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Are foxes canines or felines (or are they something else?)

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key point

  • Foxes are part of the canine family, which makes them canids.
  • Canines, also known as canines, are characterized by their slender stature, long legs, bushy tails, and long muzzles.
  • The key feature that identifies members of the canine family is the teeth for which they are named.

There are twelve different species of foxes and they can be found all over the world! This remarkable animal is unique, but is it really unique? Foxes look like dogs and behave like cats, each with its own characteristics. But is a fox a dog, a cat, or something else entirely?

fox barking red fox
Foxes are canids, but they share some traits with felines, like their vertical pupils!


Are Foxes Canines or Felines?

Foxes are part of the canine family, which makes them canids. They are closely related to domesticated dogs and wolves. Canids also include coyotes, jackals, and even raccoons!

Canines, also known as canines, are characterized by their slender stature, long legs, bushy tails, and long muzzles. Foxes have all of these canine traits. Of course, the most distinguishing feature of the canids are the teeth of the same name!

What else makes a fox a canine rather than a feline?

fox teeth - red fox
Canine teeth are one of the main features that mark a fox as a member of the canidae family, like the ones on this sleepy fox!

©iStock.com/Leon Gin

The key feature that identifies members of the canine family is the teeth for which they are named. Canine teeth are excellent for grasping prey, crushing bones and chopping meat. Like wolves, foxes are true canines, and their toothy grins are proof!

Canids are carnivorous, but many canids are omnivorous. Foxes are very much like dogs in that they love meat but can eat a wide variety of foods.

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Like raccoons, foxes are opportunistic and will eat carrion or forage among human waste. It's true that there are foxes in the coop, and they love eggs and dairy too!

Why are foxes compared to cats?

Still, it's no surprise that many people compare foxes to writer's cats. They share the same preference for smaller mammals such as mice, voles, rats and gophers. They also prey on small birds and squirrels. Like cats, foxes rely on their finely honed senses to detect prey, and can hear mice squeak from over a hundred yards away! They also have a 260-degree field of vision that relies on motion detection, a trait they share with felines.

However, even the bravest house cat will think twice before catching a raccoon, porcupine or snake! Larger foxes, such as the red fox, will have no problem hunting larger animals such as raccoons. If you want to learn more about how foxes hunt and what are their favorite foods, check out our article What Do Foxes Eat?

Like cats, foxes have vertically slit pupils and sensitive whiskers that help them navigate in the dark. Foxes are also the only members of the canine family that walk on their soles. Both species also have partially retractable claws. This means they are the only canids that can climb trees!

So, if you've got the wrong idea about whether a fox is a canine or a feline, you're not getting too far off topic. But foxes are more unique than you might think!

A one-year-old red fox raises its paw on a white background
Red foxes have no problem hunting large animals like raccoons.

© Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

How are foxes different from other canids?

Now that we have answered the question, are foxes canids or felines, and how are they different from wolves, coyotes, or wild dogs?


The main difference between wolf or dog and fox is the size of the animals. The red fox is the largest species in the fox family Vulpeaceae, and is the scientific name of the fox. Red foxes stand 1.3 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh an average of 31 pounds. This makes them about the same height and weight as a medium or small dog. Wolves are six times their size, and the smallest wild dog, or coyote, is twice their size.

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Although red wolves are similar in their signature colors to red foxes, red wolves are significantly larger and more likely to be mistaken for coyotes than foxes. Red wolves weigh up to ninety pounds, stand a little taller, and are more reddish-brown than the true red of the red foxes that share their habitat.

Fixes also differ in overall appearance, with triangular faces, longer noses, narrower frames, and larger, pointier ears.

Diet and Behavior

Wolves and dogs also typically live in packs, while foxes may share a den with one male, up to two females, and their offspring. Wolves and dogs are distinctly social, living and hunting as a pack. Foxes are solitary, hunting alone and only interacting to raise their offspring.

little foxes - two foxes
Foxes are very different from their canine cousins, wolves, in that they are largely solitary unless a male and a female or two are raising young together.

© iStock.com/slowmotiongli

Wolves and coyotes are primarily carnivorous and rarely eat anything other than meat. Like raccoons and domestic dogs, foxes are true omnivores and also enjoy eating fruit, eggs and berries. Unlike other wild canids, foxes will approach human settlements. Wolves are especially wary of anything near humans, but foxes are not wary of us, even approaching urban areas.

Finally, foxes have a very unique way of vocalizing. Foxes communicate with higher-pitched barks and barks than wolves, coyotes, or domestic dogs. Foxes also emit loud, piercing squeals during mating season. These eerie sounds have been likened to a human woman's scream or a baby's cry!

For a more in-depth look at how foxes differ from their larger cousins, wolves, check out our article, Fox vs. Wolf: Top 4 Differences Between Red and Gray Canids in the Northern Hemisphere!

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There are 12 kinds of real foxes!

Arctic Fox (Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada)
There are 12 species of foxes in the world, each with unique adaptations to their native habitat. This arctic fox is perfect for its icy environment!

© Ansgar Walk/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – License

While there are actually twenty-three different types of foxes, only a dozen of them are considered true foxes, and they're all unique! These twelve species are more closely related to each other than to other canids. Eleven other species are more closely related to wild dogs and wolves and are considered false foxes.

Foxes can be found all over the world, but they are not native to Australia. Red foxes were introduced to the African continent by humans in the 19th century. Sadly, their introduction proved detrimental to the extinction or endangerment of many Australian birds and mammals.

The locations of the twelve fox species and their natural habitats are:

Red Fox: Northern Hemisphere

Arctic Fox: Arctic Tundra

Fennec Fox: Sahara and Arabian Deserts, Sinai Peninsula

Gray Fox: Sahel Africa

Branford's Fox: Central Asia and the Middle East

Cape Fox: Southern Africa

Tibetan Sand Fox: Tibet and the Ladakh Plateau

Swift Fox: North America West

Kit Fox: Mexico and the American Southwest

Ruppel's Fox: Southwest Asia, North Africa and the Middle East

Bengal Fox: Indian Subcontinent

Corsac Fox: Central Asia

Fennec Fox can be found in the Sahara and Arabian deserts.

© yvonne n / Creative Commons

Each species has its own incredibly unique traits and skills for surviving in its habitat. To learn more about each species, you can use the search bar to view all of our available articles!

But before we go, a little more about the fox species with the most abundance and habitat, the red fox!

Fox is a cunning man!

Animal fox that can see infrared light
With over 40 different subspecies, the red fox can be found in nearly every habitat in the northern hemisphere!

© iStock.com/The_Near_North

Foxes are canines, there's no denying that! They do, however, have some rather feline attributes that other canids don't. Luckily for us, they also have their own unique qualities that set them apart!

Foxes have long been an inspiration for myths and legends, and are revered for their intelligence and cunning nature. They've inspired everything from fairy tales to cartoons, and even their viral songs. what did the fox say Thanks for learning more about these fascinating canines!


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Closeup of a cross fox in the snow

© iStock.com/Moose Henderson

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