Black Foxes UK

Glossary of Fox Terms


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  • Albinism (Albino)- An abnormal genetic condition affecting various animals that is marked by an overall pale or white appearance, with the animal having red or blue eyes. It is caused by genetic mutations that specifically disrupt the production of the pigment melanin in feathers, hair, or skin.
  • Animal Ambassador - An animal that is trained for the purpose of interaction with the public, in order to support an organisation's education and conservation goals.
  • Behavioural Trait - A distinguishing behavioural quality or characteristic belonging to an individual organism, such as tame or aggressive behaviour
  • Captivity - The condition of being confined at man's will. Unable to travel, eat or breed freely. Health and welfare are under the responsibility of the captor.
  • Companion Animal - See "Pet" below.
  • Colour Morph - See "Polymorphism" below.
  • Domestication (Domesticated) - The process of adapting a wild animal or plant for selected traits (physical and/or behavioural) through captive breeding and cultivation, in order to utilize them as a resource. An animal or plant is said to be domesticated once the selected traits are secured genetically and passed down to subsequent generations. 
  • Domesticated Animal - An animal that has been bred in captivity and adapted for selected behavioural or physical traits in order to provide man with a resource (such as for meat, fur, sport or companionship). Domesticated animals have undergone a process which ensures the selected traits are passed down to subsequent generations. Farm foxes have been domesticated by the fur trade for physical traits, such as fur colour. Experimental foxes have been domesticated by scientists for behavioural traits, such as tame behaviour. 
  • Domesticated (Silver) Fox - A North American red fox that has been intensively farmed since the late 1800's. It has been adapted or mutated, through selective breeding for certain physical or behavioural traits in order to provide man with a resource (fur and research opportunities). The selected traits are genetically secured and passed down to subsequent generations. Both farm foxes and experimental foxes are considered domesticated, but it is for different traits and purposes. 
  • Domesticated Pet - An animal that has been bred in captivity and adapted specifically for tame behaviour towards man. The tame behaviour is guaranteed in subsequent generations and is the result of breeding for selected behavioural traits over time. These tame traits are genetically inherent (nature) and are not a result of conditioning from the environment (nurture), as is the case with the farmed foxes (domesticated silver fox) kept as pets today. Currently, only the scientifically domesticated foxes kept by organisations and private keepers are considered domesticated pets. 
  • Domesticated Pet Fox - A North American red fox that has been bred in captivity for scientific research since the 1950's. Adapted or mutated specifically for tame behaviour towards man, with behavioural traits that are certified to be passed down to subsequent generations. Only the Russian experimental foxes are considered scientifically domesticated pets. Foxes are sold to vetted clients in order to fund the continuation of this valuable long-standing experiment, where they provide companionship and help us foster an understanding of ourselves, others and the natural world.
  • Educational Ambassador See "Animal ambassador" above. 
  • Exotic - Something that is unusual or originates from a foreign place. 
  • Exotic Animal - An unusual animal or one that originates from a foreign place (non-native) . Does not include domesticated animals, which are accepted as common and native to the environment for which they have been developed (alongside man). 
  • Exotic Pet - An animal that is kept in captivity for companionship which does not fall under the category of domesticated pet, including both domesticated farm animals and wild animals kept in captivity. Such animals provide us with a connection and help us foster an understanding of ourselves, others and the natural world.
  • Experimental Foxes - See "Domesticated pet fox" above. 
  • Feral Animal - A domesticated animal bred in captivity that has been adapted from its natural form (or the offspring of such an animal) that is back living in the wild. May exist freely in the environment without the assistance of man, or may seek out man to assist survival. 
  • Fox Keeper - An individual that attends to the daily care and management of foxes. This can be in an individual capacity or oh behalf of a larger organisation.  Can include the care of wild or domesticated foxes. 
  • Farm Fox- See "Domesticated fox" above.
  • Genetic Mutation (Mutation)  A genetic mutation occurs when a DNA gene is damaged or changed in such a way as to alter the genetic message carried by that gene. Coat polymorphism in foxes has been readily exploited and they have been selectively bred for specific colour mutations to create many colour morphs (most of which could not exist naturally in wild populations). 
  • Genotype - The genetic makeup of an individual organism. It is their heritable genetic identity as a result of the individual genes that make up an organisms DNA. 
  • Leucism (Leucistic) - An abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring in feathers, hair or skin. Caused by genetic mutations which can inhibit various pigment production and distribution processes. 
  • Melanism (Melanistic) - A recessive trait that allows for greater expression of the pigment melanin in an animals feathers, hair or skin, which gives the animal a darker appearance.  Melanism is a rare polymorphic trait in UK red foxes, as both parents must carry the recessive gene for full melanism to be expressed.  In the wild, melanistic foxes would rarely get the opportunity to reproduce with other foxes of the same colour morph but in farms, silver foxes are explicitly bred with others that share the same recessive melanistic trait.  
  • Mutation - See "Genetic Mutation" above.
  • Morph - See "Polymorphism" below.
  • Native Animal - An animal living in the wild within the geographic range it naturally evolved to exist. 
  • Nature vs Nurture - The debate of whether behavior is determined by the environment (either prenatal or during life) or by the organisms genes. Nature being the influence of genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture being the influence of external factors after conception has occurred.  
  • Non-Native Animal - An animal living in the wild outside the natural geographic range it naturally evolved to exist (often the result of human activity).
  • North American Red Fox - A species of red fox that separated from Eurasian lines during the last glaciation. Previously classified as vulpes fulva (new research indicates initial classification may have been correct). Exists in three statistically predicable phenotypes or colour morphs (red, cross and silver), as well as in less predictable forms (including leucistic and albino). Native to Canada and North America. 
  • (North American) Farm Fox - See "Domesticated fox" above. 
  • Pet - An animal kept in captivity by man for companionship. Such animals provide us with a connection and help us foster an understanding of ourselves, others and the natural world. Both wild and domesticated animals can be tamed (through nature or nurture) and considered a pet or companion animal as a result.
  • Pet Fox - A fox kept in captivity by man for companionship. Such animals provide us with a connection and help us foster an understanding of ourselves, others and the natural world. Both wild and domesticated foxes could be considered a pet or companion animal, tamed through either nature or nurture. 
  • Physical Trait -  A distinguishing physical quality or characteristic belonging to an individual organism, such as long hair or brown eyes. 
  • Private Keeper - An individual that attends to the daily care and management of wild and exotic animals. This is the preferred term over "pet owner" for those individuals who care for exotic and/or wild animals. 
  • Phenotype - The observable characteristics of an individual or species. The result of the animals specific genetic code or genotype. 
  • Polymorphism (Polymorphic) - The occurrence of two or more clearly different forms or morphs within the population of a species (also termed "alternative phenotypes").
  • Red Fox - A species of fox (vulpes genus) that has Eurasian origins, isolated from the North American red fox during the last glaciation. The red fox is native to Europe, China and much of the northern hemisphere. It is also considered native to North America and Canada (in it's North American form). In contrast to the North American red fox, the European red fox exists in one common phenotype (red), as well as in less predictable forms (including melanistic, leucistic and albino). 
  • Rehabilitate - To assist an animal with convalescing and recovery. 
  • Re-home - To provide an animal with permanent new living arrangements suited to their needs. 
  • Rescue - To remove from a one situation into a what is perceived to be a better situation. Both wild and domesticated animals can be rescued from any number of situations. 
  • Russian Fox - A fox from Russia. Usually refers to a "domesticated pet fox" (see above) but may also refer to a Russian "farm fox" (see above), as well as a wild red fox wild caught in Russia.  
  • Silver Fox - The common name for the melanistic North American red fox. Also the collective name for the farmed North American red fox - See "Domesticated fox" above. 
  • Tame - A behavioural trait that means an animal is not fearful of humans and displays a clam temperament (an animal that is not aggressive, nervous or anxious in the presence of man). It is a trait that can be conditioned by environment as well as selected for in the process of domestication. The silver foxes kept as exotic pets can be considered tame as a result of either nature or nurture. Animals suffering from certain health conditions can also appear tame as a result of neurological damage to areas of the brain that regulate the fight or flight response. 
  • Welfare - Refers to the the collective state of an individuals emotional health, physical health and environment and the collective impact on well-being. To protect welfare is to ensure an animals individual needs are adequately catered for. 
  • Wild - An animal or plant that exists freely within a natural environment, without human intervention. Animals that act freely of their own will are also termed wild in their behaviour, irrespective of whether they are domesticated or not.

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