13 Adorable Fennec Fox Facts: They Survive In the Desert Without Water For a Year

With an adorable look and large ears, the fennec fox is one of the cutest animals in the world. Its diminutive body and unusually large ear have adapted specifically to desert life. Let’s have a look at interesting facts about the fennec fox to see how it can survive in one of the hardest habitats in the world.

Fennec Fox
Scientific name: Vulpes zerda
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Genus: Vulpes

1. The fennec fox is the smallest in the world

The fennec fox is the smallest fox species in nature. When compared to the other foxes, they are much smaller with 20 centimeters tall (8 inches) and 0.9 to 1.3 kilograms (2 – 3 pounds). That is shorter and weighs a fraction of what the normal house cat does.

Let’s take a look at the red fox – the more popular and widespread cousin of the fennec fox. An average adult red fox is about 91 centimeters (3 feet) long, 60 centimeters (2 feet) tall, and weighs 2.7 – 13.5 (6 – 30 pounds).

Fennec fox is the smallest fox on the plannet

These creatures can’t move very fast because they’re little and have short legs. Fennec foxes may reach speeds of up to 32 kilometers per hour (20 miles/hour). Regardless of the size and weight, this fox is still an expert in hunting. When leaping to catch prey or escape a predator, it can jump 60 centimeters high and 122 centimeters (4 feet) ahead.

Because they are difficult to catch, they don’t have many predators. Humans, jackals, and Verreaux’s eagle-owl are its main predators.

Fennec foxes are not only the smallest foxes, but they are also among the most adorable creatures in the world. Some of the other Cutest Animals articles you may find interesting:

They have long, thick and soft coats which range in color from reddish cream to pale fawn to practically white. Their undersides are completely white, and their tails are thick and have black tips.

2. Natural habitat

Fennec foxes live in North Africa, the Sahara Desert, and as far east as Sinai and Arabia. They build their dens underneath durable dunes. During the day, they excavate a burrow to sleep in and only come out on a cold night. They love dunes with the surrounding vegetation.

3. It is a small fox with big ears

Among many fox species, the fennec fox is the smallest; but it has the largest ears. Their ears are even bigger than the bat-eared fox’s.

The huge ears are one of the fennec fox’s distinctive characteristics which distinguish them from other animals. When fully growing, those ears can expand to be up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. And they are not for show!

Their ears are huge

The enormous ears not only help fennec foxes to detect tasty underground prey but also keep them cool. Both sides of the large ears are entirely exposed. This special feature helps to regulate body temperature by facilitating blood flow in cooling the little foxes with big ears. This permits the fox to keep its body temperature stable even in the hot North African desert.

This is only one of the many adaptations the fox has acquired to help it survive in such tough desert surroundings.

4. Its feet have extra fur

Deserts are not always hot; instead, nights are cold because of a lack of cloud cover which keeps warm temperatures close to the ground. The fox with large ears needs a lot of furs to keep warm at night when the temperature drops. Their thick fur helps to keep them warm during cold nights.

These furs are also essential in the heat. They provide extra traction when crossing dunes and loose sand. The extra fur on the sole of the fennec fox’s feet protects them from the desert’s hot sand.

The fur of the fox ranges in color from reddish cream to pale fawn which is similar to the color of sand. This helps to deflect heat and functions as good camouflage.

This is how they adapt to the desert!

5. They can be kept as pets

In the wild, the fennec fox, a.k.a the desert fox, is a nocturnal animal that builds tunnels for refuge and lives in close family groupings.

Fennec foxes are legal to be domesticated in some countries like Australia, Poland, Holland, Switzerland, Korea, Japan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Djibouti, Turkey, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and the US…

There are some states in the US where keeping a fennec fox as a pet is legal, as long as you have permits. Those states are Texas, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, and Illinois. It’s illegal to own a fennec fox in Canada, California state, the Philippines, India, or Malaysia. You can see where the fennec fox is legal here.

You can own a fennec fox in some countries.

Before buying a fennec fox, just keep in mind that it is not a good pet. They aren’t normally very affectionate with humans, they are shy and easily frightened. Furthermore, fennec fox lives a nightlife, which means it can be hard for you to control their excessive energy levels at a time when most people are asleep.

As wild animals, they have their own specific needs. Training the fennec fox, especially potty training, is extremely difficult. You need to have the correct knowledge to take care of this creature.

A fennec fox can cost you about $1,500 to $3,500. You can get this Sahara desert fox from a trustworthy breeder or rescued organization.

6. It has a strong family life

Fennec foxes are monogamous, which means they mate for life. Their mating season lasts from January to February. Ater mating, the female will go through a 50-day gestation period. She will give birth a litter of 2 to 4 kits between March and April.

When the female is pregnant and feeding her pups, her partner will bring her food and keep her safe. After 60 to 70 days, the offspring are weaned; they reach maturity after around 9 months and begin hunting with their mother if they are old enough. In the wild, their lifespan is about 10 years and in captivity, they live about 13 years.

7. It has a social life

Most foxes are solitary creatures. However, the fennec fox is an exception. They are friendly and social animals. Even as adults, they like being friends to other foxes and joining in play.

They not only have great family lives, but they also love to stick in huge and close-knit social circles. Abound 8 to 10 foxes join and create big groups known as a ‘skulk,” with the majority of them that are family members.

This skulk usually consists of one coupling pair, siblings from past litters, and members of the present litter. The number of food resources available in an area mainly determines the size of the group.

8. They breathe 690 times per minute

We, humans, will breathe from 12 to 20 each minute on average. This speed on foxes is quicker. Their breathing rate on average is about 24 breaths per minute. Fennec foxes start to pant as the temperature increases.

Throughout this time, a fennec fox can take up to 690 breaths in 1 min, which is 30 times faster than its typical breathing rate. They can maintain their core temperature consistent under the hot sun by constantly inhaling and exhaling.

9. They’re excellent communicators

Since they live in huge family groups with complicated social interactions similar to humans, fennec foxes have acquired remarkable communication abilities.

To create social rank while playing, young and adult fennec foxes interact with one another using a variety of vocalizations, such as growls, shrieks, barks, brief chatters, and repeated whimpers, howls, and squeaks. Even though having a small size, fennec foxes have a powerful bark.

Are fennec fox carnivores

To attract attention, this tiny fox with big ears screams or produces a high-pitched “eh-eh-eh” type of call. When protecting food, they can yip or make a “Nya-nya-nya” sound. When fennec foxes are pleased, touched, or safe, they will make a chirpy and tiny trill. When threatened or intruded, they will screech to defend themselves.

10. Water isn’t important that much

To survive, most living creatures need to take water from ponds, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, or rain puddles. Fennec foxes, on the other hand, don’t need to take water from these water sources. Without free-standing water, these foxes can still survive for a long time. You can see how well-adapted to desert habitat they are!

Their kidneys have been specially designed to retain water. Furthermore, they survive the Sahara desert heat by consuming roots, leaves, and fruits.

Fennec foxes, as omnivores, eat a diverse diet that includes reptiles, locusts, birds, grasshoppers, eggs, rodents, insects, and lizards. They also obtain water by sucking dew from the walls of their burrow.

This is how they survive in the desert!

11. They live a nightlife

Fennec foxes are nocturnal, which means they live and hunt at night. They stay cool by napping in their cool, underground burrows during the hottest period of the day. As the night comes, they go out and look for food. Its superior night vision allows it to see and find prey in the dark.

12. Fennec foxes are good diggers

Fennec foxes love burrowing and they are good diggers as much as prairie dogs and rattlesnakes are. They can burrow up to 6 meters (20 feet) underground! They’ll look for a shady plant and dig a hole around its base, using the plant’s roots as a natural support.

These litter foxes shelters in these burrows to avoid their main natural predator, the eagle owl. Before giving birth, the female would use leaves to fill their tunnels.

13. Conservation status

The fennec fox is not listed as endangered species. They are now classified as the least concerned animals. Its populations, however, seem to be in danger. They are not only affected by habitat loss and global warming, but they are also frequently hunted across the Sahara for pets, for sale, or for exhibition. They may even be at risk of roadkill. All of these make them rarer than before.

Fennec foxes do not cause any serious harm to humans or livestock. In fact, they play an important role in controlling the number of locusts and rodents. Rodent overpopulation is a direct risk to the ecosystem and crops. That’s why small predators like fennec foxes are very vital.


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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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