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All 23 Different Types of Foxes and Their Differences

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There are 23 types of foxes worldwide, divided into six genera. The genus Vulpes, the largest fox genus, contains 12 species of foxes. These are also known as true foxes. The second largest genus is Lycalopex includes six types of foxes, known as South American foxes. The rarest fox in the world is the Sierra Nevada red fox.

Foxes are distributed on all continents except Antarctica. The majority of species live in the wild, in forest and meadow areas, but you can also meet them in desert or mountain areas.

While certain fox species are endangered, the red fox (the most common species) is frequently encountered in places where people live.

But how many kinds of foxes are there?

In this article, you will learn how many types of foxes there are, what real foxes are, what foxes have in common, and much more.

What Type of Animal Is a Fox?

The fox is an omnivorous, nocturnal, medium-sized mammal. It belongs to the Canidae family, along with wolves, dogs, jackals, and others. They eat meat and plants but prefer meat. Most foxes weigh 9-17 pounds, while the smallest fox is about 3 pounds.

Foxes are part of the same family as dogs and jackals: the Canidae family. They are found all over the globe, with the exception of Antarctica.[1]

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
SubfamilyCaninae
GeneraCanis, Cerdocyon, Lycalopex, Otocyon, Urocyon, Vulpes.

Foxes are small-medium mammals that usually carry out their activity at night. They are not considered strictly nocturnal because they can change their sleeping-hunting hours depending on the area in which they live.

Foxes that live in safe environments without predators can go hunting during the day and sleep at night.

These canids are omnivorous. Their diet consists of the following:

  • Rodents
  • Other small mammals
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Bird eggs
  • Plants

As for their appearance, foxes are medium-sized animals. Most species weigh about 9-17 pounds (4-8 kilograms).

The color of their fur varies depending on the species:

  • Red
  • Golden/yellow
  • Black
  • Gray
  • Brown

Most foxes have a triangular and flattened head, a pointy snout, large ears, and bushy tails.

They dig burrows, which have several entrances and exits. Foxes use the den more to raise their young and store food and less for sleeping.

What Type of Animal Is a Fox

Types of Foxes

There are 23 types of foxes divided into six genera, and only the species from genus Vulpes are considered true foxes. The red fox is the most common species of true foxes.

Foxes are scientifically more difficult to classify compared to other mammals. They are spread among six genera, while most animals are all included in a single genus. 

Here are the six different genera:

  • Canis
  • Cerdocyon
  • Lycalopex
  • Otocyon
  • Urocyon
  • Vulpes

The largest genus is Vulpes, which comprises 12 fox species. These are considered true foxes.

GenusFox Species
CanisEthiopian wolf
CerdocyonCrab-eating fox
LycalopexCulpeo fox, Darwin’s fox, South American Gray fox, Pampas fox, Sechuran fox, and Hoary fox
OtocyonBat-eared fox
UrocyonGray fox, Island fox
VulpesArctic fox, Bengal fox, Blanfords fox, Cape fox, Corsac fox, Fennec fox, Kit fox, Pale fox, Rüppell’s fox, Red fox, Swift fox, and Tibetan Sand fox

Foxes From the Genus Canis

Foxes From the Genus Canis
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The genus Canis mostly includes dogs and wolves, but also one fox: the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). It is also known as the Simien fox or Simien jackal.[2]

As confusing as it is, while it is called a wolf, it resembles the fox.

This species is in serious danger of extinction, making it the rarest wolf species known to date. Due to rabies and other diseases spread by wild dogs, hunting, and habitat destruction, the population of Ethiopian wolves has drastically declined in recent years (down to 500 individuals).

The shape of the body of the Ethiopian wolves is similar to that of coyotes, but their coat coloring is similar to that of the American red fox: red-brown fur and black-tipped tail.

Although it looks like a fox (hence the name Simien fox), the DNA of the Ethiopian wolf shows that it is related to the gray wolf and coyote.[2]

These canids form packs of 6-12 members, males, and females. Their food consists mainly of prey animals (rodents, rats, rabbits, birds, lemurs, and small antelopes).

The lifespan of the Ethiopian wolf is 8-9 years[3] and it can reach 28 pounds body weight.

Foxes From the Genus Cerdocyon

Foxes From the Genus Cerdocyon
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The genus Cerdocyon includes only one species of the fox: the crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous)

The crab-eating fox is also known by other names:

  • Forest fox
  • Wood fox
  • Bush dog
  • Maikong[4]

Although they travel in pairs, they hunt alone. The crab-eating fox’s diet is mostly based on crabs, fish, reptiles, rodents, birds, insects, eggs, and fruit.

Their lifespan is 11 years, and at maturity, it can reach 18 pounds body weight.

Foxes From the Genus Lycalopex

The Genus Lycalopex contains six species of foxes, also known as South American foxes or false foxes:

  1. Culpeo fox
  2. Darwin’s fox
  3. South American gray fox
  4. Pampas fox
  5. Sechuran fox
  6. Hoary fox

1. Culpeo Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus)

Culpeo Fox
Image Source

The Culpeo fox is South America’s second-largest wild canid species after the maned wolf. It is also referred to as the Andean wolf, Paramo wolf, zorro culpeo, Andean zorro, and Andean fox.

This canid, like the majority of fox species, hunts opportunistically and eats wild fruits, rodents, and rabbits. They occasionally steal young domestic animals as well, such as lambs.

The Culpeo fox is broadly similar in appearance to the red fox:[5]

  • Gray and reddish fur
  • White chin
  • Reddish legs
  • A stripe on the back that may be barely visible
  • Bushy tail with a black tip

It can reach 28 pounds body weight and live 11 years.

2. Darwin’s Fox (Lycalopex fulvipes)

Darwin’s fox was discovered by Charles Darwin in 1834 on San Pedro Island, which is located near the coast of Chile. It is also called zorro chilote or zorro de Darwin.[6]

The chances of meeting this species of fox are low. There are about 600 individuals in the world left, of which approximately 500 live in Chile. Another 100 live on the island of Chiloé. 

It lives in dense forests where it feeds on small mammals, reptiles, insects, fruits, birds, and amphibians.

Although Darwin’s foxes are distantly related to wolves and aren’t technically foxes, they have a fox-like appearance:

  • Dark gray fur 
  • Reddish areas on the head and muzzle
  • Pointy snout
  • Big ears
  • Bushy tail

The Darwin fox reaches eight pounds as an adult and lives for approximately seven years.

3. South American Gray Fox (Lycalopex griseus)

South American Gray Fox
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The South American Gray fox is also known as the Patagonian Fox, the chilla, or the Gray zorro. It is found in South America’s Southern Cone, especially in Argentina and Chile.[7]

The South American Gray fox has a reddish-brown head, dotted with white, with large ears. The color of its coat is gray, and the tail is bushy with a dark tip.

This species feeds on mammals, birds, arthropods, bird eggs, reptiles, and fruits, being omnivorous.

It can reach eight pounds body weight and live up to 6-8 years.

4. Pampas Fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus)

The Pampas fox is a medium-sized canid found in the Pampas region of South America, in wetlands and forests. It is also called gray Pampean fox, Pampas zorro, Azara’s fox, or Azara’s zorro.

They are crepuscular animals that hunt on their own, their food consisting mainly of insects, birds, rodents, and fruits.

Physically, it resembles the Culpeo fox, with small differences:

  • The muzzle is wider and has a black mark
  • Red fur on the head and neck

Pampas foxes can reach 18 pounds in weight and live 13.6 years.[8]

5. Sechuran Fox (Lycalopex sechurae)

Sechuran Fox
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The Sechuran fox, also known as the Sechuran zorro or Peruvian desert fox, is the smallest false fox. It is found in some parts of Ecuador and Peru, including the Sechura desert.

It is a near-endangered species due to habitat loss and killing by humans.

The Peruvian desert fox is a nocturnal, solitary animal that feeds on animals, plants, insects, fruits, and seed pods. It can live on an exclusively vegetarian diet if necessary.

Like all false foxes, the Sechuran fox also resembles a fox:

  • The fur is agouti gray.
  • It has large triangular ears.
  • It has reddish-brown markings around the eyes, behind the ears, and on the legs.
  • Its tail is bushy with a black tip.
  • Its canine teeth are similar to those of real foxes.

This canid can reach about nine pounds body weight and live for ten years.

6. Hoary Fox (Lycalopex vetulus)

The Hoary fox or Hoary zorro is a species of canine found only in Brazil, in the cerrado habitat.[9]

They are nocturnal, solitary animals that feed mainly on insects (termites and dung beetles) but also on birds, rodents, or fruits occasionally.

Hoary foxes stick out amongst the fox species:

  • The fur is gray on the upper side and cream or brown on the lower side. 
  • They have triangular-shaped heads and large ears. 
  • They do not have strong canines like other false fox species.
  • The outer part of the legs and the ears are reddish or brown. 
  • The tail is bushy with a black tip.

The hoary fox reaches up to 8.8 pounds body weight and lives an average of 12.6 in captivity.

Foxes From the Genus Otocyon

Foxes From the Genus Otocyon
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The Genus Otocyon contains only the bat-eared fox.

The bat-eared fox lives in Africa:

  • Ethiopia
  • Tanzania
  • Angola
  • Zambia
  • South Sudan
  • Other arid and semi-arid areas of southern and eastern Africa

It is a mammal whose name refers to its very large ears compared to the size of the head, small face, and pointed muzzle.

Genetic analysis shows that bat-eared foxes are probably true foxes, and their common ancestor diverged from the line that led to the other types of true foxes early in time.[10] 

But with all that, bat-eared foxes are not considered true foxes.

These foxes have huge ears (five inches in length) and small faces with pointy snouts and unusual teeth. The teeth of bat-eared foxes are much smaller than those of a typical canid and have up to eight extra molars. 

The total number of teeth can reach 48: more than any other non-marsupial mammal.[11]

They feed mainly on termites but also consume other types of insects, small mammals, birds, and fruits.

Bat-eared foxes can reach 9-10 pounds body weight and live about 13 years.

Foxes From the Genus Urocyon

The Genus Urocyon contains the following species:

  1. Gray fox
  2. Island fox

1. Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus
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Gray foxes are also known as cat foxes or tree foxes due to their ability to climb trees. These canid species are found in North and Central America and feed mainly on rodents, birds, and fruits. Gray foxes consume insects and fruit when they transition from winter to spring.

They mark their territory with urine and glands in order to find the food later and discourage other animals from consuming it.

These foxes have gray fur on top with reddish-brown coloring on the sides, chest, and back of the head. Their legs are also reddish. The tail is bushy with a black stripe on top.[12]

Like most foxes, Gray foxes have pointed ears, a pointed snout, and long, sharp, curved claws. Their long, sharp claws and rotating wrists make them excellent tree climbers. Gray foxes can climb up to over 10 meters vertically. [13]

Because of their climbing skills, they use trees as a place to rest, sleep, and escape from predators.

Gray foxes can reach approximately two pounds body weight and have a lifespan of 14-15 years in captivity.

2. Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis)

Island Fox Urocyon littoralis
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The island fox is a species of small fox found on six of California’s eight Channel Islands, each with its own island fox subspecies:

  • Urocyon littoralis littoralis 
  • Urocyon littoralis dickeyi 
  • Urocyon littoralis catalinae 
  • Urocyon littoralis clementae 
  • Urocyon littoralis santacruzae 
  • Urocyon littoralis santarosae 

This species descended from the gray fox. Its small size is due to island dwarfism. This type of dwarfism occurs when large animals are limited to living in a small environment, such as islands. As a result, they evolve with smaller body sizes.[13]

Island foxes have a small body and resemble the gray fox. They can reach 6.2 pounds body weight and live for about 4-6 years in the wild.

Foxes From the Genus Vulpes (True Foxes)

The Genus Vulpes contains 12 species of true foxes:

  1. Arctic fox
  2. Bengal fox
  3. Blanford’s fox
  4. Cape fox
  5. Corsac fox
  6. Fennec fox
  7. Kit fox
  8. Pale fox
  9. Rüppell’s fox
  10. Red fox
  11. Swift fox
  12. Tibetan sand fox

They are called true foxes because it is believed that all these species evolved from a common ancestor (clade).

1. Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus)

Arctic Fox

The arctic fox, also called the white fox, is an animal found in the northern hemisphere:

  • Northern Canada
  • Alaska
  • The Arctic Circle

This species got its name due to the white fur that prevails throughout the winter. As soon as spring comes, their fur tends to become thinner and turns into brown shades on the back and legs.

Arctic foxes dig deep burrows in the snow on the side of rocks to protect themselves from cold and predators. Unlike most types of foxes, this canid prefers to sleep in its den and not outside near it.

Their main food is based on rodents, but they also consume insects, birds, and plants. If they do not find food, arctic foxes can survive for up to two weeks.[14]

Arctic foxes reach 10 pounds body weight and can live 3-6 years in the wild.

2. Bengal Fox (Vulpes bengalensis)

The Bengal fox or Indian fox is a true fox species that is endemic to India.

This canid has an elongated muzzle, large ears, and bushy tail, like all fox species. The color of the fur is brownish yellow to silver gray, with a grizzled effect. The legs are usually brown or reddish-brown.

They have an omnivorous diet, feeding mainly on insects, small mammals, reptiles, small birds, and fruits.[15]

These foxes weigh around 5-9 pounds and live up to 10 years in the wild.

3. Blanford’s Fox (Vulpes cana)

Blanford's Fox Vulpes cana
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Blandford’s fox is a species of true fox you can find in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, and northwestern India.

The color of these foxes is gray-brown with a yellow belly. They have a bushy tail with a black tip. The fur is lighter in color and thinner in summer.

This species stands out for its ability to climb rocks and make high jumps. Their curved and sharp claws and hairless footpads allow them to do this.

They have an omnivorous diet and feed mainly on insects and fruits.

Blanford’s foxes can reach 990 g of body weight and live 4-5 years, sometimes even 10.

4. Cape Fox (Vulpes chama)

Cape fox, also known as Silver-backed fox, Asse, Cama fox, or the South African version of a fennec fox is a species of true foxes from South Africa. 

This is the smallest native fox species in South Africa.

The color of their fur is silver-gray with lighter shades on the sides of the neck. It has a reddish head and a dark brown jaw. The ears are brown with white hairs sticking out of them. The tail is bushy with a black tip.

Their diet is omnivorous but they prefer insects and rodents. This species of foxes have also been reported in killing livestock but the predation level is unknown.[16]

Cape foxes reach about seven pounds in body weight and can live to 6-10 years.

5. Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac)

Corsac Fox Vulpes corsac
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Corsac foxes are medium-sized canids found in Central Asia, from Mongolia to northern China.

Their coat is gray-yellowish, with lighter fur on the mouth, chin, and throat. They are opportunistic omnivores, feeding mainly on small rodents and insects.

These foxes can weigh 3.5 to 7.1 pounds and live nine years in the wild.

6. Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)

Fennec foxes, commonly known as desert foxes, are found in the Sahara Desert, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Arabian Desert. They are the smallest species of foxes in the world.[17]

These foxes have large ears and the tip of the tail in shades of black. They have cream to cream-yellow fur. Their soles are furred and adapted to walking on the soft and hot sand. 

They are predominantly nocturnal and social animals. They can live in groups of 10 individuals, coming out at night to hunt. These canids feed mainly on rodents and insects but also on plant roots.

Fennec foxes dig their dens in stable dunes where they enter to protect themselves from the heat.

Fennec foxes reach 3.5 pounds of body weight and can live up to 10 years in the wild and 14 years in captivity.

7. Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis

Kit Fox Vulpes macrotis
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The Kit fox is the smallest wild canid species in North America that is adapted to live in the desert. 

Their soles are furred and adapted to walking on the soft and hot sand like Fennec foxes. They have a dark-colored back, and the ears are smaller compared to those of Fennec foxes.

They feed mainly on insects and rodents and can reach about six pounds in body weight. Kit foxes live an average of seven years in the wild and 12 in captivity.

8. Pale Fox (Vulpes pallida)

Pale foxes are a species of fox found in the Sahel region of Africa. Their pale sandy coloring (hence the name) helps them to camouflage well in the environment.

There are five recognized subspecies of pale foxes. They are also the least known species of foxes.

9. Rüppell’s Fox (Vulpes rueppellii)

Rüppell's Fox Vulpes rueppellii
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Rüppell’s Fox is also a species of desert fox found in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

In appearance, it resembles the Fennec fox and possesses the same abilities. Ruppell fox cubs are often confused with Fennec foxes.

10. Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red foxes are the largest species of foxes in the genus Vulpes and the most common. They also live in human settlements. Red foxes are medium-sized mammals with red fur, a white chest, darker legs, and a bushy tail with a white tip.[18]

They are opportunistic omnivores but prefer eggs and meat. They can reach 14 pounds of body weight and live around 3-4 years in the wild and 10-14 in captivity.

The Sierra Nevada red fox in California is the rarest species of fox, with no more than 50 individuals.

11. Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

Swift foxes are found in North America and part of Canada. They are closely related to kit foxes.

They are small in size (the size of a cat) and have light orange-tan fur. Swift foxes have an omnivorous diet and can reach 4-7 pounds and live 3-6 years.

12. Tibetan Sand Fox (Vulpes ferrilata)

Tibetan foxes, as their name suggests, live mainly in Tibet.

They are diurnal animals that hunt during the day. They feed mainly on the animals they hunt but also on carcasses. It is the only species of fox in the genus Vulpes that has a head adapted for a carnivorous diet.

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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