- Coyotes are wild canines while foxes are within the genus Vulpes, encompassing fewer species.
- Various coloration patterns, body shapes, and sizes of foxes exist, while coyotes are generally uniform in appearance.
- Generally, coyotes are much larger and more muscular than foxes.
If you’ve ever caught a small glimpse of a wild canine roaming around your neighborhood, it is most likely a fox or, depending on where you live, a coyote. The coyote is a specific species of wild canine within the genus Canis; it is closely related to wolves, dogs, and jackals. The fox, on the other hand, is defined as any species within a few different genera, including Vulpes, Lycalopex, and Urocyon.
The coyote is fairly uniform in shape and color, while the fox has a much greater degree of physical variability. These variations encompass everything from the all-white Arctic fox to the big-eared desert-dwelling Fennec fox.
A sharp-eyed person should be able to distinguish a fox and a coyote fairly easily. You just have to know which features to look out for.
Five Cool Facts About Fox vs Coyote
Foxes and coyotes are both members of the Canidae family, but despite some similarities, they have many unique characteristics that set them apart.
Here are five cool facts about foxes and coyotes:
- Coyotes are wild canines whereas foxes are within the genus Vulpes.
- Coyotes are larger and taller than foxes.
- Both foxes and coyotes have non-retractable claws that are well-adapted to their hunting and survival needs.
- Both foxes and coyotes are skilled hunters, but they have different strategies. Foxes are opportunistic predators and will eat a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, and insects. Coyotes, on the other hand, are more specialized and prefer to hunt larger prey, such as deer and rabbits.
- Foxes are known for their cleverness and problem-solving skills. They have been observed using tools, such as pushing balls of snow down hills to create a diversion and catch prey. Coyotes are also intelligent and adaptable, but not in the same way as foxes.
Comparing Fox vs Coyote
Here’s a quick breakdown of the main differences between the fox and the coyote.
|1 to 3 ft (5 ft with tail included)
|3 to 4.5 ft (more than 5 ft with tail included)
|2 to 30 lbs. (1 to 14 kg)
|15 to 50 lbs. (7 to 23 kg)
|Red, gray, brown, black, white, silver, etc.
|Reddish-brown or gray
|Long body, short legs, and big ears relative to the size
|Muscular body, shorter legs, and ears relative to the total size
The 5 Key Differences between Foxes and Coyotes
How can a layman with no particular wildlife training tell the difference between a fox and a coyote? Location is generally the easiest way. If you’re living outside of North America, then you’re almost certainly dealing with a fox, because coyotes have a restricted range. But if you’re living in North America, then identification becomes a lot trickier. You can usually rely on these five basic physical characteristics or behaviors to tell the difference.
Fox vs Coyote: Body Size
On account of its wolf-like heritage, the coyote is, on average, much larger and more muscular than the fox. It usually exceeds 3 feet in length and 2 feet in height. Even the largest species of fox, the red fox, cannot quite measure up to the full size of an adult coyote. Its body is less than 3 feet in length and 20 inches in height. The fox also has much shorter legs and a more tube-shaped body. Many fox species aren’t much larger than your typical house cat, although the thick fur usually makes them appear larger than they really are.
Fox vs Coyote: Coat Color
The coyote usually comes in various shades of gray, interspersed with red around the flanks. The coat color of the fox, by contrast, always varies by species. The most common coat colors are red, gray, silver, and yellowish-brown.
While you might be tempted to believe that the red fox is easy to identify by the rusty red coat color, you should keep in mind that this species also has several different color morphs, including gray, silver, and blackish-brown. The gray color morph of the red fox and the gray fox (a completely separate species from the red fox) are probably the easiest to accidentally mistake for the coyote.
Fox vs Coyote: Tail
The fox has a long, bushy tail, almost as long as the body itself. It is sometimes capped off with a white or black tip. You may notice that the tail has the tendency to hang in the air when the fox runs. The coyote has a shorter tail, relative to body size, and it tends to hang down when the coyote runs. It’s also not quite as bushy as the fox tail.
Fox vs Coyote: Living Arrangements and Social Behavior
The coyote, while not quite as social and gregarious as the wolf, is also a pack animal that lives together with several other family members and even sometimes non-family members. Mating season is the only time the coyote will voluntarily use a den.
Otherwise, they sleep and rest above ground. The fox, by contrast, is a solitary animal outside of the breeding season, sometimes sharing its territory with other members of its immediate family. It lives in a den or burrows with a tunnel network and defined chambers.
Fox vs Coyote: Vocalizations
Coyotes are among the most vocal of all wild canines in the world. They can be identified by their long, plaintive, wolf-like howls, rising and falling in pitch, sometimes interspersed with yips, yelps, and barks. The fox, by contrast, does make some howling noises, but it’s most easily identified by the high-pitched whining or yelping sound. They sound very little like a wolf or dog.
Fox vs Coyote: Lifespan
The lifespan of foxes and coyotes can vary depending on several factors, including species, habitat, and overall health. In general, foxes have a shorter lifespan than coyotes, with most foxes living for 2-4 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity, while coyotes can live for up to 14 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
However, it is important to note that both foxes and coyotes face numerous threats in the wild, including predators, disease, and human activity, which can impact their overall lifespan.
Summary of Key Differences Between Foxes and Coyotes
Here are the key differences between these two species of animals:
|3 ft 2 inches
|3 ft 20 inches – 4 ft
|Varies by species (most commonly red)
|Brown and tan
|Long and busy tail
|Shorter tail that matches body size
|Living Arrangements and Social Behavior
|Social animals living in dens
|Social animals that live in dens
|Howling and yipping with a lower tone
|2-4 years in the wild
|14 years in the wild
Jackals: Fox/Coyote Offspring?
If you’ve ever seen a jackal or even a picture of one, you know that these animals look exactly like a coyote and a fox had offspring. However, jackals are not the product of these two animals mating and are different than either a fox or coyote. In the canine family, jackals are closely related to coyotes. While coyotes live in North and Central America, jackals make their home throughout the Old World.
Summary: Fox vs Coyote
|3 ft long
20 in high
Short legs, tube-shaped body
|3 ft long
2 ft high
Dog-like, long legs
|Red, gray, white, silver, yellow-brown
|Various grays, some red on hind legs
|The long, bushy tail
Trails behind as fox runs
Hangs when coyote runs
|Solitary except during the breeding season
May share territory with immediate family
Dens/burrows to live
|Pack animals with family and non-family
Dens when mating
|Howls, whines, yelps
Can a Coyote be Mistaken for a Fox?
Coyotes are frequently mistaken for domesticated dogs, foxes, and gray wolves. In terms of size, they fall between foxes and gray wolves, typically weighing between 10 to 35 pounds and measuring 18 to 23 inches in shoulder height.
Their coat typically displays a blend of brown, gray, and tan shades, often with black streaks.
Furthermore, the maned wolf, South America’s largest canid, possesses a fox-like appearance and a name that suggests a wolf but is actually not closely related to either.
The photo featured at the top of this post is ©
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How do you tell the difference between a fox vs. a coyote?
The easiest way to identify them is their size and body shape. The coyote has a much larger size, longer legs, a more muscular body, and a thinner tail. The fox, by contrast, has shorter legs, a smaller body, and a bushy tail. It also exhibits a much wider range of coat colors, including white, silver, gray, yellowish-brown, and a strong orange-red coat. In terms of their behavior, foxes are more solitary. They tend to live in dens more often and make a high-pitched yipping sound. Finally, if all else fails, location is a good indicator. Coyotes do not live outside of North America.
Which is heavier, a fox or a coyote?
The coyote is much heavier than the fox. The typical coyote weighs up to 50 pounds. The heaviest ever known specimen weighed some 75 pounds. By contrast, most foxes weigh between 10 to 20 pounds. The heaviest fox ever known was about 38 pounds.
How do you tell apart fox poop vs. coyote poop?
Coyote poop is generally large, smooth, and may taper at one end. It can also contain small bone fragments or hairs of larger prey.
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