Grey Fox vs Red Fox: What Are The Differences?

close up of kit fox in bush

Written by Peralee Knight

Updated: October 11, 2023

Share on:


The Red fox and the Grey fox are often confused with each other, but they are pretty different animals. The Grey fox and the Red fox are found in the same habitat across North America and northern South America. However, the Red fox has habitats all over the world. Interestingly, these two species thrive side by side with little difficulty.

In this article, we will be taking a look at the Grey fox and the Red fox and their differences.

The Key Differences between Grey Fox and Red Fox

The key differences between Grey and Red fox are their size, ability, and hunting habit.

The major differences between the Grey fox and the Red fox are classification, appearance, size, ability, and hunting habits.

The Grey fox and the Red fox share many physical characteristics we think of as unique to foxes. Both have long bodies, bushy tails, and large ears commonly associated with foxes. However, the Grey fox has some unique physical traits and abilities.

Let’s explore them below.

The Grey Fox vs The Red Fox: Classification

Mysterious Gray Animals - Gray Fox

The Grey Fox isn’t a fox! It’s an entirely different species, but it’s still a Canine.


The Red fox is classified under the species name Vulpes vulpes and is one of the twelve recognized fox species. The Grey fox is classified under the species name Urocyon cinereoargenteus, a name that translates to the grey-tailed dog. While both fall into the Canine family, they are entirely different.

The Grey Fox vs The Red Fox: Size

The Grey fox is a bit smaller than the Red fox and is around two feet long without including the 10-inch-long tail. It weighs between 7-14 pounds on average, and male and female foxes are around the same size. The Red fox is between 36-42 inches long and weighs between 6.5-24 pounds, making it the largest fox species.

The Grey Fox vs The Red Fox: Ability

Fox scream at night - grey fox in tree

The Grey fox can climb trees.

©Danita Delimont/

The most unique physical feature the Grey fox presents is its partially retractable claws and fully rotating ankles. This makes it able to climb trees. Red fox cannot climb trees.

The Grey Fox vs The Red Fox: Appearance

Silver Animals - Silver Fox

Red foxes come in other color variations.

©Ondrej Prosicky/

While the Red fox is known for its distinctive red coat of fur, it has other color variations. It can be grey, brown, red, black, or silver, but the Grey fox is a completely distinct species. The coat of a Grey fox is silvery gray with red down the chest and sides. It has white markings on the face and legs and a black stripe on the tail.

The Grey fox has a shorter and more catlike snout, shorter legs, and broader ridges on the skull. The Red fox is known for the double coat of fur that is soft underneath and coarse on top. This makes the Red fox a highly coveted animal for furriers.

The Grey Fox vs The Red Fox: Hunting

Red fox in leaves

The Red fox is not afraid to scavenge near human dwellings for food.

©Ondrej Prosicky/

While the Grey fox and the Red fox have common prey and predators, they exhibit different hunting habits. They also have their unique ways of evading predators and finding food.

Grey foxes are accomplished tree climbers and even maintain burrows in trees like squirrels. These species are thought to have developed semi-retractable claws and rotating joints to escape coyotes. Like many doglike canines, the coyote is not a skilled climber.

The Red fox is an accomplished hunter and scavenger and does not shy away from human dwellings. It will prey on henhouses, raid garbage cans, and adapt well to urban environments. While it is cautious, it is not as timid and will take the risk to find food.

Unlike the Red fox, the Grey fox is elusive. The Grey fox prefers wooded areas and rarely ventures close to humans. However, if you see a fox in a tree, it is a Grey fox. Red foxes can do many things, but climbing trees is not one of them.

Red foxes establish multiple dens in their territories and stash food to find later, and use these dens to hide from predators. They are partially nocturnal and tend to avoid hunting in daylight to avoid larger predators like coyotes and bobcats.

Do Foxes Prey on Small Pets?

fox roaming the streets of London in search for food

Red foxes are adapting to living in close proximity to humans.


While the gray fox remains elusive, red foxes are seen more frequently these days as their range extends into urban areas. That raises the question of whether these dog-like animals have added our pets to their menus. The short answer is – foxes have been know to attack little dogs and cats – but not very often. Chickens, on the other hand – are a favorite of the cunning canines and require special fencing around the coop.

Unlike coyotes, which hunt in packs and are definitely a threat to pets – foxes focus on small animals like mice and are more of a threat to your neat yard when they invade your garbage. Gray foxes have jumped down from trees to attack small dogs when people are camping or invading their territory – but they seldom inhabit areas populated by people like red foxes do.

You can ensure the safety of your pets by walking outside with your dog when it goes out – foxes won’t launch an attack if you are near – and by avoiding the practice of de-clawing your cats. Cats are pretty good at defending themselves against foxes – so don’t disarm them of their natural weapons.

Share this post on:

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