Fox (animal), smallest member of the dog family, which also includes wolves, coyotes, jackals, and dogs. Foxes are characterized by short legs, an elongated narrow muzzle, erect triangular ears, thick fur, and a long bushy tail. Foxes are found throughout the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, inhabiting mostly forest, chaparral, and desert regions. Most of the ten species of the genus to which the red fox belongs can adapt to diverse climates and habitats.
Arctic Fox picture: Because an animal loses heat from its body surface, many mammals of hot deserts are slender, with enlarged ears or long limbs that provide additional area through which excess body heat can dissipate. Think of desert-dwelling hares or gazelles. Conversely, mammals that dwell in frigid climes must conserve heat, and so they often have stout bodies with stubby appendages. Think of arctic hares or musk-oxen. The arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, has the short muzzle and small ears one would expect in a creature that ranges around the North Pole, where it hunts on the tundra for the even more compact lemmings, and scavenges on the sea ice at the kills of polar bears.
Most foxes feed on mice, voles, rabbits, birdsí eggs, fruit, large insects, and carrion. Because their prey is small, foxes are solitary rather than pack hunters. They generally work territories of less than 8 sq km (less than 3 sq mi), which they defend from other foxes. They are swift, agile runners; the red fox can reach a speed of 48 km/h (30 mph).
Swift Fox picture: Because of the general shortage of aboveground housing, many small mammals of grasslands, steppes, and deserts take shelter below. The swift fox of the prairies of North America and the kit fox of more arid country-both now regarded as belonging to a single species, Vulpes velox-inhabit subterranean burrows, which they dig themselves or appropriate from other animals. The combined range of the foxes is shared with the coyote, which does not hesitate to make a meal of its little cousins when it can. The swift fox and kit fox also fall victim to poisons and traps intended for the coyote, and lose ground to farmers. Despite all this, most populations of these charming little foxes remain secure.