Do Foxes Bark? Let's Learn About What A Fox Actually Says!

Arpitha Rajendra
Feb 22, 2023 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Yelling Red Fox Standing and screaming in A National Park
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 11.2 Min

Red fox and other species of foxes make different sounds to communicate, which are just loud noises for many of us.

Fox vocalizations do not only include loud screams and barks. These wild animals have vocal cues or calls that humans cannot often hear.

Foxes are omnivorous mammals and are small or medium in size. They are classified within the Canidae family of dogs. They have triangular ears that stand upright on their flattened skulls. Foxes have a long bushy tail behind them and slightly upturned snouts. Vulpes genus is a monophyletic group of true foxes with twelve species. There are around 25 extinct or extant species that are sometimes or always referred to as foxes. There are foxes found in every part of the world except Antarctica. The most widespread fox species is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), with around 47 subspecies. Foxes are also popular in folklore for their cunning nature. In the wild, foxes usually live between one to three years. However, many individuals have lived up to ten years of age. Foxes do not always stay in packs, like many canids. Some are solitary, while others form small family groups. These omnivores primarily feed on invertebrates like insects and vertebrates like birds and reptiles. There are different sounds that foxes use to communicate.

Many fox species are listed as endangered in their native habitats. Foxes face the threat of hunting for control or trading and habitat loss. Although foxes are considered pests themselves, they are used as pest control on fruit farms without damaging any fruit. This animal is quite adapted to human environments, and many are even called 'resident urban carnivores.' Although active during dusk and dawn, foxes can get on top of a roof of a shed or house to sunbathe in the morning. Foxes in urban settings have a smaller litter in the mating season and also live longer than those in the wild. Urban foxes display an altered behavior when compared to the ones in the wild. Red foxes are most important for their fur in the fur trade. Red foxes' fur is used to make muffs, coats, jackets, trimmings, and scarfs. The most valued fur comes from red foxes of North America, particularly of northern Alaska.

If you enjoy reading these facts about whether foxes bark, then make sure to read some more interesting facts about are foxes nocturnal and are foxes omnivores here at Kidadl.

What does it mean when a fox barks?

A fox's bark can be used to tell two individuals apart from each other. The high-pitched bark is used to establish territory, alert cubs for recognition and during the mating season.

Barking is a common noise or a call you often hear from a dog. Other animals produce this sound, like coyotes, wolves, seals, and quolls, including foxes. 'Woof' is the phonetic imitation that is used to describe this call. 'Bark' is also the word used for the sharp, loud cry produced by many animals. A strong hypothesis suggests that dogs' vocal communication was developed due to domestication. There are also different types of barks, like playful barks and noisy barks.

Some foxes live in packs that are known as leashes. There are mostly vixens, young pups, other siblings, foxes of breeding age, and also mates. Unlike coyotes and gray wolves, red foxes do not form and live in packs or leashes. However, young kits form small families with their mothers or might stay in the same territory. They will use their body language and senses to communicate with each other. However, vocal cues are vital for the red fox and any other species of fox. So, the main method for communication is through barking. Kits play-fight with each other and even with other animal species. Play-fighting with litter mates allows kits to establish a pecking order and also improves their fighting skills. These animals might even bark while playing. Newborn foxes bark to keep their mother close. Barking is a way to communicate with individuals in close proximity. The bark is also used by foxes as a contact call to reach out to rivals or friends. Foxes can recognize each other based on an individual's bark. Female foxes will bark to protect their young ones and also alert them to any kind of danger.

These wild animals are not properly domesticated like dog species are from wolves, which made vixens and male foxes less familiar to early humans who first described the sounds of many other animal vocalizations. So, it is not an easy task to describe fox vocalizations or noises that are not as recognizable as 'woof' or 'meow' in dogs and cats.

Why would a fox bark at night?

Foxes bark at night to keep predators and other foxes away.

Foxes come in various colors, but common ones are shades of red. A dark but faint red line runs along their backs. Foxes have dog-like physical characteristics but are lightly built. Male foxes are usually slightly larger than female foxes. They have black color behind their ears, black paws, white tail tips, faint black muzzles, white stockings, and white throats and undersides.

Although foxes are close relatives of dogs, they mostly hunt like cats by laying low, close to the ground, and stalking their prey. They use their thin sharp teeth to bite through their prey, while wolves and dogs have blunt teeth. Foxes, like cats, are nocturnal and usually hunt at night. They might also come out to hunt at night. Foxes feed on mice, snakes, shrews, bugs, fruits, and seeds. You will usually hear foxes screaming at night. You might even hear their screams around your neighborhood or in your garden. This bark is shrill and frightening. Many say that this scream sounds like a human baby. This is one of the reasons many purchase fox-repellents. Foxes tend to scream a lot more around the mating seasons, even at night. Sometimes these animals scream to scare off predators at night. Males will join females and scream together to get rid of a predator on their turf. They will all produce a short scream of aggression. Male foxes attack the predator only if it does not go away. Predators of these animals are larger animal species like jackals, wolves, eagles, and felines.

Fox vocalizations do not exactly sound like dogs' barks. Foxes' barks are high-pitched because foxes are mostly smaller than many breeds of dogs. So, a fox's call or bark sounds like an almost yippy 'wow-wow-wow-wow'.

Beautiful red brown fox screaming in Wild park

Why do foxes scream?

Foxes scream to attract mates. Vixen (female) or male foxes know they are ready to mate, and they also scream during and after mating season from late winter to early spring.

Foxes tend to scream, producing a lot of noise around an area for many reasons. Foxes' screams can be heard before and after mating. These loud screams make communication easier between foxes. Of all the vocalizations, the scream is the most well-known, especially at night. All fox species scream, but the most noted species to make these noises is the red fox as it is a common animal in urban settings. The scream is defined as high-pitched, defining, and terrifying. The scream sounds like someone screaming for help. Red foxes produce the scream in sets that start and stop every 3-10 seconds. A fox scream is often heard in winter in urban areas. The reason behind this is that the scream tends to travel more than usual due to lack of vegetation and cold air and not because foxes use more vocalizations in winter. Fox species cooperate with their kind using body language and communication. Many people think that a fox might scream only when it is hurt or fighting. However, this is not true as a fox uses scream sounds as contact calls trying to reach out to their kind. So, screaming is a fox's way of social interaction.

The red fox reproduces in spring, once a year. Female foxes produce a drawn-out, monosyllabic 'waaaaah' sound in the breeding season to attract a mate. The gestation period in female foxes lasts up to 49-58 days. The small fox family stays together only in the breeding season. Male foxes are also known to scream during the mating season. Male foxes tend to travel a lot in search of a receptive mate. So, they will even leave their territory and travel through other fox's territory. If a male fox comes across another male, both produce explosive barks. Also, after a male finds his mate in the mating season, he will scream to warn rivals to stay away. Female foxes are also known to scream when mating, which can go on for over 20 minutes. Even after mating, the pair will continue to scream as they lock together. Foxes, especially females, can scream at humans as they view us as intruders in their territory. So, make sure not to walk close to any fox's den. Foxes are also a prey species for many animals. When they are surprised, shocked, or threatened by a predator, they tend to scream. Foxes usually face more threats from coyotes and wolves than any other animal. A fox screaming is quite natural, and you do not have to worry if you hear one screaming around the area.

While vixens take care of kits, fathers provide food to all of them. Vixens tend to be protective of their newborn kits. They will even fight and produce screams to protect kits. If a mother dies around the mating season, then the father looks after the young ones.

What is the real sound that a fox makes?

Fox sounds are yelps, whines, growls, barks, combative calls, and explosive calls. They also have a loud howl, among other noises.

You now know that foxes are highly vocal animals. However, like other canid species, foxes will not vocalize together as a group. A family of foxes will occupy territories within the same area. Each fox has a distinctive voice, which helps them stay in touch with its relatives. One single voice spans over a five-octave range. A German ethologist named Gunter Tembrock recorded 28 various kinds of sounds of fox in 1963. These recordings include sounds of submission, contact, alarm, greeting, and more. In a more recent research paper in 1993, Nick Newton-Fisher and his colleagues analyzed fox sounds that were based on 585 recordings. This team identified 20 types of fox calls that were based on the recordings and field observations of fox vocal behaviors. Eight of these calls were used only by kits, with adults sticking to barks or yelling barks most of the time. Stephan Harris, in 2004, stated that foxes make over 20 calls throughout a year, but foxes are mostly heard in winter.

Unlike many canid species, fox species are not biphonic, and they only make low-frequency sounds, which means that yaps and whines are produced but not squeaking noises. Typically, a newborn kit will make whelping noises for its mother's attention. This sound later develops into rhythmic yelping over three weeks. Either yelping or whelping can be used when a kit gets lost or isolated. A lonely kit will make a warbling sound. As young ones mature, their vocals change. Huw Llyod described the way in which a red fox kit's whining care call changes into sets of infantile barks around their 19th week, and this becomes their contact call when young adults move to a new territory. When the young ones are a month old, they use defensive or threatening open mouth spitting or hissing when threatened. This is noted, as per Llyod's description, as the call that turns into the combative, open-mouth gekkering of adult foxes. Gekkering is a noise made during a foxtrot dispute by two adults. Both foxes rise, standing on their hind legs. They then place their paws on the other's shoulder, mouths open, and push each other.

A sharp cough from a mother fox will send pups looking for cover. She makes a low growling sound when she finds food for her pups. A vixen's stomach vibrates when she low growls. It was also noted by Mike Towler that females produce a soft mew when calling out to a particular pup while other pups ignore her. It is a way of calling a kit by name. There is also another observation where the mother produces low grunts when the pups are suckling. The sharp yapping bark is called a staccato bark, which is used by a group to stay in touch. For declaring a territory, foxes use 'wow-wow'. A low warbling version of this call is produced to let pups know that it is all clear. It is also used by males when they leave food for vixens near dens. A whimpering growl is used by foxes to greet each other, and sometimes a whimpering yap is produced by submissive foxes when they come across elder or dominant foxes. The usual bark is used to pinpoint dangers.

Domesticated foxes also have extensive vocalizing noises and many similar to wild foxes. Humans are familiar with how the body language of a dog is associated with a sound in particular situations, which provides meaning to any kind of call. This also applies to foxes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for 'Do foxes bark?', then why not take a look at 'Can foxes breed with dogs?' or 'Fox facts'?

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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