In particular the Red Fox or Vulpes vulpes to give it its proper classification. The modern English word Fox comes from the proto-Germanic word fukh, the Old Norse foa, all stemming from the Proto-Indo-European word *puk meaning ‘the tail of it’. This is completely understandable when you see a red fox’s big bushy red tail with its white tip. In fact it’s probably the most distinguishing feature of the red fox.
Foxes are Canids of the Vulpini tribe, medium sized with a long narrow snout, pricked ears and that indomitable bushy tail, otherwise known as the ‘brush’. In the wild foxes can live up to 10 years old but it’s more likely only 2 or 3 years because of hunting, diseases and road accidents. The males are called Reynards and weigh about 13 pounds, whilst the females, or Vixens are only about 11 pounds.
Unlike many other members of the Canid family, foxes are not usually pack animals although they tend to live in small family groups consisting of the mother and cubs along with the father. However often it is just mum and cubs. Litters sizes vary depending on the availability of food, the average sized litter is four to five but some litters have been known to be as large as eleven cubs. Unfortunately not all baby foxes live until their first birthday. They are opportunistic feeders hunting live prey (small mammals such as rabbits, mice and birds as well as insects) but they will also raid rubbish bins and are often seen at the edges of land-fill sites, where they root around for discarded food that us humans have thrown away. They will also eat fruits and berries.
Red foxes either establish a home range or have no fixed abode. They mark their territory with urine which has a strong acrid scent even us humans can smell. Red foxes may leave their families once they reach adulthood if the chances of winning a territory of their own are high. If not, they will stay with their parents, at the cost of postponing their own reproduction.
The Red Fox features prominently in folklore and mythology. In Greek mythology the Teumessian fox, child of Echnida, was a gigantic animal that was destined never to be caught. It was sent to prey on the children of Thebes as a punishment. However, Amphitryon fetched the magical dog Laelaps who was destined to catch everything it chased. At this Zeus turned the two beasts to stone and they were cast into the heavens.
In European folklore Reynard the Fox is a symbol of trickery and deceit and he appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (The Nun’s Priest’s Tale), where many of his adventures probably stem from observations of actual fox behaviour. For example, in the tale Reynard is fond of blackberries and grapes, and it is well known that foxes do eat all kinds of edible berries to supplement their diet.
The fox also appears in many other cultural mythologies – Chiniese, Japanese, Arabian, Hebrew, Native American as well as others. In all of these, as well as European, the fox is portrayed as cunning, sly or deceitful, which is a shame because the fox is nothing of the sort. Yes, he is extremely clever, resourceful and elusive but sly and deceitful? NEVER!
It is reckoned that in Britain now there are more foxes living in urban areas than there are in the countryside. In fact, in 2006 it was estimated that there were about 10,000 foxes living in London. Why so? Well, urban living has certain advantages for foxes – more food and relatively few predators. Because of this urban foxes are normally larger than their country brothers and sisters and have the potential to live longer. Moreover, some researchers even postulate that the urban fox is evolving into a different species from its countryside cousin due to its largely man-made diet, different survival skills (e.g. its ability to cross roads safely), a lack of natural fear of humans and its larger size.
In one of my earlier posts ~ D is for Directions I talked about the animals that represented the cardinal points in my own spiritual path. For the West I have the Fox as my Guardian. It seems, at first, a bit strange to have fox in the west but let me enlighten you. As with all the animal guardians I have, fox came to me through personal experience. I have often observed fox on the edges of fields, weaving his way through the undergrowth – seen and unseen, suddenly there and just as suddenly not there. Elusive is a great word to describe fox. He is especially seen at the twilight times – at dusk and just before dawn. Many are the times I’ve watched my local family of foxes scout our street for pickings from the rubbish bags left outside for the trash men. They weave in and out of the parked cars, up and down the garden paths, in and out of shadows…you see them…then you don’t! I have even sat silently and still in my own back garden with a fox not 5 feet in front of me…and he sat there just watching me back. I think he was daring me to make the first move. Suddenly he vanished before my very eyes back to the woods at the back of my house. It was an amazing experience. I’ve also met fox in my shamanic journies, where he offered to be my guide for the West, although he told me he doesn’t particularly like getting his feet wet.
Associations for Fox: Feminine magic, camouflage, shapeshifting, invisibility, controling and changing the aura, energy balance, feminine creative energy, alertness.
Power times: Night, Dawn, Dusk
References: Wikipedia (Internet), The Fox Website (Internet), Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.