The fox

David Chapman

The fox's beauty captivates wildlife writer and photographer, David Chapman.

I live in the countryside with my wife and we keep animals - including chickens - so there is something inside me which tells me that I shouldn’t like seeing foxes around the place; but I do. In fact I feel privileged when I see one, particularly if it is with cubs.

It still seems a little strange that foxes are so scarce in the countryside when compared with towns. They have been able to adapt exceptionally well to living alongside people in urban areas so I am a little envious of people that live in towns and have a fox’s den under the shed in their garden!

Within their territory foxes will have many lairs, these are places where they can hide and sleep. Their dens are more substantial, often having several entrances for safety and this is where they retreat to give birth in spring. Foxes have just one family per year and the vixen usually gives birth to four or five cubs in March. 

The mother stays with them at the den for about three weeks and then continues to provide milk for them until they are around two months old. During this time the young foxes remain in an area close to their den so it is often around the end of April or during May that we first see fox cubs emerging and what more wonderful a sight can we hope to see in our gardens?

The fact that the path of the fox often crosses ours is the reason why its name has been used in so many other words and terms. To fox someone means to confuse them, which is a reference to the slyness of a fox; we have foxhound, foxbeagle, foxterrier, foxbolt, foxevil, foxsleep, foxhole, foxtrot, flying fox, fox moth to name but a few. 

There are games named after the fox including fox and geese, a game that I can well remember playing on a draughts board. Ironically the name of the foxglove wasn’t originally derived from the fox, it was a glove belonging to the little folk or folk’s glove until it was corrupted to the more popular variation.

Someone who is 'foxy' is a bit crafty though the term can appertain to coarseness of flavour or smell; the distinctive reddish colour or even to one who is a little sexy. To me a fox in its prime is all of those things and more.

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