Bat-Eared Fox

Otocyon megalotis

Last updated: September 30, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Marek Velechovsky/Shutterstock.com

Bat-eared foxes can run up to 35 MPH!

Bat-Eared Fox Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Canidae
Genus
Otocyon
Scientific Name
Otocyon megalotis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Bat-Eared Fox Conservation Status

Bat-Eared Fox Locations

Bat-Eared Fox Locations

Bat-Eared Fox Facts

Prey
Insects
Main Prey
Havester Termites
Name Of Young
Kits
Group Behavior
  • Skulk
Fun Fact
Bat-eared foxes can run up to 35 MPH!
Most Distinctive Feature
Large ears
Distinctive Feature
Long thin teeth for eating insects
Gestation Period
60-70 days
Temperament
Social
Age Of Independence
6 months
Litter Size
3-6
Habitat
African savanna/grassland
Diet
Insectivore
Average Litter Size
3-6
Lifestyle
  • Social
  • Diurnal/Nocturnal
Favorite Food
Harvester termites
Location
East and South Africa

Bat-Eared Fox Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • Tan
  • Dark Grey
Skin Type
Fur
Top Speed
32 mph
Lifespan
10-13 years
Aggression
Low

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View all of the Bat-Eared Fox images!



The bat-eared fox’s large pointy ears allow it to hear insects such as termites crawling. They can hear the slightest movements insects make.

The bat-eared fox’s large pointy ears allow it to hear insects such as termites crawling. Their ears can grow to over five inches, allowing them to hear the slightest movements insects make. This species of fox thrives across Southern and Eastern Africa. Bat-eared foxes are beloved by farmers in these regions because they provide natural termite control!

5 Incredible Bat-Eared Fox Facts

  • Male bat-eared foxes are the stay at home parents, while the females hunt for insects most of the day.
  • Bat-eared foxes are important for termite population control in the South and East African regions. They can eat up to 1.2 million termites per year!
  • Bat-eared foxes are generally monogamous, but occasionally, the north African bat-eared fox males will have two females.
  • The main threats to the bat-eared fox’s existence are climate change, rising temperatures, habitat loss, and drought.
  • Since they live in dry arid environments, they rarely drink water. They get most of their water from the food they eat.

Bat-Eared Fox Scientific Name

The bat-eared fox’s official scientific name is Otocyon megalotis. They are part of the candidate family and are related to dogs, wolves, dingos, jackals, coyotes, and other foxes. They are the only extant fox species living in the African savanna, as well as the only insectivorous candid. Previously, the scientific community believed that bat-eared foxes belonged to a particular subfamily due to their distinct teeth, but recent research has concluded that they are closely related to the standard genus Vulpes (foxes).

Bat-Eared Fox Appearance

Bat-eared foxes are easy to spot because of their large distinctive ears. Large ears such as these are commonly found in animals that dwell in arid regions because they help distribute the heat. Bat-eared foxes are relatively small animals measuring 1.5-2 feet long and 11-16 inches tall. They generally weigh between 7 to 9 pounds. They have sand-colored fur that helps them blend into their surroundings. The foxes also have long bushy tails. The outside of their large ears, the tip of their tail, and underneath their eyes are lined with darker fur.

bat-eared fox
Bat-eared foxes use their large ears to regulate their body temperature.

iStock.com/EcoPic

Bat-Eared Fox Behavior

Bat-eared foxes are very social creatures. In fact, if you spot one in the wild, you will likely find several more lingering around. A group of bat-eared foxes is called a skulk. The East African and South African bat-eared foxes differ in a few different behavioral traits. For example, East African bat-eared foxes in the Serengeti are almost entirely nocturnal (85-90% of the time), while South African bat-eared foxes are only nocturnal during the summer and are diurnal during the winter. These foxes usually stick to groups as it helps protect against predators. 

They use their tails and ears for communication. When showing signs of aggression or dominance, a bat-eared fox’s tail will be curved in an upside-down U shape. When they feel threatened, their ears will pull backward, and their hairs will stand up, making the foxes appear larger.

Bat-Eared Fox Habitat

Bat-eared foxes live primarily in arid grasslands, savannas, and acacia woodlands. They thrive in arid or semi-arid environments. They prefer to stay primarily in short grassy areas, but when they feel threatened, the foxes will retreat to tall grass for safety. During the hottest parts of the day, you will likely find bat-eared foxes lounging under acacia trees. They also dig dens to raise their young and protect themselves during extreme weather such as high winds and temperatures.

Bat-Eared Fox Diet

The bat-eared fox is the world’s only insectivorous canid. This means that a vast majority of the fox’s diet consists of insects, specifically harvester termites. Bat-eared foxes have extra teeth to help them eat these insects. A single bat-eared fox can consume up to 1.2 million termites per year!

What Do Bat-Eared Foxes Eat?

Although harvester termites can make up 90% of a bat-eared fox’s diet, they also feast on scarab beetles, moths, scorpions, spiders, and other insects when the termites are in low supply.

What Eats Bat-Eared Foxes?

Bat-eared foxes are very quick and hard to hunt. But they still become prey from time to time. The main predators of bat-eared foxes are leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas.

Bat-Eared Fox Predators and Threats

Many larger mammal species will hunt bat-eared foxes. Their main predators include large predatorial African grassland animals such as leopards, lions, African wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas, and even Central African rock pythons.

Unfortunately, there are also human threats to the bat-eared fox population. Poachers have been known to hunt bat-eared foxes for their pelts. Climate change, habitat loss, and drought are significant threats to these foxes as well.

Bat-Eared Fox Reproduction

Bat-eared foxes mate annually and are generally monogamous, mating for life. However, occasionally northern skulks of bat-eared foxes will mate with two females per male. During mating season, bat-eared foxes dig their dens to prepare babies (kits) to be born. The gestation period for bat-eared foxes is around 60-70 days. After this period, the female will give birth to 3-6 kits. Bat-eared fox kits weigh between 3.5-5 ounces at birth. 

Bat-Eared Fox Babies

Baby bat-eared foxes are called kits and are born in a litter of 3-6.  The kits do not open their eyes for the first nine days after birth. And after day 16 or 17, they will leave their den. They survive on their mother’s milk for the first 15 weeks and then begin learning to forage for insects with their parents. Six months after birth, the kits are fully grown and will likely leave their parents to start breeding.

Bat-Eared Fox Lifespan

Bat-eared foxes live around 10-13 years in the wild. The most prevalent diseases that affect these animals are canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus, and rabies. The oldest recorded bat-eared fox in captivity lived to be more than 17 years old!

Bat-Eared Fox Population

There are two main population regions for the bat-eared fox: East Africa and South Africa. There is no official population estimate for this species, but the population is currently stable with little concern for extinction. However, climate change, rising temperatures, and drought could drastically affect the bat-eared fox population.

Bat-Eared Foxes in Zoos

Bat-eared foxes are commonly found in zoos around the world. You can go visit them in some of the following zoos in the USA.

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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

Bat-Eared Fox FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do bat-eared foxes live?

Bat-eared foxes live in South African and East African grasslands, savannas, and acacia woodlands.

Are bat-eared foxes carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Bat-eared foxes are insectivores, eating a diet entirely of insects.

What are bat-eared fox babies called?

Bat-eared fox babies are called kits.

What do bat-eared foxes eat?

Bat-eared foxes eat insects. Most of their diet consists of harvester termites.

How long do bat-eared foxes live?

Bat-eared foxes live 10-13 years in the wild and up to 17 years in captivity.

What predators do bat-eared foxes have?

The most common predators that will hunt bat-eared foxes are cheetahs, lions, hyenas, leopards, and African wild dogs.

Are bat-eared foxes good pets?

Bat-eared foxes can be kept as pets, but they are not domesticated animals, so they require extra care that a cat or dog would not need.

Are bat-eared foxes nocturnal?

Most bat-eared foxes are nocturnal. East African bat-eared foxes are nocturnal 85-90% of the time, while South African bat-eared foxes are nocturnal during the winter and mostly diurnal during the summer.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Animal Diversity, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Otocyon_megalotis/
  2. Kruger Park, Available here: https://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_bat-eared_fox.html#:~:text=Breeding,gestation%20period%20of%2060%20days.
  3. San Diego Zoo, Available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/bat-eared-fox
  4. Weather, Available here: https://www.weather.gov/

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