Foxes are fascinating creatures. They roughly have the appearance of some dogs, yet they have many attributes that cause people to wonder if they’re somehow related to cats. Is the fox a dog or a member of the cat family?
The fox species is a member of the canine family (also known as Canidae), which throws this small canid into the dog category. Unlike our domesticated dogs, all fox species are labeled as wild anywhere they’re found globally, similar to the wolf, the jackal, and the coyote.
How are Foxes Related to Dogs?
Like dogs, the fox is descended from wolves yet is different from dogs. Though they are related, there are enough differences between the DNA of the fox and dogs that they are not compatible mates.
Not only are they too different in genetic makeup to mate with dogs, but they cannot mate with wolves, jackals, or coyotes either. They became so different that their branch off of the wolf broke off long ago, making the fox a distinct breed of canine apart from the wolf.
Canidae (/ˈkænɪdiː/; from Latin, canis, “dog”) is a biological family of dog-like carnivorans, colloquially referred to as dogs and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a canid (/ˈkeɪnɪd/). There are three subfamilies found within the canid family, which are the extinct Borophaginae and Hesperocyoninae, and the extant Caninae. The Caninae are known as canines, and include domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes and other extant and extinct species.
Similarities between a Fox and a Dog
Though these relatives parted genetic ways a long time ago, they share some overall similarities.
- The dog and the fox have large ears that contain a sharp sense of hearing.
- The fox shares similar anatomy to the dog from head to tail.
- Both the fox and dogs are omnivores, which means they are comfortable eating both plants and animal matter to survive.
- They both share an acute sense of smell and have snout-type noses.
Differences between Dogs and Foxes
Even though they are all canids and have some resemblances, the things that make them different greatly outweigh their similarities.
- Dogs outlive foxes by quite a bit. Dogs average out between 10-13 years old, and the average lifespan of a fox is between 2-4 years old.
- Throughout the years, dogs have been domesticated in many ways to an inherent extent. All species of fox have remained wild, ever fearful of humans.
- Even when in the wild, dogs will group and hunt in packs. The fox will remain solitary, hunting and living alone its whole life after leaving its mother’s den.
- Dogs can adapt and live anywhere on earth with extremely few exceptions. Foxes are only found in forests, grasslands, deserts, and mountains.
- Domesticated dogs belong to the Lupus species of the Canine family, and foxes belong to the Vulpini branch of the canine family.
- Though domesticated dogs come in all shapes and sizes, the fox’s snout is generally slimmer and longer than that of a dog.
Do Foxes make Good Pets?
They’re cute and furry. For some people, that’s all that’s necessary to want to have one in the house as a pet, but is it a good idea? Though there might be a couple of exceptions to the rule, a fox does not make for a good house pet for several reasons.
Depending on where you live, it might not be legal for you to keep a fox as a pet. Only 15 states allow the private sector to own a fox as a pet in the United States alone.
The Wild is in the Fox
Even though foxes have become more comfortable living in areas occupied by humans, they are by no means considered to be at all domesticated. These are wild animals who have wild animal needs.
Because of their instinctive nature, people who attempt to own a fox wind up spending most if not all of the fox’s life are trying to remove unwanted behaviors that come naturally. These aren’t dogs bred with a need to be with a man as a survival mode.
Fox are wild animals that can fend for themselves and have no sense incorporated into their being that they need humans at all. Yes, there are times when they may be raised in captivity, but all instincts are there- causing trouble for struggling owners.
They are Difficult to Train
Foxes are notoriously difficult to train, mainly because it has an extremely short attention span. And as we’ve touched upon above, there are certain things that wild animals will have about them that we can’t train out of their system.
Even a well-trained fox will still harbor traits that will never be removed from the animal. Potty training is particularly difficult, as they will often continue going inside the home, particularly when it comes to urinating.
When introduced to human nostrils, Fox has a musk gland that gives off a rather unpleasant scent. This gland (the violet clad) is located at the base of its tail and attracts a mate.
A potential fox mate’s strong sense of smell will catch this musk from a good distance away. On the other hand, so will the people who live in the same house as a pet fox. Some even describe the smell of a fox to be skunk-like.
The Mating Scream
At night, foxes scream, sounding similar to humans during mating season. They do this to catch the attention of a mate and will often happen out of the blue in the middle of the night when the time comes.
Needless to say, unless you live on a good-sized piece of property without any neighbors to be concerned with, this behavior might get you into some trouble.
Not only do they scream, but they also scream and will likely make residents of the home lose a lot of sleep. This is another behavior that is nearly impossible to train out of the fox.
Yes, foxes are dogs, though they don’t share too many similarities. And unlike dogs, they truly make for lousy pets.
If you’re surprised that a fox doesn’t do too well as a pet, perhaps it might be in your interest to check out the Shiba Inu, the Finnish and Indian Spitz, or the Korean Jindo Dog.