Meet the World’s Smallest Wild Dog Family

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: June 5, 2023
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Somewhere in the five and a half million square miles of sand that is the Sahara Desert, there are some small paw prints! They belong to the world’s smallest wild dog family who somehow survive in what is one of the world’s most inhospitable places! Up from a burrow pop the long ears of the fennec fox (Vulpes zerda). These little guys are around the size of a walking boot and cope with spiraling temperatures on a daily basis.

How Is the Fennec Fox Adapted for Life in the Desert?

The size is what matters! Animals with small bodies can shed heat faster because of their volume to surface area ratio. And you cannot miss those huge ears that look a little out of place on such a small head. However, those ears are actually a biological AC unit. They contain an intricate network of blood vessels that bring blood near to the skin’s surface. This cools the blood, lowering the body temperature.

With no shade available, even fennec foxes cannot withstand the heat on the sand for very long. So, they have learned how to take advantage of their habitat. What moisture there is concentrates at the foot of dunes making the sand firm enough to burrow in. Here they can shelter from the worst of the heat.

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The ears of the fennec fox are huge so that they can lose heat

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Surviving in the Sahara

When they do have to leave their burrows to find food, their sand-colored coat helps them to blend in. This makes it harder for feral dogs and eagle owls to spot and catch them. They hunt when the light is poor and they are even harder to see. Also, they cleverly zig-zag and jump and use the sand dunes to mask their location.

If you have ever tried to run on sand, you will know that it is not that easy. The billions of grains are constantly moving and it is hard to get enough friction to drive yourself forward. So, the fennec fox has furry pads on the bottom of their feet which helps them get a good grip. The fennec fox may be small but they are perfectly formed!

Watch the Incredible Little Creature Below:

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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