Red Tail Fox – Habitat, Breeding, Diet, and More

red fox

The name Red fox might sound unfamiliar, but we’re sure it was the first fox breed introduced to you in your kindergarten school. Remember Vixey from The Fox & the Hounds? Or Nick Wilde from Zootopia? Both of these Disney animated characters are Red foxes.

Even in this real world, Red foxes are considered the most widely distributed member of the fox family groups. Not only this, but these are also the largest of true foxes. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you must have seen these foxes strolling freely in open fields and woods.

But hey, the real-life Red fox might not be as calm & friendly as Nick Wilde. You might have to pay severe penalties if a safe distance is not maintained from these foxes. Although this animal can’t kill humans, it can cause fatal injuries.

Despite being on bad terms with the human race, Red foxes have some fantastic traits and more than the amazing history of evolution that makes them quite interesting to study – and also worth appreciating.

Thus, today, we will discuss this fox breed in detail (including its evolution, regional distribution & habitats, classification, breeding & development, behavior, diet, and interaction with other foxes, animals, and humans).

So just keep reading the article to know how you should respond to running into a real-life, undercover Nick Wilde.


red fox

Red foxes are believed to be the natives of the middle east and diverged from their wolf lineage about 12 million years ago. They were developed by two species; Vulpes Chikushanensis and Vulpes Alopecoides. Considering this, the modern-day Red fox is categorized under the Vulpes genus, class Mammalia, and order Carnivora.

Regarding their evolution, Red foxes are believed to have evolved from Corsac foxes, Ruppells foxes, and Kit foxes since they all have so many things in common. They were also often mistaken for a Gray fox.

After this, these foxes started colonizing all parts of the world, from Siberia to Eurasia, North America to Bering Strait. New studies have proved that Red foxes colonized across the Bering Strait evolved differently than those colonies in North Africa. In this way, Red foxes evolved into various classes per their colonization region.

According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, only the fittest can survive, and we can see it clearly in the evolutionary history of foxes. Red foxes developed the most helpful features over time, which helped them survive in the most challenging environmental conditions.

For example, they developed super sharp eyesight, smell, and hearing senses to catch prey. Likewise, to tear through the hardest meat, these foxes developed razor-sharp teeth. And most importantly, to stay out of the sight of hunters, these foxes developed earthy-toned fur with which they camouflaged well into the surrounding.

The ancient Red fox fossil also proved that the ancestors of modern-day foxes were smaller in size. However, during this evolutionary journey, Red foxes also developed behavioral and physical adaptations. It included adapting advanced & more successful reproduction methods, safer ways to store extra food, etc.

Physical Characteristics

fox animal

The Red fox, as the name implies, is known by its reddish-brown or orangish-red fur that covers its sides, back, and head. Its chest and neck are covered by white fur and are often confused with a Gray fox. In addition, the Red fox features black pointed ears with a white-tipped tail and black limbs and feet.

It generally has an elongated body with shorter limbs and a bushy tail. It is said that its tail comprises 75% of the total body area as, without it, the body length of Red foxes is 22-27 inches. A Red fox may stand 15-16 inches tall from the shoulders, whereas the healthy weight range is 7-15 pounds.

Interestingly, a Red fox may jump across six feet tall fences, and the maximum speed with which it can run is 30 meters per hour. Another interesting physical trait of Red foxes is that their forepaws come with five digits, whereas hind feet have only four digits and no dewclaw.

Depending upon the coat color, three color morphs can be seen in red foxes; silver, gray, and cross, making silver foxes, gray foxes, and mutant foxes.


Seven classification ranks of Red foxes are as follows:


Distribution and Habitat

As stated before, Red foxes are widely distributed on this planet and live in diverse habitats like grasslands, forests, deserts, mountains, and green pastures.

However, in high Red fox populations, Conservation Red foxes can also be found in human environments, including farms, human communities, fields, suburban areas, and even urban areas.

Speaking of their habitat preferences, Red foxes prefer to live near mashes, along the boundary of forests, or in any other place that is rich in vegetation. On the other hand, breeding female Red foxes prefer to live in an open area as they feel suffocated inside dens.

However, young Red foxes stay inside dens along the den sites in other cases. Another interesting thing is that foxes don’t make their dens but overtake those made by rabbits and small rodents.

Their geographical distribution is widely held in North America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.

However, despite being colonized massively across Northern Hemisphere, Red fox doesn’t live around the Arctic circle, on Islands, or in other regions with extreme weather conditions. As they can’t survive these temperatures, like Arctic foxes.

red foxes info

Reproduction and Development

The breeding season of Red foxes starts every year in January and lasts till March. Generally, a ten-month Red fox is considered mature enough for mating. After mating, females make multiple dens under the ground or in caves. These dens are then used as nests for the new foxes and to store food.

Red fox females not only burrow new dens but also renovate the old ones so the babies won’t have to face any problems due to space shortage. Two pairs of foxes live in one den, whereas the mated pair lives in all these dens, one by one.

The total gestation period of a Vixen lasts for about 52 days, whereas, in a single litter, it may deliver up to twelve babies.

Another interesting thing here is that young foxes aren’t born with red fur coats; instead, even the Red foxes have gray fur or brown coats. However, their original red fur begins to grow by the end of their first monthly birthday.

fox red

Likewise, at the time of birth, a Red kit fox has a shorter tail and shorter lower legs but a broad chest. Some kits are also born blind, deaf, and toothless, which die in a short time.

Young foxes live inside dens for five to six weeks, where they are taken care of by both parents (male and female). Sometimes, older offsprings also contribute to the upbringing of newborns. When kits grow one month old, they can play in the open air outside the den.

While other large predators preferred moving away from human development, Conservation Red foxes have adapted to rural and suburban communities.

Red Fox Behavior

american red fox

Due to sharing lineage with wolves, Red foxes are naturally nocturnal and love coming out of their dens during the night. However, it’s not uncommon for them to come out of dens on days when the horizon is clear.

Since Red foxes typically share the same family with dogs and other canids, they exhibit common behaviors like walking on their toes, stalking the prey, etc. Under normal circumstances, Red foxes aren’t aggressive at all. Yes, they could be curious or excited, but they don’t pose any harm to a human unless their safety is threatened.

Also, since Red foxes have super sensitive ears, they can catch different sounds, and that’s why they may get angry/anxious by water guns, water hoses, and loud noises.


red tail fox

Red foxes can be quite vocal as they communicate with each other via growls, yapping barks, and yelping sounds. Other interesting ways for Red foxes to communicate are urinating, rocking, and giving signals by the movements of their tails or scents secreted by scent glands.

A Red fox may intentionally urinate around a tree to mark its territory, to tell other species that it’s his area. On the other hand, they show affection to their family members via body language; by cuddling, hugs, smiles, napping, and nose rubbings.

Wondering how Red foxes communicate by its tail? Well, if it’s swinging its tail wildly, it means that he’s showing enthusiasm.

The most interesting part here is that in addition to communicating via body language and scents, Red foxes have a sound vocabulary (containing 28 sounds) which they also use to communicate, not only with one another but also with other species.


what are foxes

Diet Red foxes are considered excellent hunters. They are scavengers and omnivores and can feed on various edibles. For example, when they are young and strong, the hunting foxes feed primarily on small pets, rodents, birds, hamsters, and rabbits.

However, if life is outside the forest, these foxes may eat frogs, vegetables, fruits, fish, worms, or whatever they find.

And if Diet Red foxes somehow enter large communities of humans, with the slightest chance of catching prey, they won’t be shy to jump into garbage cans to soothe their appetite. In the hour of need, these foxes may also feed on carrion.

red fox animal

Predators and Prey

Since it has excellent hearing, a Red fox can easily catch the lowest frequency sounds, which in turn helps it follow prey under the ground. Unlike other wild predators, Red foxes don’t chase their target. Instead, they stalk them and won’t lunge at them unless they begin running.

Red foxes lay in between prey and predators since they are solitary hunters, on the one hand, whereas, on the other hand, they are also preyed upon by other large predators like a coyote, owls, and hawks.

Besides preying on rodents, birds, and stray animals, Red foxes might attack small livestock like chickens, ducks, and even young lambs. However, they don’t go for the large livestock. After killing them, these foxes take the flesh to their dens, sharing it with their families.

red fox habitat

Relationships with Humans

Red Fox doesn’t attack humans as long as it is not bothered by them. However, it’s not a social animal that doesn’t mind human presence. Instead, it possesses a timid temperament with which it prefers to avoid all sorts of human interactions.

If you find a Red fox in your yard or field, you shouldn’t approach it since it might make the fox feel threatened. Just give it a few minutes, and the fox will flee from your area on its own.

red tailed fox

And no, you should never offer these foxes food since doing so will make them tame towards strangers, too, which might scare them. Besides, when you feed them too often, these foxes take you too lightly and won’t take your commands seriously.


We hope that this article has helped you understand Red foxes better. Before wrapping the article, let us tell you one last thing; even though foxes and dogs are close cousins, you should never think about keeping these foxes as family pets.

Regardless of how cool it may seem to own a wild animal, doing so could unlock the passage for so many potential safety hazards.

Cody Mitchell
Cody Mitchell is a pet lover and a passionate pet writer. He has worked as a professional writer for over 6 years, with a focus on creating compelling content for pet-related brands. His work has been featured in major publications. When he's not writing, Cody can be found playing with his two dogs (a labradoodle and a cocker spaniel) or cuddling his cat.

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