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fox

Introduction

fox, carnivorous mammal of the dog family, found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere. It has a pointed face, short legs, long, thick fur, and a tail about one half to two thirds as long as the head and body, depending on the species. Solitary most of the year, foxes do not live in dens except in the breeding season; they sleep concealed in grasses or thickets, their tails curled around them for warmth. During the breeding season a fox pair establishes a den, often in a ground burrow made by another animal, in which the young are raised; the male hunts for the family. The young are on their own after about five months; the adults probably find new mates each season.

Foxes feed on insects, earthworms, small birds and mammals, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter, especially fruits. Unlike other members of the dog family, which run down their prey, foxes usually hunt by stalking and pouncing. They are known for their raids on poultry but are nonetheless very beneficial to farmers as destroyers of rodents.

Foxes are occasionally preyed upon by larger carnivores, such as wolves and bobcats, as well as by humans and their dogs; birds of prey may capture the young. Despite extensive killing of foxes, most species continue to flourish. In Europe this is due in part to the regulatory laws passed for the benefit of hunters. Mounted foxhunting, with dogs, became popular in the 14th cent. and was later introduced into the Americas; special hunting dogs, called foxhounds, have been bred for this sport. Great Britain banned foxhunting in which the hounds kill the fox in 2005.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology

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