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Do Foxes Wag Their Tails? (And When Do They Do It?)

Foxtails, like many other canine tails, serve multiple purposes: they help with balance, provide insulation, and play a role in communication.

When a fox wants to show affection or is feeling happy and excited, it will often wag its tail back and forth quickly while holding its body low to the ground. 

Like other similar animals, these canines use their tails to express how they feel. 

Now, not all foxes do this – it’s usually domesticated foxes that show affection this way, as well as fox cubs.

Learn more about how foxes use their tails in this article.

Do Foxes Wag Their Tails?

Foxes do wag their tails. The motion is a form of communication. When fox cubs are happy and excited, they will often wag their tails. The same goes for domesticated foxes.

Foxes use their tails to communicate: for example, when it’s time to go home from the hunt or to warn other members of the pack that there is danger nearby.

Foxes do not always wag their tails though, as this can cause fatigue; however, they do seem to enjoy using this gesture as a sign of happiness or excitement. 

fox family

Dmitri K. Belyaev was a Russian scientist who studied the changes in the behavior of foxes over a number of generations.

The result of his breeding program conducted over more than 40 generations of silver foxes was a group of friendly, domesticated foxes [1]

The results showed that the later generations of foxes in this study had become more enthusiastic tail-waggers. It also showed that the domesticated dog was more likely than the domesticated fox to show its feelings through its tail.

When Do Foxes Wag Their Tails?

Foxes do, however, wag their tails when they’re happy and excited. As cubs, foxes wag their tail to get the attention of the mother fox so she can feed them. Domesticated foxes do this as well when they want something from humans.

Tail-wagging also occurs when foxes are excited (primarily domesticated foxes or cubs).

When It’s Time for Food

As cubs, foxes wag their tail to get the attention of the mother fox so she can feed them.

The small foxes will stay low to the ground with their body, wag their tail and whine for food – much like some dogs do.

Foxes and dogs are actually closely related animals, which is why they share much of the same behavior.

Whenever a mother fox brings food to the small cubs, they will also get excited, which then causes them to start wagging their tails. This trait slowly disappears as the cubs get older though.

fox eating

When They’re Happy

Foxes do wag their tail when they’re happy and excited, like when there is food present or when they are in a new environment.

This behavior has only been seen with domesticated foxes and cubs though (or foxes who’s gotten used to humans).

Foxes do not always wag their tail with affection; it’s more often used as an expression of excitement. When fox cubs see food for the first time, they will usually start to wave their tails around in excitement and show interest.

This behavior is also seen among domesticated foxes that have been raised by humans and live in houses with people who care for them on a daily basis.

Happy fox

What Else Do They Use Their Tails For?

Foxes use their tails for a number of things:

  • To show excitement
  • To show affection
  • Communication
  • Insulation
  • Balance

Related: Why do foxes have tails?

Tails And Communication

Foxtails come into play when they communicate with one another. For example, fox pups will use their tails to signal that they are in distress or to show submission. Domesticated foxes do much the same if they do not want their humans playing with them anymore.

Here’s what a foxtail can tell you:

  • When the tail is up and curved forward, while the fox is walking tall, it’s a sign of dominance over another fox. 
  • When the tail is tucked between their legs, while the fox is keeping low to the ground, it means submission to another fox. 
  • If they do not want to submit but do not want to fight either, tails can be held loosely down and wagging slowly from side to side.

Foxes will also alert other foxes of incoming danger with their tail.

group of fox

As a Blanket When It’s Cold

Foxes use their tail as a blanket to keep themselves warm during the winter months. The fox will tuck its tail around itself and lean on it in order to stay warm.

This use of the tail can be crucial to survival. If the fox can’t find shelter or warmth, it needs to be able to protect itself from the wind and the cold.

When they are resting, sometimes you can see one of their paws sticking out from under the tail acting like an armrest or pillow for themself. 

fox sleeping

It is important that foxes get their sleep, because without enough sleep they may become lethargic and slow down. 

This could put them at risk of being killed by predators who hunt during dawn and dusk when the fox is active.

This behavior has been seen less in domesticated animals that are kept indoors. However, they do still do it for warmth, but not as much because their human owners will provide them with warm shelter.

As an Indicator of Health

A fox’s tail and behavior can also be a good indicator of the fox’s health. 

A sick fox will have a thin tail and, sometimes almost completely hairless. Healthy foxes will have a full and beautiful tail.

Conclusion

While foxes can wag their tails, this behavior is most commonly seen in cubs and domesticated foxes. Tail-wagging is most often used to show excitement, but foxes also use their tails for other things such as communication, insulation, and balance.

Foxes are closely related to dogs, which is why we see much of the same behavior – especially with domesticated dogs and foxes. Tail-wagging is seen much more within domestication.

Being able to use their tail as protection in cold places and season is an essential survival skill that foxes possess. They will use their tail to protect them against the wind, as well as to keep their body heat throughout the night.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Foxes Show Affection?

Foxes show affection in a variety of ways. They are very expressive, especially when they are domesticated. Foxes wag their tails when they see their human caretakers show their excitement or happiness. They are known to nip and play-bite their humans to show their excitement and affection.

Related: Are foxes affectionate?

Foxes are solitary hunters but have very strong familial bonds in the early stages of their lives. The young often engage in play-fighting which, aside from honing their hunting skills, also show their affection to their siblings and parents.

When not hunting or playing, foxes love to cuddle and groom each other thereby strengthening their family bonds.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.