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Female Fox: How to Differentiate Them From Male Foxes

Female foxes are called vixens. They are smaller than males and have smaller and sharper heads. Males also have a scrotum that becomes prominent during the breeding season. Females stay in the den with their cubs to raise them, while males go hunting to provide food.

Foxes are crepuscular or nocturnal animals that usually live alone, but groups of foxes have been observed living together. 

Although foxes are considered monogamous, groups consisting of a male with two females and their cubs have also been observed.

For casual observers, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a female and a male fox as the differences between the two are small. Even experienced hunters can confuse female and male foxes.

In this article, you will learn what a female fox is called, what they look like, and the behavior unique to female foxes.

What Is a Female Fox Called?

Female foxes are called vixens. They only have one name, compared to the many names for males, including tod, dog, or raynard. Baby foxes are commonly called kits, but can be referred to as pups or cubs.

Animals are often called by a genus-related word, such as pups for dog-like animals’ offspring. But the female fox has a unique name: vixen.

Foxes belong to the Canidae family, the same family as dogs and wolves. This is why baby foxes are called pups, in addition to kits or cubs.[1]

Here are the names for foxes:

Female foxVixen
Male foxTod, dog, or reynard
Baby foxKit, pup, or cub
A group of fox kitsLitter
A group of foxesSkulk[2] or leash

The name vixen comes from the word “fox”, which in old English had the feminine version “fyxe”. 

With the old southern accent of English, the word “fyxe” became “fixen”, and the “f” was pronounced as “v”. 

And thus the word “vixen” appeared, which refers to female foxes. It also refers to ill-tempered or flirtatious women.[3]

What Is a Female Fox Called

What Do Female Foxes Look Like?

Female foxes have thin bodies and thin, pointy heads. They can be identified by their genitals, though these are often hidden by fur. Lactating females also have visible nipples.

The female fox usually has a smaller and thinner body and the head is narrow and pointed. Female red foxes also have smaller teeth than males.

The genitals are usually hidden by the fur, and the nipples are only visible if they are lactating. 

Females are not as aggressive and do not mark their territory so often, a behavior that makes them stand out compared to males.

What Do Female Foxes Look Like

Female Fox Behavior

Female foxes do not behave much differently than males. They scream during the mating season to find a partner and during mating. The cry of a female fox is compared to a baby’s cry. Females raise their young in the den, while males hunt for food.

The peak of the fox mating season is in winter. Female foxes scream to find a mate and also during the mating itself. 

The scream of a female fox is called “the vixen call” or “vixen’s screams”.[4] People often compare it to that of a crying baby. 

Even if their scream sounds scary, female foxes only become aggressive when they feel threatened or when their kits are in danger.

Female Fox Den Behavior

Females dig or inherit burrows where they raise their young until they are ready to fend for themselves and leave the nest. All this time, males are the ones who hunt and bring food.

Female Fox Den Behavior

Female Fox Tracks & Markings

If you find fox tracks on the road you can tell if it is a female or a male, depending on the urine spot.

Researchers have concluded that female foxes mark their territory with urine between or behind their hind paw prints. The urine marks left by males are usually found in front of their hind paws prints.

How to Tell if a Fox Is Male or Female

It is difficult to differentiate a male from a female fox as they look similar. To an inexperienced person, both sexes look the same. The males of the red, gray, and Fennec fox species are somewhat larger than the females. Males also have wider heads and larger teeth, especially the red fox.

Some animals have a well-defined sexual dimorphism. With cows or other animals with horns, it is easy to identify a male by his horns, but with foxes things are not like that. It is difficult to determine which sex is the wild fox you see from a distance.

The easiest way to distinguish a male from a female fox is to look at their genitals. Females do obviously not have a penis, and their genitals are hidden by fur. 

In addition, males’ scrotum also becomes more noticeable during the mating season.

Apart from this, the skull of the male red, gray, and Fennec foxes is wider than the females’. They also have slightly larger bodies. 

Red fox males also have larger teeth (3.6% larger) than females.

The male arctic fox weighs about 20% more than the female, but they do not have a particularly longer body.[5]

In terms of behavior, males are more aggressive than females and mark their territory more often. They mark their territory with urine up to 70 times per hour when searching for food.[6] 

How to Tell if a Fox Is Male or Female

Male and Female Fox Differences

Body sizeLargerSmaller and thinner.
Head sizeWider heads with bigger teeth, especially the red fox.Narrower heads with smaller teeth.
GenitalsPenis. The scrotum becomes well highlighted when they are in the mating season.Their genitals are hidden by fur. Their nipples become visible when they are lactating.
BehaviorIn the mating season males become aggressive and mark their territory often. They mark with urine in front of their hind paws marks.Females do not mark their territory so often and they aren’t so aggressive. They mark with urine in between or behind their hind paws marks.


Female foxes are called vixens, derived from the old English word “fyxe”.

The differences between female and male foxes are not significant, which is why they are often difficult to sex.

The biggest difference between these sexes is the genital organ, which is obvious in males, while it is hidden by hair in females. 

In males, the scrotum will also become obvious during mating season. Another aspect to consider is the fact that lactating females have obvious nipples.


Are There Any Other Animals Known as Vixens?

No, female foxes are the only animals known as vixens. The word “vixen” was also used to describe an ill-tempered woman in the 16th Century. Nowadays, the word “vixen” is used to describe flirtatious women. Vixen is also the name of one of Santa’s reindeer.

Do Male and Female Foxes Look Different?

There are no significant differences between male and female foxes. That is why it is very difficult to tell them apart, even by specialists. The obvious difference between these two sexes is their genital organ. Males have an obvious penis, while in females, the genital organ is hidden in the fur. The males of some fox species (red, fennec, gray) also have a slightly larger body than the females and a wider head.

Why Are Female Foxes Called Vixens?

The “vixen” word comes from the “fyxe”, which is the femine version of the word “fox” in old English. The word “fyxe” became “fixen” and the “f” was pronounced as “v” with the old southern English accent.

Are Female Foxes Dominant?

Yes, female foxes are dominant. They are considered the alphas of the species. It is recommended to keep only one female fox with other males because two alphas should not be kept together.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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