Desert Foxes

Desert Foxes

There are 37 fox species in the world that belong to several genus’s. For this article we are only going to consider foxes of the genus “vulpes.” “Fox” is a general term that is used to describe various species of the Canidae family. Vulpes foxes are considered “true foxes” whereas other species are more closely related to dogs and other canine species.

There are 12 species of fox that belong to the Vulpes genus of foxes. They are:

  • arctic-foxThe Arctic foxVulpes lagopus.
  • The Bengal fox – Vulpes bengalensis.
  • Blanford’s foxVulpes cana.
  • The Cape foxVulpes chama.
  • The corsac foxVulpes corsac.
  • The fennec foxVulpes Zerda.
  • The kit foxVulpes macrotis.
  • The pale foxVulpes pallida.
  • The Rüppell’s foxVulpes rueppellii.
  • The red foxVulpes vulpes.
  • The swift foxVulpes velox.
  • The Tibetan sand foxVulpes ferrilata.

If we exclude the fennec fox (since this website is devoted to them) then there are 7 foxes that live in areas that could be considered semi-arid / desert. These 7 desert foxes are: the arctic fox (tundra), Blandford’s fox, the Cape fox, the corsac fox, the pale fox, the Rüppell’s fox and the Tibetan sand fox

So, let’s take a look at these 7 desert foxes in more detail:

The Arctic Fox

This one is cheating a little bit, but technically tundra is a type of desert. This fox is certainly well-adapted to cold snowy environments, here’s why:


  • If we consider all the mammals on the planet, the arctic fox’s fur provides some of the best insulation possible. It also has fur on it’s feet so it can walk on ice and also to retain a constant core body temperature.
  • The arctic fox has a low surface-area to volume ratio and a high level of body fat meaning it does not lose heat easily. They often sleep with their tails wrapped around them to store heat.
  • Also, this incredible creature can change color with the seasons, turning white in winter to blend in with the snow and brown in the summer.

Blanford’s Fox


Eyal Bartov – treknature

This next desert fox likes to inhabit semi-arid regions and steppes across the Sinai peninsula, Afghanistan, Turkestan and Iran. It has some unique adaptations for it’s environment.

  • Unlike other desert foxes it has no fur on its footpads but instead has long, semi-retractable claws. These are perfect for grabbing ledges and negotiating rocky terrain.
  • Like other desert foxes, it has large ears to dissipate heat and track small prey with accuracy.
  • This fox is very small (only the fennec fox is smaller) and it has a tan colored coat to hide well in the desert.

The Cape Fox

This guy likes to inhabit open grasslands but can also be found in semi-arid desert environments meaning the cape fox qualifies as a desert fox. You can find them in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa

photo self taken by Susann Eurich (Kilara)

photo taken by Susann Eurich (Kilara)


  • These small foxes have similar habits to the fennec fox. They dig burrows and hide from the heat of the day and hunt at night.
  • They mate for life and typically live around 8 years.
  • They are omnivorous meaning that they feed mainly on smaller mammals and reptiles with the odd vegetable in-between.
  • Like the fennec fox, large birds of prey consider these guys lunch.


Corsac Fox

This fox is found throughout central asia in deserts, semi-deserts and steppes. They can be found mainly in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.


  • Along with the swift, arctic, red and fennec fox; the corsac fox is one of the species more commonly kept as a pet.
  • Like a true desert fox, this fox does not need much water to survive. It gets most of it’s water from the food that it eats due to the scarcity of water in arid environments.
  • They are good climbers, but slow runners.
  • As you can see, this fox has beautiful fur which, unfortunately has made it a target for fur-trading and poachers.
  • In the wild these guys are nocturnal, but owners have reported them becoming very active in the day when they are kept as pets or in captivity.
  • Males fight for females but like other species in the Vulpes genus they are monogamous and will assist each other in the raising of their young.


Pale Fox

Compared to the other species on this list, very little is known about the pale fox. It’s habitat is very sparse stretching like a band across the African continent from Senegal to Sudan which makes it more difficult to sight and study these foxes.

  • It typically inhabits stony, arid desert-like areas.
  • They live in family communities and spend the days resting in their burrows.
  • At dusk they go out and hunt small mammals. Like other desert foxes they can go without water for long periods of time and get the water they need from their diet.
  • It has a sandy-colored coat, making it difficult to spot.

Rüppell’s fox

Rüppell’s foxes are true desert dwellers. They live in hot, arid, desert areas. You can find them in the same areas as fennec foxes but they are too big to get confused with a fennec fox.

  • By HelmutBoehm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

    By HelmutBoehm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

    The Rüppell’s fox shares many of the same attributes as other desert foxes. You can clearly see the distinctive large ears used for heat control.
  • Just to make it clear that the white powder in the picture is actually sand from Egypt’s white desert in Farafra where temperatures can hit up to 48 degrees celcius.
  • Again this desert fox has the furry feet to protect against the hot sand.
  • Unlike other desert foxes the Rüppell’s fox has a bad reputation and is treated like a pest since it preys on livestock across Arabia.

Tibetan Sand Fox

This guy is a little different than the other desert foxes. First of all, it looks a little bit strange and usually draws a few comments from it’s distinctive looking head and face. Secondly, this guy likes to be up high, it inhabits plains and semi-arid grasslands across Tibet, Western China and Bhutan.

  • tibetan-sand-fox They are usually found between 11,000-17,000 feet around the Tibetan plateau.
  • Out of all the desert foxes, the Tibetan sand fox is the most carnivorous. It’s skull is better designed to masticate meat and it has longer canines.
  • They form hunting alliances with brown bears when hunting for pikas. (not pikachu). The brown bear digs them up and when the pika trys to escape, the Tibetan sand fox chases them down.
  • Like other desert foxes, couples stay together for life.

So, which fox is best at being a desert dweller? Well it’s none of the foxes on this list! When it comes to hardcore, pure desert suvival, the fennec fox is still the best of the desert foxes! Why? Check out our other article to find out.


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