Fennecus zerda - Fennec fox
Range:  North Africa and Arabia
Size:  2 - 3 lb (1 - 1.5 kg)

The fennec (Fennecus zerda), is the smallest of the wild canids.  They average 8-10 inches (20.5-25.5 cm)  in height at the shoulder, and typically weigh 2-3 lb (1-1.5 kg).  The coat colour is of a pale cream to fawn hue.  The fur on the sides of the body is often somewhat darker than the rest of the coat, ranging from dark fawn to greyish.  The tail is tipped with black.  The most notable feature of the fennec is of course its incredibly large ears, which measure up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length.  These enormous ears make the fennec extremely sensitive to sound, and also assist in thermoregulation in its desert habitat.  The diet of the fennec consists mainly of small desert rodents such as mice and gerbils, as well as lizards.  Birds and insects are also taken whenever available.  Living in some of the driest deserts on Earth, fennecs also dig up roots for the valuable moisture they contain.  Although fennecs will drink water readily when they have an opportunity, they are physiologically well adapted to survive on a minimal intake of moisture.  They have very efficient kidneys which keep the body's water loss to a minimum.  Fennecs are somewhat more social than many other fox species, and often live in small family groups.  The female fennec is unusual among foxes in that she capable of breeding twice a year.  If the first litter of the year is lost, a second can take its place a few months later.  This feature of the fennec's biology can prove valuable in the harsh environment in which they live.  The average size of a litter is 2-5 pups.  Fennecs are considered mature at 1 year old.


The thick fur of the fennec helps to insulate it against the nighttime cold of the desert, and its pale colouration reflects heat away from the body by day.  The soles of the feet are also completely covered in fur, which protects them from the searing desert sand.  Like most other foxes, fennecs are nocturnal, and prefer to venture from their dens only once the cool of night has settled across the desert.  They are capable of very fast movement, and can make jumps of several times their body length.  Apart from the high pitched "bark" typical of foxes, fennecs also make an cat-like purring sound, especially when together inside the den.

(Photos courtesy of Donna M. Waltz.)

fennec fox (male)
fennec fox (female)


The Desert Fox

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