Fennec foxes are the smallest fox species. They live in Africa in the desert and are also called desert foxes. They are crepuscular-nocturnal animals that hunt at night. They feed on insects, small animals, fruits, and plants. Fennec foxes are not considered an endangered species.
The Fennec fox is a small mammal with giant ears. It is the smallest fox in the world and lives in the deserts of Africa. It is also called the desert fox.
This fox digs its den in the large and stable sand dunes, where it shelters from the heat of the day and raises its young.
Fennec foxes have a behavior similar to dogs. Because of this, many people have started breeding Fennec foxes and keeping them as pets.
In this article, you will learn what a Fennec fox is, what it eats, its natural behavior, and many other interesting facts.
|Common name||Fennec fox|
|Scientific name||Vulpes zerda|
|Habitat||North Africa: the Sahara Desert, Sinai, and Arabia.|
|Weight||900–1.6 kg (2–3.5 lbs)|
|Length||30–41 cm (11.8–16.1 inches) without the tail)|
|Diet||Omnivore: insects, small animals, fruits, and plants.|
|Life expectancy||10 years in the wild and 14 years in captivity.|
|Caregiving difficulties||Intermediate; they are intelligent, sociable creatures who need a lot of interaction.|
Fennec Fox (Vulpes Zerda) General Overview
The fennec fox is the smallest fox in the world, measuring up to 16 inches long without the tail and weighing 3.5 pounds. They are crepuscular and feed on insects, meat, and plants. They live in North Africa in the wild.
Fennec foxes are small mammals from the Canidae family, the same family that includes dogs, wolves, coyotes, and other fox species.
They measure between 12-16 inches long, without the tail, and 3.5 pounds body weight.
Fennec foxes are one of the 12 species of true foxes, from the genus Vulpes.
They live in North Africa, in the Sahara desert, the Sinai Peninsula, and Arabia and dig dens in stable sand dunes. They use their dens for several activities:
- They raise their young
- Store food
- They avoid the heat of the day
Fennec foxes are omnivores and feed on:
- Small rodents
- Plants, including roots
They rarely need to drink water, as they get water from their food.
Fennec foxes are long-lived, with one of the longest lifespans of all foxes. They live up to 10 years in the wild and 14 years in captivity.
10 Interesting Facts About Fennec Foxes
Here are 10 interesting facts about Fennec foxes:
- Their ears are half their body size.
- Their ears help them cool down.
- They stay close to their families.
- They eat almost anything.
- They are extremely sociable animals.
- They are great communicators.
- They breathe 690 times per minute.
- They can survive without water.
- They are extremely vocal animals.
- They love to dig.
Fennec Fox Anatomy and Appearance
The Fennec fox has the characteristic features of a fox: triangular head, pointed muzzle, thin body, large and triangular ears, and a bushy tail. They reach up to 16 inches long without the tail and 3.5 pounds body weight. They are approximately eight inches tall.
The Fennec fox is the smallest fox species, reaching a maximum of 3.5 pounds body weight and 16 inches length without the tail. The tail can reach 8-12 inches.
The large ears of the Fennec fox make them unique compared to other fox species. The ears of a Fennec fox can reach 6-8 inches, as tall as their bodies.
In the desert, temperatures reach up to 100°F (~38℃) during the day. The large ears of Fennec foxes help regulate their body temperature as they expel a lot of heat.
They have thin bodies covered with cream-beige fur. Their fur is soft, thick, short, lighter on the belly, and reddish on the back. They typically also have some black spots on the back and tail.
The feet of Fennec foxes are also covered with fur to protect them from the hot sand.
They also have scent glands on the tips of their tails that produce a musky smell when frightened.
|Normal body temperature||100.8˚F (38.2˚C) – 105.6˚F (40.9˚C)|
|Heart rate at rest||118 beats per minute|
|Breathing rate||23-690 breaths per minute|
Fennec Fox Distribution and Habitat
Fennec foxes live in the desert of North Africa. You can find them from the Sahara desert to the Sinai Peninsula and Arabia. They dig dens in the stable sand dunes to avoid heat and predators, store food, and raise their young.
Fennec foxes live in the North African desert where temperatures reach 100°F (~38°C) during the day and 25°F (-3.9°C) at night.
If the temperatures outside drop below 68˚F (20°C), Fennec foxes start to shiver and can get sick. They can’t handle cold weather.
They dig dens in the stable sand dunes which they use for several things:
- Avoid heat and predators
- Store food
- Raise their young
Fennec foxes stay in their dens during day time and go hunting at night. Their dens can be three feet deep.
Related Article: Fox habitat
Fennec Fox Behavior
Fennec foxes are social animals. They purr like cats when they are happy. If they feel threatened or stressed, they emit a musk-like characteristic smell as a defensive mechanism.
Fennec foxes are nocturnal, meaning they hunt at night. They hunt almost all kinds of animals or insects, as long as the prey is smaller than themselves.
They are cautious when they go hunting and can jump up to 60 cm to escape predators. Foxes can also jump this high when attacking the prey with their front paws.
Unlike other fox species, Fennec foxes live in groups called skulks. A skulk consists of a maximum of 10 individuals. They live in separate or connected dens.
Fennec Fox Pet Behavior
As pets, Fennec foxes are friendly. They don’t have problems with strangers either, but they can become tiresome with other pets as Fennecs want to play a lot.
As wild animals, Fennec foxes are generally not good pets.
Although they are wild animals, they become sociable and calm animals once they are tamed. They are not particularly cuddly and are even skittish at times.
It is important to keep them on a leash so they do not run away. Their enclosure must also be well fenced and closed. They often dig tunnels or climb fences to escape.
Fennec Fox Diet
Fennec foxes are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. They feed on insects, small mammals, plants, fruits, roots, and eggs. They detect prey with their sensitive sense of hearing and can live with little or no water for long periods.
Fennec foxes are omnivorous predators that feed on a variety of foods:
- Plants and their roots
These canids can live with little or no water for long periods, as they get enough moisture from the food they eat.
Fennec fox pets can be fed dog and cat food, raw meat, mice and rats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and insects.
Related Article: What Do Foxes Eat?
Fennec Fox Predators and Threats
Fennec foxes have several natural predators such as the eagle owl, hyena, jackal, domestic dogs, and other large mammals.
Among the natural predators of Fennec foxes are many animals:
- Eagle owls
- Domestic dogs
The eagle owl or Verreaux’s eagle-owl is the main enemy of Fennec foxes. It lives in the African desert and is the largest owl in this region. It can reach a size of 26 inches (66 cm) long.
This owl can carry prey of up to 3.6 pounds body weight with its sharp and strong claws.
Another major threat to Fennec foxes is humans who hunt them and sell them for their fur.
Their habitats are also threatened in some regions. Due to the expansion of human settlements, some Fennec foxes are on the verge of losing their habitat.
How Much Does a Fennec Fox Weigh?
Fennec foxes weigh between 2–3.5 lbs. (900 – 1.6 kg). They are the smallest species of fox, measuring 16 inches in length without their tail. The tail of a Fennec fox can be 12 inches long.
How Many Babies Do Fennec Foxes Have?
Fennec foxes usually give birth to 2-5 cubs per litter, the average being three. Like other fox species, Fennec foxes only have one heat cycle per year. The mating period is in spring and lasts 4-6 weeks. During this time, the males mark the territory with urine and become aggressive.
How Many Species of Fennec Fox Are There?
There is only one Fennec fox species. There are 23 fox species in total, of which 12 are considered true foxes. The Fennec fox is part of the true foxes, which are foxes of the genus Vulpes.