zorro It is a small mammalian animal belonging to several genera of the Canidae family. They are usually omnivorous and are most active at night, where they hunt, so they are considered a nocturnal animal. Due to his worldwide reputation as cunning he has contributed to the popular culture and folklore of various societies around the world.

Species

There are 12 species of foxes distributed throughout the world. All of them belong to the group called "true foxes" of the Vulpes genus, the best known being the common fox or red fox (vulpes vulpes). Another 25 species are called foxes, which are part of the paraphilic group of South American foxes, or the peripheral group, which consists of bat-eared foxes, gray foxes, and island foxes.

Features

The fox is one of the smallest members of the Canidae family, they are smaller than wolves or jackals, but are larger than the Japanese raccoons. The largest species is the common fox (foxes) where males weigh between 4 - 9 kg, while the smallest species fennec or desert fox (Vulpes zerda) weighing between 0,7 - 1,6 kg. In nature, they live between one and three years, although they can live up to ten years.

The most common features among the different species of foxes are: a flattened skull, erect triangular-shaped ears, a pointed snout and slightly tilted upward, and a long, bushy tail. They are digitized animals, that is, they have toes on their paws so they walk on the earth. The claws are partially retractable.

On the muzzle they have whiskers that vary in length according to the area and the breed of the fox. The whiskers on the muzzle are generally 100 - 110 mm long, while the whiskers on another part of the head are much shorter. The whiskers found on the forelimbs measure an average of 40 mm long.

Common fox

Common fox

Fur

Among the different species of foxes there is a great variety of coats that vary in color, length and hair density. The colors of the cloak range from pearly white to black and white and black and white with white or gray spots on the underside. For example, fennec foxes or desert foxes (Vulpes zerda) They have large ears and short hair to withstand the high temperatures of the desert and keep the body cool. Arctic foxes have tiny ears, short limbs, and thick fur that works as insulation to keep the body warm. The common fox or red fox has brown fur with a white mark on the tip of the tail.

Both the color and the texture of the coat can change throughout the year due to the seasons. In the colder months, the skin is richer and denser and lighter in the warmer months. To get rid of the dense fur, foxes molt once a year, starting in April. The molt begins at the feet, moving up the legs and ending along the back. The color can also vary as the individual ages.

Teeth

The fox's denture is composed of about 42 teeth, although bat-eared foxes have six additional molars for a total of 48 teeth. Carnassian pairs are pronounced, characteristic of all carnivorous animals. These pairs are made up of the upper premolar and the lower first molar, and are needed to cut the meat. Canines are also pronounced and characteristic of carnivores and are very useful for grabbing prey.

Vocalization

Foxes have a large repertoire of vocalizations that change or disappear depending on the age of the individual.

  • Whining: Made shortly after birth. It is done when the young are hungry and when their body temperatures drop. This whining encourages parents to care for their young.
  • Howl: Done at 19 days. Whining turns into howling that occurs at game time.
  • Explosive call: Made one month of life. The pups allow an explosive call that is intended to be a threat to intruders or other pups.
  • Combative call: Performed once they are adults. Turn the explosive call into a higher bark.
  • Snarl: Indication of an adult towards their young to feed or come to him.
  • Bark: Warning of adults against intruders.

In the case of domesticated foxes, the whining remains in the adult individuals as a sign of excitement and submission towards the owner.

Behavior

The fox generally lives in small family groups, but some species are solitary animals such as Arctic foxes.

Habitat

The fox can live in multiple habitats, although it mainly inhabits the Northern Hemisphere and was successfully introduced to some areas of Australia. What is surprising is that there are more fox habitats in front of cities which have often overlapped and can become a problem for humans.

They can live on the plains, in the mountains, in the desert, and in urban and suburban areas. This is possible because they are able to change their diet adapting to the place where they live.

Distribution

The fox are found in all parts of the world, except for Antarctica.

Image of a polar fox

Polar fox

Food

The fox is an omnivorous animal. The diet is made up of small mammals (such as mice), insects, and can include eggs and plants. Between species they share many prey but some species, such as the crab fox (Cerdocyon thous) they have very specialized diets. Most consume 1 kg of food daily and the leftover food is buried under leaves, snow or earth for later consumption.

To hunt, foxes stay crouched to camouflage themselves on the ground, then use their hind legs to propel themselves and jump on their target prey. Using their teeth they grab onto the neck of their prey and wave it until it dies or is gutted. There are two species known to climb trees, which are the grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and raccoon fox (Nyctereutes procyonoides).

Predators

The fox can be a fast animal, but that does not make it invincible and it can be the weight of other animals. Being medium in size, it is ideal for wildcats and lynxes. Sometimes when food is scarce they can be prey to the wolf but they usually prefer larger prey.

Reproduction

Like other canines, the fox has a bone in its penis. The scrotum of the male fox is held with the testicles inside even after they descend. Between species the testes vary in size. The formation of spermatozoa in red foxes begins in August - September, and they reach their greatest prison in December - February.

Foxes are in heat for six days and their reproductive cycle lasts twelve months. As in other canines, the eggs are shed without the need to stimulate copulation. When the ovum is fertilized, the fox enters a gestation period that lasts between 52 - 53 days. The probability of getting pregnant is 80%. The bitch has four pairs of tits. Each of them has between 8 - 20 milk ducts, which connect the mammary gland with the nipple to carry milk.

The litter is four to five young and the size can vary greatly depending on the species and environment. For example, the Arctic fox can have a litter of eleven.

State of conservation

Some species of foxes are in danger of extinction in their native habitats. Foxes are considered nuisance animals due to their opportunistic hunting style and character. They are also considered pests in themselves, however, they have been used successfully to control pests of fruit farms and to leave the fruit intact.

island fox (Urocyon littoralis) It is considered a near threatened species worldwide, although it is more threatened in its native habitat in the Channel Islands of California. The population decreased in this area due to an outbreak of a canine distemper virus between 1.999 and 2.000. They were also affected by the predation of non-native golden eagles that lowered the population by 95%. For their protection, healthy individuals were taken to breed in captivity, increase their numbers and release them again. In parallel, native herders were eliminated so that the plants grew to a higher height that would provide adequate cover and protection and thus protect themselves from the golden eagle.

darwin fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes) It is in danger of extinction because its population is only 250 individuals, as well as its distribution that is restricted. The biggest problem the species faces is deforestation and diseases transmitted by domestic dogs. To conserve the species, the researchers suggest that forests be protected and new areas where they have inhabited be sought to insert them there in the future. They also suggest creating a captive breeding program.

Relationship with humans

Foxes are sometimes considered pests or nuisance creatures for their occasional attacks on poultry and other small animals. Fox attacks on humans are not common. Many of the species adapt very well to the environments and coexist perfectly in human environments to the point that many species are considered "resident urban carnivores" because of their ability to live within urban limits. These urban foxes live longer than non-urban ones. They are very common in Europe where they have altered their behavior given the ease they have to survive compared to non-urban people. In certain countries, they are great predators of domestic animals such as rabbits and chickens.

In the United Kingdom during the XNUMXth century fox hunting was created. Currently hunting with dogs is prohibited but is still allowed with other animal species. Common foxes (vulves vulpes) were introduced to Australia during the XNUMXth century for sporting reasons and have spread throughout the country. Hunting is practiced for recreation in several other countries, including Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and the United States.

Russians have tried to tame foxes since the Soviet Union. The Russian silver fox is a recent and notable exception that has led to visible changes in behavior and is a study of an animal population that is modeled after human needs. The current group is the result of almost 50 years of experiments. This selective breeding modified the physical and behavioral traits frequently observed in cats, dogs and other domestic animals. The new foxes became more tame, allowing themselves to be stroked and whimpered, sniffing or licking the owner.

Popular culture

The fox is present in many cultures, generally in folklore, but there are slight variations depending on the region. In western and Persian folklore foxes represent cunning and deception. A reputation earned from his fame for his ability to evade hunters. This characteristic is turned into a character turned into a nuisance to the story, into heroes or villains.

In Asian folklore, the fox is depicted as a familiar spirit that possesses magical powers. In the same way as Western folklore, they are represented as mischievous and with the ability to deceive, for this they have the ability to transform into an attractive human woman. However, there are other representations such as mystical and sacred creatures, which can bring wonders or ruin.

Nine-tailed foxes appear in Chinese folklore, literature and mythology, which depending on the story can be a good or a bad omen. The motif was later introduced into Japanese and Korean culture. The constellation Vulpecula is represented by a fox.

List of other interesting animals