fox|
Within Vulpes, 12 separate and distinct extant species and four fossil species are described:
|Image||Scientific name||Common Name||Distribution||Distribution map|
|V. lagopus||Arctic fox||Arctic foxes inhabit all of the Arctic (Russia, Svalbard, Iceland, parts of Scandinavia, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Alaska). This fox is Iceland's only native land mammal. It arrived there during the climax of the last ice age, when the seas were frozen enough to walk across. The Arctic fox is most closely related to kit (V. macrotis) and swift (V. velox) foxes.|
|V. bengalensis||Bengal fox||Bengal foxes are endemic to India and live throughout the subcontinent, and have not been placed on the endangered species list, but have become threatened by lack of native habitat due to human expansion.|
|V. cana||Blanford's fox||Blanford's fox dwells in section of the Middle East including Iran and Israel, as well as Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkestan, Iran, Pakistan, and Israel. This species prefers semiarid environments.|
|V. chama||Cape fox||The Cape fox is only found in the south of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa. They thrive in semiarid and arid environments with rich grasslands.|
|V. corsac||Corsac fox||Corsac foxes live in central Asia. Like V. chama and V. cana, they do best in semiarid deserts. This fox is within the holarctic clade of foxes. This clade also contains the Arctic fox, swift fox, and red fox. Their possible ancestor is V. praecorsac, meaning they may have had a much wider distribution in the past (Europe and Crimea).|
|V. zerda||Fennec fox||The fennec fox lives in the northernmost sections of Africa. It was not previously within Vulpes, but genetic evidence shows its close relation with Blanford's fox, making it a true fox.|
|V. macrotis||Kit fox||Kit foxes are an arid area-dwelling North American species. They are found in Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, California, New Mexico, and Texas. They also have a population in Mexico.|
|V. pallida||Pale fox||The pale fox lives in upper middle Africa and is an arid area-dwelling species.|
|V. rueppellii||Rüppell's fox||Ruppel's foxes are specific to northern Africa and sections of the Middle East.|
|V. vulpes||Red fox, silver fox and cross fox||The red fox is the most abundant and most widely distributed species of Vulpes. They currently live in most sections of the Northern Hemisphere. They also are present in Australia, though were brought there by humans for fox hunting in the 1830s and are considered an invasive species. This species’ ancestor (either V. alopecoides or the related Chinese V. chikushanensi) originated in the Early Pleistocene and are most closely related to Ruppell's fox (V. rueppellii).|
|V. velox||Swift fox||The swift fox is found in the western grasslands of North America, specifically Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as some sections of Canada. This species is most closely related to the kit fox, but lives in a different section of North America. The two can interbreed.|
|V. ferrilata||Tibetan sand fox||The Tibetan sand fox, as the name suggests, is endemic to the Tibetan and Ladakh plateau in Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan. This species lives at altitudes up to 5300 m and semideserts.|
Foxes of this group (including the fennec and Arctic foxes) possess eyes with pupils that retract into vertical slits in bright light.
The red fox, Ruppell's fox, and Tibetan sand fox  possess white-tipped tails. The Arctic fox's tail-tip is of the same color as the rest of the tail (white or blue-gray) Blanford's fox usually possesses a black-tipped tail, but a small number of specimens (2% in Israel, 24% in the United Arab Emirates) possess a light-tipped tail. The other foxes in this group (Bengal, Cape, corsac, fennec, kit, pale, and swift) all possess black-tipped or dark-tipped tails.
The oldest known fossil species within Vulpes is V. riffautae, dating back to the late Miocene of Chad, which is within the Neogene. The deposits where these fossils are found are about 7 million years old, which might make them the earliest Canidae in the Old World. They are estimated to have weighed between 1.5 and 3.5 lb. V. skinneri, from the Malapa fossil site from South Africa, is younger than V. riffautae by roughly 5 million years, and shows up in the early Pleistocene.
Two other extinct, less documented fossils are known: V. praeglacialis and V. hassani. V. praeglacialis was discovered in the Petralona Cave in Chalkidiki, Greece. The age of the deposits (Early Pleistocene) makes it the earliest occurrence of Vulpes in Europe. V. hassani is found in a Miocene-Pliocene deposit in northwestern Africa.
In the Pleistocene, Vulpes had a fairly wide distribution, with eight species found in North America. Of these eight, six are not fossil, and three species still remain in North America (V. velox, V. macrotis, and V. chama). The remaining three moved on to sections of Africa over time. V. stenognathus is extinct, but has extant sister taxa including V. chama, V. rueppellii, V. velox, and V. vulpes, which fits with these species all evolving together in North America.
Vulpes has a very similar bone structure to its canid relatives, but does have some modifications. Although canid limbs are designed specifically for running quickly on land to catch prey, Vulpes species avoid rapid sprints, excluding being chased, and have become more specialized for leaping and grasping prey.
The adaptions for leaping, grasping, and climbing include the lengthening of hind limbs in relation to fore limbs, as well as overall slenderizing of both hind and fore limbs. Muscles are also emphasized along the axis of limbs.
This genus is omnivorous and prone to scavenging. The foods of choice for Vulpes consist of invertebrates, a variety of small vertebrates, grasses, and some angiosperms. The typical intake per day is about 1 kg. True foxes exhibit hoarding behavior or caching where they store away food for another day out of sight from other animals.
These foxes can dwell in a number of habitats, including alpine, forest, desert, coastal, farm, and urban areas, but thrive in environments rich in food and shelter. They can be found in great numbers in suburban/residential regions. For the most part, this coexistence is agreeable for both fox and man, but can sometimes result in house pet (cat) disappearances.
Though this varies in intensity from species to species, foxes operate within a hierarchical society, where dominance is established early in life. Dominant kits receive more food and are subsequently larger. If a dispute in the hierarchy occurs, dominance is determined by fighting. The loser may be subjected to rejection from its social group, as well as serious injuries. These social groups usually consist of three or four adults and have not been documented to surpass 10 adults. Vulpes species are usually nocturnal, but do occasionally hunt and scavenge in daylight during winter.
A male is referred to as a dog, and the female as a vixen. They are very similar in appearance, though dogs have larger heads. Mating occurs in late winter. This mating process starts when the vixen digs out an undisclosed number of potential breeding dens and begins to release a mating scent. Gestation takes 7–8 weeks, putting typical birth occurrence in March, and on average, kits begin to emerge in late April. The parents work as a unit in the upbringing of their offspring, but do not mate for life.
Born deaf and blind, kits or cubs require their mother's milk and complete supervision for the first four to five weeks out of the womb, but begin to be progressively weaned after the first month. Once fully weaned, kits seek out various insects. The parents supplement this diet with a variety of mammals and birds. During early to middle July, the kits are able to hunt on their own and soon move away from their parents.
Though rare, domestication has been documented. The most notable case documented is the domestication of the silver fox in Novosibirsk, Russia, at the Siberian Institute of Cytology and Genetics. In this study, generations of silver foxes were divided into those with friendly traits and those with unfriendly traits. After 50 years, the friendly foxes developed “dog-like” domesticated traits such as spots, tail wagging, enjoyment of human touch, and barking.
Fox hunting was started in the United Kingdom in the 16th century that involves tracking, chasing, and killing a fox with the aid of foxhounds and horses. It has since then spread to Europe, the United States, and Australia.
Media related to Vulpes at Wikimedia Commons
The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. It is well adapted to living in cold environments, and is best known for its thick, warm fur that is also used as camouflage. On average, Arctic foxes only live 3–4 years in the wild. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to minimize the escape of body heat.
The Arctic fox preys on many small creatures such as lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It also eats carrion, berries, seaweed, and insects and other small invertebrates. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young. Natural predators of the Arctic fox are golden eagles, polar bears, wolverines, red foxes, wolves, and grizzly bears.Bengal fox
The Bengal fox (Vulpes bengalensis), also known as the Indian fox, is a fox endemic to the Indian subcontinent and is found from the Himalayan foothills and Terai of Nepal through southern India and from southern and eastern Pakistan to eastern India and southeastern Bangladesh.Blanford's fox
Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana), is a small fox found in certain regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.Canidae
The biological family Canidae
(from Latin, canis, “dog”) is a lineage of carnivorans that includes domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and many other extant and extinct dog-like mammals. A member of this family is called a canid (, ).The cat-like feliforms and dog-like caniforms emerged within the Carnivoramorpha 43 million years before present. The caniforms included the fox-like genus Leptocyon whose various species existed from 34 million years ago (Mya) before branching 11.9 Mya into Vulpini (foxes) and Canini (canines).Canids are found on all continents except Antarctica, having arrived independently or accompanied human beings over extended periods of time. Canids vary in size from the 2-m-long (6 ft 7 in) gray wolf to the 24-cm-long (9.4 in) fennec fox. The body forms of canids are similar, typically having long muzzles, upright ears, teeth adapted for cracking bones and slicing flesh, long legs, and bushy tails. They are mostly social animals, living together in family units or small groups and behaving co-operatively. Typically, only the dominant pair in a group breeds, and a litter of young is reared annually in an underground den. Canids communicate by scent signals and vocalizations. They are very intelligent. One canid, the domestic dog, long ago entered into a partnership with humans and today remains one of the most widely kept domestic animals.Cape fox
The Cape fox (Vulpes chama), also called the asse, cama fox or the silver-backed fox, is a small fox, native to southern Africa.
It has black or silver gray fur with flanks and underside in light yellow. The tip of its tail is always black.
The Cape fox tends to be 45 to 61 cm (17.5 to 24 in) long, not including a 30 to 40 cm (12 to 15.5 in) tail. It is 28 to 33 cm (11 to 13 in) tall at the shoulder, and usually weighs from 3.6 to 5 kg (7.9 to 11.0 lb).Corsac fox
The corsac fox (Vulpes corsac), also known simply as a corsac, is a medium-sized fox found in steppes, semi-deserts and deserts in Central Asia, ranging into Mongolia and northeastern China. Since 2004, it has been classified as least concern by IUCN, but populations fluctuate significantly, and numbers can drop tenfold within a single year.It is also known as the steppe fox, and sometimes referred to as the "sand fox", but this terminology is confusing because two other species, the Tibetan sand fox and Rüppell's fox are also sometimes known by this name. The word "corsac" is derived from the Russian name for the animal, "korsák" (корса́к), derived ultimately from Turkic "karsak". The corsac fox is threatened by hunting for the fur trade.Domesticated red fox
The Russian domesticated red fox is a form of the wild red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which has been domesticated to an extent, under laboratory conditions. They are the result of an experiment which was designed to demonstrate the power of selective breeding to transform species, as described by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. The experiment was purposely designed to replicate the process that had produced dogs from wolves, by recording the changes in foxes, when in each generation only the most tame foxes were allowed to breed. In short order, the descendant foxes became tamer and more dog-like in their behavior.The program was started in 1959 in the Soviet Union by zoologist Dmitry Belyayev and it has been in continuous operation since. Today, the experiment is under the supervision of Lyudmila Trut, in Russia, at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk.Ethiopian wolf
The Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) is a canid native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is similar to the coyote in size and build, and is distinguished by its long and narrow skull, and its red and white fur. Unlike most large canids, which are widespread, generalist feeders, the Ethiopian wolf is a highly specialised feeder of Afroalpine rodents with very specific habitat requirements. It is one of the world's rarest canids, and Africa's most endangered carnivore.The species' current range is limited to seven isolated mountain ranges at altitudes of 3,000–4,500 m, with the overall adult population estimated at 360–440 individuals in 2011, more than half of them in the Bale Mountains.The Ethiopian wolf is listed as endangered by the IUCN, on account of its small numbers and fragmented range. Threats include increasing pressure from expanding human populations, resulting in habitat degradation through overgrazing, and disease transference and interbreeding from free-ranging dogs. Its conservation is headed by Oxford University's Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, which seeks to protect wolves through vaccination and community outreach programs.Fennec fox
The Fennec fox, or fennec (Vulpes zerda), is a small crepuscular fox found in the Sahara of North Africa, the Sinai Peninsula, South West Israel (Arava desert) and the Arabian desert. Its most distinctive feature is its unusually large ears, which also serve to dissipate heat. Its name comes from the Berber word (fanak), which means fox, and the species name zerda comes from the Greek word xeros which means dry, referring to the fox's habitat. The fennec is the smallest species of canid. Its coat, ears, and kidney functions have adapted to high-temperature, low-water, desert environments. Also, its hearing is sensitive enough to hear prey moving underground. It mainly eats insects, small mammals, and birds.
The fennec has a life span of up to 14 years in captivity. Its main predators are the African varieties of eagle owl, jackals, and other large mammals. Families of fennecs dig out dens in the sand for habitation and protection, which can be as large as 120 m2 (1,292 sq ft) and adjoin the dens of other families. Precise population figures are not known but are estimated from the frequency of sightings; these indicate that the animal is currently not threatened by extinction. Knowledge of social interactions is limited to information gathered from captive animals. The species is usually assigned to the genus Vulpes; however, this is debated due to differences between the fennec fox and other fox species. The fennec's fur is prized by the indigenous peoples of North Africa, and in some parts of the world, the animal is considered an exotic pet.Fox
Foxes are small-to-medium-sized, omnivorous mammals belonging to several genera of the family Canidae. Foxes have a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed, slightly upturned snout, and a long bushy tail (or brush).
Twelve species belong to the monophyletic "true foxes" group of genus Vulpes. Approximately another 25 current or extinct species are always or sometimes called foxes; these foxes are either part of the paraphyletic group of the South American foxes, or of the outlying group, which consists of bat-eared fox, gray fox, and island fox. Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica. By far the most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with about 47 recognized subspecies. The global distribution of foxes, together with their widespread reputation for cunning, has contributed to their prominence in popular culture and folklore in many societies around the world. The hunting of foxes with packs of hounds, long an established pursuit in Europe, especially in the British Isles, was exported by European settlers to various parts of the New World.Kit fox
The kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) is a fox species of North America. Its range is primarily in the Southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico. Some mammalogists classify it as conspecific with the swift fox, V. velox, but molecular systematics imply that the two species are distinct.Pack (canine)
Pack is a social group of conspecific canids. Not all species of canids form packs; for example, small canids like the red fox do not. Pack size and social behaviour within packs varies across species.Pale fox
The pale fox (Vulpes pallida) is a species of fox found in the band of African Sahel from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east. It is one of the least studied of all canid species, in part due to its remote habitat and its sandy coat that blends in well with the desert-like terrain.Red fox
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, North America and Eurasia. It is listed as least concern by the IUCN. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Due to its presence in Australia, it is included on the list of the "world's 100 worst invasive species".The red fox originated from smaller-sized ancestors from Eurasia during the Middle Villafranchian period, and colonised North America shortly after the Wisconsin glaciation. Among the true foxes, the red fox represents a more progressive form in the direction of carnivory. Apart from its large size, the red fox is distinguished from other fox species by its ability to adapt quickly to new environments. Despite its name, the species often produces individuals with other colourings, including leucistic and melanistic individuals. Forty-five subspecies are currently recognised, which are divided into two categories: the large northern foxes, and the small, basal southern foxes of Asia and North Africa.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. The young of the mated pair remain with their parents to assist in caring for new kits. The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target rabbits, game birds, reptiles, invertebrates and young ungulates. Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten sometimes. 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, golden jackals and medium- and large-sized felines.The species has a long history of association with humans, having been extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for many centuries, as well as being represented in human folklore and mythology. 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.Rüppell's fox
Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppellii), also spelled Rueppell's fox, is a species of fox living in North Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia. It is named after the German naturalist Eduard Rüppell. This fox is also called the sand fox, but this terminology is confusing because the corsac fox (V. corsac) and the Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata) are also known as "sand foxes".Swift fox
The swift fox (Vulpes velox) is a small light orange-tan fox around the size of a domestic cat found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It also lives in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, where it was previously extirpated. It is closely related to the kit fox and the two species are sometimes known as subspecies of Vulpes velox because hybrids of the two species occur naturally where their ranges overlap.
The swift fox lives primarily in short-grass prairies and deserts. It became nearly extinct in the 1930s as a result of predator control programs, but was successfully reintroduced later. Currently, the conservation status of the species is considered by the IUCN as Least Concern owing to stable populations elsewhere.Like most canids, the swift fox is an omnivore, and its diet includes grasses and fruits as well as small mammals, carrion, and insects. In the wild, its lifespan is three to six years, and it breeds once annually, from late December to March, depending on the geographic region. Pups are born anywhere from March to mid-May, and are weaned at six to seven weeks old.
The swift fox is closely related genetically to the kit fox (Vulpes macrotis), but occupies a different geographical range. The two have historically been regarded as different species for reasons basically related to size: the kit fox is slightly smaller than the swift fox, and the former has a narrower snout. However, hybrids between the two occur naturally where their ranges overlap, and some mammalogists classify the two as subspecies of a single species, usually treated as Vulpes velox (with the swift fox being described as V. velox velox and the kit fox as V. velox macrotis). The molecular genetics evidence is not conclusive however, and some of those who have used it continue to treat the swift fox and kit fox as separate species.Taxonomic rank
In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms (a taxon) in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.
A given rank subsumes under it less general categories, that is, more specific descriptions of life forms. Above it, each rank is classified within more general categories of organisms and groups of organisms related to each other through inheritance of traits or features from common ancestors. The rank of any species and the description of its genus is basic; which means that to identify a particular organism, it is usually not necessary to specify ranks other than these first two.Consider a particular species, the red fox, Vulpes vulpes: the next rank above, the genus Vulpes, comprises all the "true" foxes. Their closest relatives are in the immediately higher rank, the family Canidae, which includes dogs, wolves, jackals, and all foxes; the next higher rank, the order Carnivora, includes caniforms (bears, seals, weasels, skunks, raccoons and all those mentioned above), and feliforms (cats, civets, hyenas, mongooses). Carnivorans are one group of the hairy, warm-blooded, nursing members of the class Mammalia, which are classified among animals with backbones in the phylum Chordata, and with them among all animals in the kingdom Animalia. Finally, at the highest rank all of these are grouped together with all other organisms possessing cell nuclei in the domain Eukarya.
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature defines rank as: "The level, for nomenclatural purposes, of a taxon in a taxonomic hierarchy (e.g. all families are for nomenclatural purposes at the same rank, which lies between superfamily and subfamily)."Tibetan sand fox
The Tibetan sand fox (Vulpes ferrilata) is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh plateau, Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan, up to altitudes of about 5300 m. It is classed as of "least concern" for extinction by the IUCN, on account of its widespread range in the Tibetan Plateau's steppes and semi-deserts.
It is sometimes referred to as the Tibetan fox, or simply as the sand fox, but this terminology is confusing because the corsac fox (Vulpes corsac), which lives in arid environments north and west of the Tibetan Plateau, is often called the "sand fox" or "Tibetan fox" as well. The Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppellii) is also known as the "sand fox".Vulpes qiuzhudingi
The ancestral Arctic fox Vulpes qiuzhudingi is an extinct species of fox found in the Himalayas. It was primarily carnivorous. The fossils, dating from between 5.08 and 3.60 million years ago, were found in the Zanda Basin and Kunlun Mountains of Tibet. It was named after Qiu Zhuding, a paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The species is believed to be the ancestor of Vulpes lagopus, the modern Arctic fox, which would support the "Out of Tibet" theory: namely, that a number of current arctic species trace their ancestry to species originally from the Tibetan Plateau.
Extant Carnivora species