Foxes and wolves – especially red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and grey wolves (Canis lupus) – have captured imaginations for millennia. Think back to some of your favorite children’s stories, such as the Big, Bad Wolf in The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood, or the crafty fox in The Gingerbread Man.
If you spotted them in the wild, could you tell the difference between a fox and a wolf? With the help of this guide, you can! What, though, would happen if a fox and a wolf crossed paths? Would they fight? Who would win? Keep reading as we examine those questions.
Fox vs Wolf
Wolves and foxes share the same habitat but are relatively easy to tell apart because of the great difference in size. They also differ in coloration, behavior, and vocalization.
Where do foxes and wolves live? Grey wolves and red foxes can be found throughout the continents of the Northern Hemisphere – North America, Europe, and Asia. The red fox has also be introduced to Australia, though it is not native to that land.
Comparing Wolves vs Foxes
When you see a dog-like mammal in the wild, consider these identifying factors. Let’s consider each of these traits in more detail.
|Grey Wolf||Red Fox|
|Size:||Height 2.8 ft at shoulder, weight up to 180 lbs||Height 1.3 ft at shoulder, weight up to 31 lbs|
|Coloration:||Typically grey with white, black, brown, or reddish markings||can be solid white or black – Red with white markings|
|Behavior:||Social pack hunter||solitary|
|Vocalization:||Howls, barks, and yips||Screams and barks|
The 4 Key Differences Between Red Foxes and Grey Wolves
Can you tell the difference between a red fox and a grey wolf? Let’s examine their differences in size, coloration, behavior, and vocalization in more detail.
1. Size: Height and Weight
The most apparent difference between foxes vs wolves is their size. Adult male grey wolves are bigger than most large domestic dog breeds. They stand up to 2.8 ft at the shoulder and weigh up to 180 lbs. Females are typically smaller.
The red fox, on the other hand, is the size of a large cat or medium-sized dog. It stands about 1.3 ft at the shoulder and weighs only 31 lbs. That means the grey wolf is six times the fox’s size! These differences in size are readily apparent even from a distance or in low light conditions.
The grey wolf and red fox were both named for their fur coloration. That makes it easy to remember that the grey wolf is primarily grey in color, and the red fox is an orangish-red.
Each species does exhibit color variations, however. Grey wolves may have brown, white, black, or reddish markings. Some are solid white or solid black. One North American subspecies is known as the red wolf. As its name suggests, its fur is reddish in color.
There are also several related species of fox that share the range of the red fox. The silver fox and grey fox each exhibit a greyish coloration, with black, brown, or red markings. And a Russian selective breeding experiment undertaken in the twentieth century revealed that even more color combinations (such as white with brown spots) are possible for foxes. These do not occur in the wild, however.
Foxes and wolves belong to the same taxonomic family – Canidae, the dogs – and as such have many behaviors in common. They make dens in the ground to raise young. They are carnivores who hunt mammals. Yet, their behavior is also very different in two important aspects – their social order and what they hunt.
Wolves are pack hunters with highly sociable personalities. They live in groups and work as a team to bring down large prey, including deer, sheep, caribou, and bison.
Foxes, on the other hand, have a solitary personality and are generally only seen in groups when raising young. Adult foxes spend little time together. They do not hunt in packs, so their prey is much smaller – small mammals such as mice and rabbits, birds, and even eggs and fruit.
Wolves are well-known for their loud and haunting howls, which they use to communicate over long distances. Foxes, meanwhile, are better known for the viral song “What Does the Fox Say?”
So, what does a fox say? Foxes make barking noises that sound like ow-wow-wow. They are also known to scream – a high-pitched sound that sounds like a woman screaming. These noises are often heard during the mating season. The male uses such vocalizations to keep competitors at bay, while the female shrieks to attract the males.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is a fox stronger than a wolf?
No, the fox is much smaller than a wolf, about 1/6 its size. The larger size of the wolf affords it more muscle and thus more strength.
Can a fox kill a wolf?
This circumstance would be highly unlikely. Foxes have a shy personality and generally avoid wolves. Wolves are apex predators – nothing naturally hunts them. Foxes prey on much smaller animals, such as mice. For this fight to take place, the wolf would have to be seriously sick or injured, and the fox desperately near starvation.
Which is more dangerous, a fox or wolf?
Due to their larger size, wolves pose more of a risk to humans than do foxes, though wolf attacks are extremely rare. Foxes will not fight humans unless they are rabid or captured and handled.
Are foxes and wolves the same?
No. Foxes and wolves belong to the same family, Canidae, but they are not the same species.