This Kitten-Sized Fox is Both Capable and Captivating

Image: Peter Kaminski, Flickr

The fennec fox is the world’s smallest canid, but has surprisingly few predators and is adapted to survive in the harshest environmental conditions.

Vulpes zerda is an omnivore native to the scorching Sahara Desert and other areas around North Africa. The fennec fox weighs anywhere from 1-4 lbs and stands eight inches tall, comparable in size to a domesticated kitten.

Their primary food sources are insects, rodents, rabbits and birds, but like most desert-dwellers, fennec foxes are opportunistic feeders. They can go for long periods of time without a standing water source and have the astounding capacity to absorb plentiful moisture from leaves, fruits, and the bodies of their prey.

Fennec foxes are blanketed in cream-colored coats of fur that keep them warm at night and protected from the blistering rays of the sun by day. They also have extra-furry feet to prevent their paws from burning when walking across hot sand.

Image: Creative Commons

The fox’s most distinctive feature is their giant, oversized ears — similar to those of their bat-eared relative. These ears are undeniably adorable but they also serve an important physiological purpose imperative to the animal’s survival.

A fennec fox’s ears contain a concentration of blood vessels that are close to the skin and spread across a vast surface area, utilized to dissipate heat and in essence serving as the animal’s personal fans. The efficiency of this evolutionary adaptation adequately cools their bodies even on the hottest days.

In addition to being environmentally adaptable, these tiny fennec foxes are extremely feisty — capable of plunging two feet into the air and lunging twice as far forwards, attributing to their adeptness at capturing fast-moving prey. Due to these amazing abilities, it is easy to understand the animal’s relative absence of natural predators. The only true threat to the fennec fox is an African type of eagle owl.

The unique characteristics and sociability of fennec foxes have led to a growing fascination with their domestication. 

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