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(true foxes), a genus of predatory mammals of the family Canidae. The muzzle is narrow, and the ears are erect and pointed. The tail is long and bushy. The fur is dense and soft. The coloration ranges from various shades of red to gray with a reddish cast. The teeth are of the carnivorous type; the cheek teeth have sharp cutting tips. There are six species (according to some sources, seven). They are distributed on all the continents except Antarctica and have been introduced into Australia.
There are three species in the USSR: the Old World red fox (V. vulpes), the corsac fox (V. corsak), and the gray hoary fox (V. cana). The Old World red fox is the largest species, with a body length of 60–90 cm, a tail length of 40–60 cm, and a weight of up to 10 kg. The coloration varies. Generally, the upper part of the body and the sides are yellowish red and the under parts and the tip of the tail are white.
In the USSR the bright red colored Old World red foxes are found in the north and northeast; the ones in the south are of paler coloration, sometimes almost gray. Entirely white (albinos) or entirely black (melanics) individuals are sometimes encountered. Old World red foxes are distributed everywhere in the USSR and are particularly abundant in the steppes and deserts. They feed primarily on mouselike rodents, as well as on rabbits, birds, and carrion. The animals mate in February or March (in the middle zone); the gestation period lasts 51 days. The young (from three to 12) are born and reared in the den. Tree plantings in the steppe zone, the planting of long-stemmed crops, and the irrigation of deserts promote the proliferation of Old World red foxes.
The gray hoary fox is smaller than the Old World red fox, with a body measuring up to 50 cm long. The tail is very long and bushy. It is distributed in the eastern part of Southwest Asia. In the USSR it is found in the southernmost parts of Middle Asia. (For information on the corsac fox seeCORSAC.)
The Vulpes are economically important animals because of their valuable fur. They are beneficial since they destroy harmful rodents. The silver fox, which was bred from the Canadian subspecies of red fox V. vulpes fulvus, is important in cage fur farming. In fur farms in the USSR various mutant forms of the silver fox have been developed, including the platinum fox, the white fox, the snow fox, and the tricolored fox. The breeding of silver foxes in the USA, Canada, and Scandinavian countries, which was extensive before the 1940’s, has practically ceased.
REFERENCESMlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2, part 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1967.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.
I. I. SOKOLOV