The Story Of Wild Animals:
Prong-buck Or American Antelope
Indian Black Buck
Story Of The Rhinoceros
Story Of The Musk-ox
Story Of The Giraffe
Story Of The Fox
Story Of The Seal
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Story Of The Fox
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Fox-hunting is a common but exciting sport in both England and America. Both the red and the gray fox leave a trail that is easily followed by the hounds. The well-known scent of the fox is secreted as it runs and is easily detected by the human as well as the canine nose. There is no doubt that the natural cunning of the fox has been greatly increased by long experience in matching its wits against dogs and hunters, for in countries where the fox is not hunted it is far less cunning than either the gray or red fox of America and England.
The reds are bolder in pursuit, and hunt over a much greater territory than the grays. Whether the grays ever climb trees in pursuit of prey I. ani uncertain, but they take to a tree as readily as a cat when run hard by hounds. I think it nearly certain that they climb for persimmons and grapes. Red foxes never climb trees under any circumstances; when hard run they go to earth. Gray foxes run before hounds only a short distance, doubling constantly and for a short time, when they either hole in a tree, or climb one. I have known the red fox to run straight away nearly twenty miles. Very commonly they run eight or ten miles away, and then run back in a parallel course. I have known them to run the four sides of a square. It is doubtful whether a first-rate specimen of the red fox, taken at his best in point of condition, can either be killed or run to earth by any pack of hounds living, such are his matchless speed and endurance. It is but a sorry pack which fails to kill or tree a gray fox in an hour's run. The young of the gray fox closely resemble small blackish puppies; those of the red fox are distinctly fox-like from the hour of their birth.
Many tales are related of the fox's cunning when pursued, such as driving another fox out of its home, and forcing it to substitute itself as the chase; diving into a heap of manure, so that the dogs could not perceive its scent; jumping over a wall, running a little way, coming back again, and lying under the wall until all the dogs had passed, and then leaping a second time over the same place where it had passed before, and making off on its old track.
On the banks of the Kentucky River rise huge rocky bluffs, many feet in height. A fox that lived near this river was constantly hunted, and as regularly lost over the bluff. Now, nothing short of wings would have enabled the animal to escape with life down a perpendicular cliff. At last I determined to discover the means by which the animal baffled all of us, and I concealed myself near the bluff.
Accordingly, in good time the fox came to the top of the cliff and looked over. He then let himself down the face of the cliff by a movement between a leap and a slide, and landed on a shelf not quite a foot in width about ten feet down.
The fox then disappeared in a hole above the shelf. On examination the shelf turned out to be the mouth of a wide fissure in the rock, into which the fox always escaped.
But how was he to get out again? He might slide down ten feet, but he could never leap ten feet from a ten-inch shelf up the face of a perpendicular rock. This impossibility caused me to make a search, and at length I discovered an easier entrance into the cave from the level ground.
The fox was too wise to use that entrance when the hounds were behind him, so he was accustomed to cut short the scent by dropping down the rock, and then, when all the dogs were at the edge of the cliff, he walked out at his leisure by the other entrance.
The fox is a native of almost every quarter of the globe; it is of so wild and savage a nature, that it is impossible fully to tame him. He is esteemed the most sagacious and crafty of all the beasts of prey. The former quality he shows in his mode of providing for himself an asylum, where he retires from pressing dangers, dwells, and brings up his young; and his craftiness is discovered by his schemes to catch lambs, geese, hens, all kinds of small birds, rabbits and field mice.
When it is possible for him conveniently to do so, the fox forms his burrow near the border of a wood, in the neighborhood of some farm or village. He there listens to the crowing of the cocks, and the cries of the poultry. He scents them at a distance; he chooses his time with judgment; he conceals his road, as well as his design; he slips forward with caution, sometimes even trailing his body; and seldom makes a fruitless expedition. If he can leap the wall, or creep in underneath, he ravages the barn-yard, puts all to death, and retires softly with his prey; which he. either hides under the adjacent herbage, or carries off to his kennel.
With regard to the caution displayed by foxes in taking a bait, I once had the good fortune of observing, on a winter evening, a fox which for many preceding days had been allured with loop baits, and as often as it ate one it sat comfortably down, wagging his brush. The nearer it approached the trap, the longer did it hesitate to take the baits, and the oftener did it make the tour round the catching-place. When arrived near the trap, it squatted down, and eyed the bait for ten minutes at least; whereon it ran three or four times round the trap, then it stretched out one of its fore-paws after the bait, but did not touch it; again a pause, during which the fox stared immovably at the bait. At last, as if in despair, the animal made a rush, and was caught by the neck.
The kit fox is the smallest and prettiest of North American foxes. It lives in an open, treeless district and makes its burrow in the ground. The back and tail are dark gray and the tinder parts white.
The Arctic fox, which is found all over the Arctic region, differs from all other members of the fox family, particularly in its change of dress from summer to winter. In summer it is bluish gray on the back, and white beneath. In the winter its coat turns to a pure white, so that it can scarcely be distinguished from its snowy surroundings. In the long Arctic nights the hunter constantly hears its yapping bark. In the summer it preys upon the numerous land and aquatic birds. What it lives on in winter when the birds have left for a southern latitude no one seems to know, although it is believed that, like the squirrel, they lay by a store of provisions during the summer months. The Arctic fox is fond of bird's eggs as well as of birds, and I once shot one which had a murre's egg in its mouth.
In Asia there are several breeds of desert foxes, the largest specimens having a striped appearance. In Central Asia we find the Corsac fox, of a paler color, white under parts, a black-tipped tail, and lacking the stripe of the desert fox.
It is a thin-brained creature, possessing none of the cunning of the red and gray foxes of Europe and America. It is too lazy to make its own burrow, and finds its home in the burrow of the marmot, which that animal has either deserted or from which he has been evicted.
Of the true foxes the pretty little Indian fox is the smallest, measuring only twenty inches from the tip of the snout to the root of the tail. Its fur is gray, tinged with red. It is by no means timid, and I have shot one that walked up boldly to my camp. Its burrow is in the open plain, and it lives on lizards, rats, crabs, white ants and various insects.
The Indian fox has no scent, and therefore is seldom hunted with hounds.
Another small and pretty member of the fox family is the fennec, of Northern Africa. It has enormous ears for such a small animal. The color of the fur varies from fawn to buff, the under parts being white, and the tail black.
Like the common fox, the fennec makes a burrow, which is generally in the tufts of low plants in the desert. The inside of the burrow is lined with feathers, hair, and soft vegetable substances, and is remarkable for its cleanliness. The burrows are made with wonderful rapidity so quickly. indeed, that the animal seems to sink into, the ground.