What’s a Female Fox Called: Ultimate Guide

A female fox is commonly known as a vixen. The origin of this name stretches back to Old English. The male fox, on the other hand, has several names.

It can be called a dog fox or a tod, or even a reynard. Baby foxes are known as pups, kits or cubs. For casual observers, it can be tricky to tell the difference between an adult vixen and a dog fox.

Vixen is a word with some unexpected associations. While many of us associate it with women, we wouldn’t automatically picture a red fox.

Other uses of the word, to describe a shrill or flirty woman, are potentially related to this original fox meaning.

Why are female foxes called vixens?

The word “vixen”, meaning female fox, actually comes from the word “fox” itself – although it may not sound like it to our ears. “Fox” is an Old English word, and one that once had a feminine version – “fyxe”. This became “fixen”, pronounced with the old Southern English accent.

In this manner, “f” was pronounced the same as “v”. From there, it’s easy to see how “vixen” came about.

Nowadays, the word “vixen” may not seem to have much in common with “fox” at all, due to many small changes across the centuries. “Vixen” is also one of the few words to have retained this old Southern English pronunciation and the feminine form, making it quite unique!

Exactly why the term “vixen” was later given to a shrew woman is perhaps not entirely clear, even if the usage does date back a long time.

The first use of the word “vixen” to indicate an ill-tempered woman can be seen in the 16th Century. From there, it’s also not clear how “vixen” came to describe a sexual and flirtatious woman. It’s thought to be perhaps a combination of the fiery temper of a shrew, vixen woman, and the habit of describing attractive people as being “a fox”.

What are the differences between male and female foxes?

Unlike other mammals, there’s actually very little difference between the male and female fox. Simply from looking at a fox, it may be difficult to determine the sex at all.

You’d need to get closer, and perhaps try comparing two, to get a really accurate idea of whether it’s a vixen or a dog fox.

Generally, the male fox is slightly larger than the female. In the gray, red, and fennec fox species, the male is larger, but not by very much.

The male arctic fox weighs significantly more than the female, but it doesn’t have a particularly longer body. And while the male red fox has larger teeth than the female, this isn’t something many of us want to get close enough to observe.

Potentially, the head shape can be used to identify gender. Male foxes have a wider skull, compared to the narrower vixen. However, as some females can have quite a square head shape, this isn’t always an accurate identifier.

The most obvious difference between the male and female fox is the genitals. The dogs have a sheath containing the penis, while the vixens do not. Again, most don’t want to get close to investigate.

If two foxes were standing next to each other, it’s possible to see that the male is larger. However, if you’re simply spotting foxes in the wild, it can be almost impossible to tell if you have a dog or a vixen.

In terms of behavior, there are some minor differences between the sexes. Male foxes are more aggressive, and more likely to mark their territory by urinating. Vixens are less aggressive, and spend several months at a time in the den, raising their cubs.

Both sexes are family-orientated, staying together to take care of the young. A cub will stay with its parents for up to seven months, and the female cubs have been observed staying even longer. 

Are there any other names for female foxes?

No, they’re only known as vixens. The male fox, however, has a couple of different names to it. Sometimes known as a dog fox or a tod, it’s also occasionally referred to as a “reynard”. This is in reference to a series of Medieval fables, centered around a trickster fox known as Reynard. The stories were so popular, the name became a shorthand for “fox”.

Baby foxes are also known by a few different terms. A baby fox can be referred to as either a pup, kit, or cub.

Are there any other animals known as vixens?

No, only the female fox is known as the vixen. Although Vixen the Reindeer – one of Santa’s sleigh pullers – may be perhaps the most famous animal with the name, a female reindeer is known as a cow.

Chad Fox

Chad Fox is an author and researcher dedicated to bringing reliable information about foxes to the public. He supports animal sanctuary awareness.

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