One of the cleverest animals is the fox, and hundreds of stories have been told of his cunning. When pursued by hounds, he will wade brooks or leap on the backs of running sheep to break the trail of scent which the dogs are following. Sometimes he will pretend to be dead, even allowing himself to be handled, in the hope of finding an opportunity to escape later. His bright eyes, sharp muzzle (nose and mouth), pointed cars and bushy tail all make him look watchful and lively.
Foxes belong to the dog family and they are all much the same to look at, except in colour, and have similar habits. Their homes are generally burrows in the ground, called 'earths', which they leave at night to hunt birds, rabbits, mice, poultry and frogs. The vixen, or mother fox, has four to six cubs at a time, generally in March or April, and their eyes do not open for about a fortnight.
Foxes are found in more parts of the World than any other animal. They now live in every continent, although they were taken to Australia by man in order to help keep down the rabbits.
The red fox is found in parts of Europe, Asia and North America. It is about three feet long from its nose to the tip of its tail, the tail itself being 12 to 16 inches long. It stands about one foot high. Its back is reddish brown and its face red, while the body is white underneath and the tail a mixture of black and white. The American red fox is slightly larger and has longer hair.
The silver fox of Canada, which is black with white-tipped hairs, is a colour variety of the red fox. The cross fox looks like a mixture between the red and the silver fox, but is just another form of the red fox, with a dark cross on the back and shoulders.
The Arctic fox, which is found in countries round the North Pole, has a shorter and stouter body than the red fox. In summer its fur is brownish on the back but in winter it turns completely white. The blue fox is a colour variety of the Arctic fox and is smoky grey throughout the year.
The raising of silver and blue foxes was a profitable business, for their winter pelt, or coat, was very valuable. The first silver fox farms were started on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and then all over the colder parts of North America as well as in suitable parts of Europe. At first these foxes were allowed to run loose, but it was found that silver foxes did just as well in pens. Blue foxes are still kept in a semi-wild state on islands near the Alaska coast.
Another interesting kind of fox is the fennec of the Sahara Desert in North Africa, which lives on mice and insects. This is not much more than a foot long, stands about eight inches high and has very large ears. The long-eared fox of South and East Africa feeds mainly on white ants and other insects.
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