There are thirty-seven types of foxes, but researchers only consider twelve of those species’ true foxes. Of those twelve species, nine mates for life, one can mate for life or mate with multiple females, and little information is available about two species – the Pale Fox and the Swift Fox.
Scientists classify twelve fox species in the Vulpes genus as “true foxes.” We are looking at the mate bonding relationships in these twelve species that include:
- Arctic fox
- Bengal fox
- Blanford’s fox
- Cape fox
- Corsac fox
- Fennec fox
- Pale fox
- Red fox
- Rüppell’s fox
- Swift fox
- Tibetan sand fox
The Arctic fox is monogamous and known to mate for life. Arctic foxes live in family groups of paired males and females and their current litter. Both the male and female raise their pups. Sometimes an adolescent female from the previous year’s litter will also stick around the family group and help care for her younger siblings.
The Bengal fox is another fox species that are usually monogamous and mates for life. Bengal foxes live in family groups of paired males and females and their current litter. Both the male and female raise their pups. Sometimes pups from the previous year’s litter will remain close to the family territory forming larger family groups.
Bengal foxes are also known to form mothering groups where multiple lactating vixens den together. Researchers have observed groups of at least four mothering females sharing a single fox den at one time.
The Blanford’s fox is an entirely monogamous species, mating for life. Blanford’s foxes live in overlapping territories, so the male and female foxes interact less frequently than other species.
After mating, the female will raise the kits in her den. Once old enough to eat food, the male may help bring food for his offspring. Scientists have observed some Blanford foxes providing more nurturing care to their young, including rituals like grooming their young.
The Cape fox is another monogamous fox that pairs with a mate for life. Despite being monogamous, Cape foxes maintain separate territories that overlap and only come together during mating season.
Both male and female Cape foxes care for their offspring, with the male bringing food to the den for the female while she is feeding the kits. Once old enough to leave the fox den, Cape fox young often stay close to their home territory and sometimes even steal food from their younger siblings.
The Corsac fox mates for life and maintains a lifelong bond with its mate. Corsac foxes are nomadic and have no fixed home range. After mating, female Corsac foxes build a den where they can give birth. Sometimes the female shares this birthing den with other pregnant females.
Once the Corsac litter is born, the male assists the female in caring for their offspring.
The Fennec fox pairs with a single mating partner for life. After mating, the male Fennec fox becomes very protective of his mate.
Fennec foxes live in family groups. These groups include a mother and father Fennec fox and their offspring. Occasionally, multiple families will live in a communal den.
The Kitfox is almost always monogamous and often pairs with a single mate for life. There are some instances of male Kit foxes being polygamous and mating with multiple females. Kitfox pairs stay together year-round, and after the birth of their litter, the male assists in feeding and raising the young.
The Pale Fox is one of the least known “true fox” species, but researchers believe that this is a monogamous species. Researchers know little about this nocturnal species but believe that bonded pairs live in small family groups with their most recent litter.
The red fox is monogamous and mates for life. Red foxes live in family groups of paired males and females and their current litter. Offspring of previous years also tend to live in overlapping territories. Both the male and female raise their pups together and pups from a scrap of earlier years often help raise their younger siblings.
Like most true fox species, the Rüppell’s fox is monogamous and mates for life, although scientists have seen multiple pairs living in the same area but with distinct territories. Rüppell’s foxes live in an environment that often overlaps with the red fox territory and live together in pairs alongside their offspring.
The swift fox is another lesser-known fox species, but researchers have observed some of this species engage in monogamous relationships, where other males mate with multiple females. Monogamous Swift fox males do help raise their offspring.
Tibetan sand fox
The Tibetan sand fox is a monogamous species and mates for life. Tibetan sand foxes live in family groups of paired males and females and their current litter. The offspring stay with both parents for as long as ten months until they are old enough to survive on their own, leaving the den to establish their territory.
Monogamy in the Animal Kingdom
Although not many animals are monogamous, there are benefits for those animals that are monogamous. These benefits include:
- A consistent mate with whom to have offspring.
- Investing time into raising offspring with a mate creates a stronger connection between males and females.
- Monogamy is the only feasible plan to have offspring for animals that live in or spend much of their time in extreme or isolated territories.
- Having multiple parents to raise offspring also ensures better survival rates in areas where food is scarce.
Conclusion / Summary
Of the twelve species of true foxes, nine are monogamous and mate for life. For the most part, the Kit Fox is monogamous, but scientists have seen some males mating with multiple females. Researchers believe that the Pale fox and the Swift fox are monogamous; however, they are more elusive species, and not much data is available on their mating habits.