More than the typical bright red fur and long bushy tail, the animal kingdom has various types of fox species with varied features, behaviors, and habitats. After going through all the species, you’ll become an expert and an advocate for these cat-like canines.
Foxes belong to the Canidae family under the genus Vulpes. They are known for their triangular ears, long tails, and varied diets. Moreover, they can live on every continent except Antarctica. 23 extant species represent a significant portion of the diversity among canines.
Fox species are grouped into six genera. First, the Vulpes, consisting of 12 species, have elongated bodies, short limbs, a large bushy tail, and pointed ears. Widely spread worldwide, they are the typical fox that we know. They are also called “true foxes” since the science community has accepted them as one, unlike other genera.
Second is Lycalopex, or the South American foxes. They share many features with true foxes but are smaller in size. As their name indicates, all six species live in South America.
The remaining four genera are Cerdocyon, Urocyon, Otocyon, and Canis, with one or two species each. These canines have distinct features and behaviors, making others not consider their foxes.
Despite that, we included all 23 species in this list, giving them all the attention they deserve.
Red Foxes generally have a fiery-hued body, dark limbs, and a bushy tail with a white tip. Even if they are the largest among the true foxes, they are relatively smaller than other canine species at 15 pounds.
Interestingly, they can have other color morphs depending on the habitat. For example, the silver fox subspecies have black coats with white-tipped tails.
Solitary by nature, these cunning foxes stalk, pounce and chase birds and small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. They also plan by stockpiling food under leaves or dirt.
Red foxes are the most widespread species in North America3, Europe, and some parts of Asia and Africa. They can live in various environments, from open woodlands to suburban neighborhoods.
The Fennec Foxes, natives of North Africa's Sahara Desert, tip the scales at a mere 1.5-3.5 pounds. Even though they are the world’s smallest fox species, their enormous ears can stretch up to 6 inches, approximately half their body length.
Their oversized and sensitive ears serve two purposes. First, they act like natural sonar systems, picking up the faintest underground stirrings of prey. Second, they radiate body heat to keep the fox cool under the desert sun.
This feature is also present in the succeeding types of foxes that live in arid environments.
Arctic foxes, also called polar foxes or snow foxes, wear a double-layered coat of thick fur that changes with the seasons, from white during winters to brown in the summer. Living in the Arctic tundra, they hunt with their sharp sense of hearing that can locate prey buried deep in the snow.
Taking on a golden tone with patches of gray, the Cape Fox or Silver-Backed Fox is a medium-sized type of fox, measuring up to 24 inches in body length. In comparison, its bushy tail can be as long as 15.5 inches.
It's typically seen in the South African region, making its home in the open savannahs and semi-deserts.
The Bengal Fox, commonly known as the Indian Fox, has a hue similar to the previous fox type. Still, it has distinguishable black-tipped tails, pale yellow to rufous with a slight silvery sheen, features black-tipped ears, and a white underside. The legs of the fox are of a similar hue, while the tail often exhibits a black tip.
They are moderately built with a body length of up to 18 inches and a tail length of up to 10 inches. Moreover, the Bengal fox favors semi-arid regions and scrublands of South Asia.
Blanford's Fox or Afghan Fox is distinguishable by its tawny hue and tail with a black tip. Its slender body measures up to 30 inches, with the bushy tail adding another 16 inches. This fox's compact size aids its agility and balance, essentials for its mountainous habitats in the Middle East.
The Corsac Fox sports a coat of pale, sandy color, which becomes thicker and longer during the cold months. Its body measures about 26 inches long with a tail that stretches another 14 inches. This desert dweller, with a narrow snout and large ears, has a compact shape tailored to its harsh semi-deserts and steppes of Central Asia.
This type of fox has comparatively shorter legs and a smaller body. These serve as strategic adaptations, facilitating energy preservation, which is crucial in its sparse surroundings where food resources can be scarce.
The Kit Fox, native to North America, has a dense tawny or grayish fur with darker patches and black-tipped tails. They have 21 inches-long bodies, with a separate tail length of up to 13 inches. Given its small stature, they are considered the tiniest fox in North America.
Moreover, since these foxes live in deserts, they have huge ears and similar adaptations to the Fennec Fox.
The Tibetan Sand Fox wears a predominantly pallid grey coat. Its size and coloration lend to its camouflage in the harsh Tibetan Plateau. The bushy tail flaunts a more vivid russet fur, almost as long as their body length.
At a glance, this type of fox is distinguishable by their relatively large square head and tiny triangular ears.
The Pale Fox, also known as the African sand fox, is recognized for its light sandy coat, slightly darker paws, and large rounded triangular ears. Pale foxes are relatively small, with an average body length of up to 24 inches and another 12 inches for the tail, effectively designed for their harsh desert environment.
Another desert dweller, the Rüppell’s Fox, named after the noted 19th-century German naturalist and explorer Eduard Rüppell, sports a light sandy coat. This reasonably small desert fox has a body measuring around 29 inches long, including its 12 inches long tail.
Swift foxes have a yellowish-tan hue on their bodies and black tips on their tails. They also have black patches on both sides of their snouts. Their heads and bodies are around 21 inches, while their tails are about 12 inches long. If you live in the United States, you can spot a swift fox on the grasslands of the western regions.
Our next type of fox belongs to another genus, Lycalopex. First, we have the Darwin's Fox, also known as the Darwin's Zorro. Listed as an endangered species, they only live in temperate forests of Chile’s mountain ranges and the Nahuelbuta National Park.
This small and elusive fox is named after Charles Darwin, who first discovered it during his voyage on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s.
You can quickly identify a Darwin's Fox with its broad skull, short legs, and dark brown coat. This fox is relatively compact, with a body length of up to 23 inches and a tail length of up to 10 inches.
The Culpeo Fox or Andean Fox is a South American native standing out with its grey and reddish coat and black-coated tails. Its body length measures 35 inches, while its tail adds about 17 inches more to its length. They live in various habitat types, including beech forests and open deserts.
South American Gray Foxes boast a gray coat, visibly redder legs, and a black-tipped tail. They’re relatively compact, measuring up to 26 inches in body length with a tail that typically extends a maximum of 17 inches. They can be found in many habitats in the southern part of South America, from dry scrublands to cold steppes.
The Sechuran Fox, also known as the Peruvian desert fox, displays a grayish coat, visibly lighter legs, and tails with a black tip. Their body length can reach up to 31 inches, not including their tails, which can measure up to 13 inches. Primarily found in Ecuador and Western Peru, these foxes live in various habitats, from deserts to dry forests.
The Pampas Fox or Azara's fox, distinguished by its gray-brown coat and black-tipped tail, has a body length typically rounds out at about 38 inches, with the tail contributing to roughly a third of this length. Often found in the grasslands of northern and central Argentina, Pampas foxes demonstrate a degree of adaptability by comfortably thriving in habitats such as forests, wetlands, and even agricultural areas.
The Hoary Fox possesses a grey coat and tail colored with black at the end. They reside predominantly in the tropical savannas of southern and central Brazil. Interestingly, unlike other types of foxes, they have termites and other insects as the main part of their omnivorous diet.
The Crab-Eating Fox is the only species of the genus Cerdocyon. This canine’s fur is a mix of dark grey with black at the tail tip. Even though their name says they eat crab, they do not always feed on it. During the rainy season, they look for crustaceans in the flood plains and prefer to eat more insects when it's drier.
They can be found in central South America, with habitats ranging from savannas to forests.
The Gray Fox is one of the two species under the genus Urocyon. Unlike their name suggests, they display various colors on their body. Its coat is predominantly peppered gray but also has patches of red on its neck and sides. The belly and throat areas are whiter in contrast, while the legs and lower sides bear a reddish-brown tint.
Widespread throughout Nothern and Central America, this fox species prefers dense forests. They craft their dens in hollow trees, stumps, or burrows. Interestingly, they are the only fox species that can climb, thanks to their hooked claws.
The Island Fox is the smallest fox species in North America, weighing about 5 pounds and standing at about 13 inches. This adaptation evolved in response to the limited resources in its only natural habitat at the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.
They have colors similar to the previous type of fox. But vastly different due to their smaller bodies and shorter legs.
The next type of fox is another monotypic species under the Otocyon genus. Bat-eared Foxes wear a light brown coat with darkened areas around the eyes, feet, and the tips of tails and ears. Typically, this species measures 18 to 26 inches in body length, the large, upright ears adding another 5 inches, and a separate 9 to 13 inches for its tails.
Originally named for their bat-like ears, these foxes reside primarily in the grasslands of Eastern and Southern Africa.
Also known as the Ethiopian wolf, this is the only species of fox under the genus Canis. Simien Fox has a slender body with distinctive rusty red fur, white underparts extending to the jaws, and black-tipped tails. They're approximately three feet in length, including a foot-long fluffy tail.
Moreover, they are endemic to Ethiopia's mountain ranges, comfortably resting at altitudes over 13,000 ft. Their diet is almost exclusively comprised of rodents1.
Despite its name, the Simien Fox is not closely related to other African foxes but is more closely related to wolves and coyotes.
Many fox species are marked as least concern or near threatened by the IUCN, but threats still exist. Habitat destruction, hunting, climate change, and diseases from domestic dogs threaten their peace. Even the common species are not entirely safe.
The Simien and Darwin's foxes are examples of endangered species2. The former mainly suffers from agricultural expansion, while the latter faces diseases from domestic dogs.
Wrapping up, the world of foxes is a vast tapestry, with 23 species spread across six genera. Their distinctive features, varied habitats, and diverse diets reflect the diversity of even a small portion of the animal kingdom.
Although they face numerous challenges, from hunting to habitat loss, there's hope, and it lies in our collective efforts. Together, let’s ensure these canines continue to thrive.
Get to know all 23 types of fox species and their diverse features, habitats, diets, and many more.
Delve into our complete list of the types of foxes. Learn about all 23 fox species spanning six genera, each with unique characteristics, diverse habitats, and varied diets. Uncover also their resilience and vulnerability against the threats they are facing.
Sillero‐Zubiri, C., & Gottelli, D. (1995). Diet and Feeding Behavior of Ethiopian Wolves (Canis simensis). Journal of Mammalogy, 76(2), 531–541.
Silva-Rodríguez, E, Farias, A., Moreira-Arce, D., Cabello, J., Hidalgo-Hermoso, E., Lucherini, M. & Jiménez, J. 2016. Lycalopex fulvipes (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41586A107263066.
Larivière, S., & Pasitschniak-Arts, M. (1996). Vulpes vulpes. Mammalian Species, 537, 1.
Isabela is a determined millennial passionate about continuously seeking out ways to make an impact. With a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering with honors, Isabela’s research expertise and interest in artistic works, coupled with a creative mindset, offers readers a fresh take on different environmental, social, and personal development topics.