Foxes and Coyotes are both from the same family – Canidae. They have a similar shape, predatory nature and many similar habits. There are lots of differences between them though. For a start, Coyotes are native to North America and Central America, whereas Foxes can be found all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica.
In this Fox Vs Coyote guide, we explore some of the many similarities and differences between these two canid cousins. What features do they share and what sets them apart? Let’s explore!
Fox Vs Coyote – Taxonomy
|Groups:||Vulpini, some Canidae,|
some Canini, Cerdocyon,
of Vulpini known as
‘True Foxes’, 25 existing
or extant species within
the other groups
Across the various species, there are many subspecies. While many species are always called ‘foxes’, only those of the Vulpini group are classified as ‘true foxes’. The most populous of which is the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) of which there are 47 recognized subspecies.
Unlike the fox, there is only one species of Coyote, but there are 19 recognized subspecies across its range.
A male fox is called a ‘Dog’, a female fox is called a ‘Vixen’, a baby fox is called either a ‘Kit’, ‘Pup’ or ‘Cub’. A group of foxes is called a ‘Skulk’.
With Coyotes, a male is again called a ‘Dog‘ or a ‘Boar‘, but a female is called a ‘Bitch‘. Baby Coyotes can be called ‘Kit‘ or ‘Cub‘ but is usually called a ‘Pup‘. The collective noun for a group of Coyotes is a ‘Pack‘.
Fox Vs Coyote – Type Overview
Types Of Fox
There are many species and subspecies of ‘Fox’ that live around the world. There are 7 groups of Canids that all go by the name fox, but only those of the Vulpini group are classed as ‘true foxes’ or ‘fox-like foxes’. This group includes the most widely distributed Red Fox, as well as the Arctic Fox and Fennec Fox species.
One new species of fox, the Canadian Marble Fox, is the result of managed cross breeding and does not naturally occur in the wild.
Other types of foxes, such as the Peruvian Fox, South American Gray Fox and the Darwin’s Fox are all species within the Lycalopex group, otherwise known as the ‘South American Foxes’. These tend to be smaller than the foxes within the Vulpini group.
Another common species in North America, the Gray Fox, is different again. Along with the Island Fox, these are ancient species, the only existing member of the group Urocyon which are a very old, primative canidae group.
For the purpose of this post, we are discussing the differences between the Vulpini foxes and the Coyote.
Types Of Coyote
Unlike the fox, which has a rich order of groups, species and subspecies, there is only one species of Coyote, also known as the Prairie Wolf. The scientific name for this species is Canis latrans, and there are 19 subspecies of Coyote that are officially recognized.
The name ‘Coyote’ is from the Mexican Spanish language and its scientific name means ‘barking dog’. Coyotes are more commonly mistaken for other canids than foxes are, and there are even a few species of dogs that look like coyotes.
The Coyote has a deep and rich significance in American history and folklore, particularly the history and stories of the indigenous people of the Americas. The negative perception that modern American society has toward these animals, is largely the result of the Anglo-American take on the animals as cowardly and devious. However, this lacks the deeper historical significance.
Fox Vs Coyote – Location
Foxes and coyotes both live throughout North America, but their ranges are not always the same. Foxes tend to live mainly in more open areas such as the plains, meadows, and forests of the western United States, Canada and Mexico.
Unlike the Coyote, Foxes are found beyond the Americas, throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They inhabit areas of Russia and Europe, as well as Asia, and Africa. They can be found in a variety of habitats, ranging from woodlands to mountains to deserts. Depending on the species, some foxes live in dens, while others prefer to live alone. They make ‘lairs’ in a foxes ‘earth’, under tree trunks, in hollow trees, in bracken or in deserted buzzard nests.
Coyotes tend to stick to more arid regions, deserts, and mountain regions in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. That being said, Coyotes can be found from Alaska to Panama and from the Atlantic coast to California. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including deserts, grasslands, forests, wetlands, and urban areas.
Coyotes are able to dig their own burrows but are more likely to take over and inhabit burrows made by badgers.
Fox Vs Coyote – Size
When it comes to physical differences between a Fox and a Coyote, size is probably the most obvious one. Coyotes are typically about twice as massive as foxes, measuring around 75 – 87 cm (30 – 34 in) in length and weigh on average 7 – 21 kg (15 – 46 lbs). They have a tail length of 40 – 60 inches which becomes bushy and is held horizontally when the Coyote displays aggression.
Although foxes are the smallest members of the dog family, the largest species of Red fox may reach an adult weight of 3 – 11 kg (6.5 – 24 lbs). The average head and body length is 18 to 33.75 in (46 to 86 cm), with a tail length of 12 to 21 in (30.5 to 55 cm).
Fox Vs Coyote – Physical Features
When it comes to physical features, foxes and coyotes differ significantly. Beyond the size difference mentioned above, coyotes also have larger feet compared to foxes. The heads of foxes and coyotes are different as well. Foxes have more pointed muzzles and ears that sit upright on their head. Coyote’s muzzles are more rounded and their ears tend to flop down.
Another physical difference between foxes and coyotes is their fur coloration. Foxes come in a variety of colors including red, gray, black and white, though the most common color is red. During the autumn and winter, the Red Fox will grow more fur. This so called ‘winter fur’ keeps the animal warm in colder environments. The fox sheds this fur at the beginning of spring, reverting back to the short fur for the duration of the summer.
Coyotes are typically more reddish-brown or grayish-yellow in color. Their throat and underparts are generally lighter in color, mostly white. They have reddish/brown forelegs, sides of head, muzzle and feet. Their under fur is beige and they have long, black tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area.
Finally, the tails of foxes and coyotes are different too. Foxes have a long, bushy tail, known as a ‘brush’ or ‘sweep’ which is often tipped with white fur. Coyotes have a tail with a black tip on the end. Their tail has a scent gland situated on its’ dorsal base.
Fox Vs Coyote – Behavior
Foxes and coyotes are both incredibly adaptive and agile animals, but they have their own distinct behavior. Foxes are generally solitary creatures and prefer to hunt alone during the night. They use their incredible sense of hearing to locate small prey such as rodents, rabbits, and birds. Foxes are also very vocal animals who bark, yip, and howl when communicating.
The Red Fox is primarily crepuscular with a tendency to becoming nocturnal in areas of great human interference, this means it is most active at night and at twilight. They are generally solitary hunters, foraging alone in the summer, however, they very occasionally group together in a pack. In general, each fox claims its own territory and it pairs up only in winter.
Coyotes, on the other hand, are much more social animals who often live and hunt in packs. They also use their sharp hearing to locate prey but will mostly hunt for larger animals like deer or even carrion if available. Coyotes are known to make a variety of noises such as yipping, howling, and barking.
Coyote calls are generally heard at dusk and at night but have been heard during the day. The calls are most common during mating season and in the autumn when pups leave to establish their own territories.
Fox Vs Coyote – Diet
When it comes to diet, foxes and coyotes both eat small rodents, birds, and insects but their diets can also differ depending on the availability of food in a particular area. Foxes may additionally feed on fruits and berries, while coyotes may feed on larger animals such as deer, elk, and smaller livestock if the opportunity arises.
Fox Vs Coyote – Lifespan
Foxes and coyotes have widely varied lifespans. Generally speaking, Foxes have shorter lives than coyotes. The Red Fox for example, reaches sexual maturity by 10 months of age and may live for 12 – 18 years in urban areas but will usually only live 3 years in the wild.
Coyotes, however, can live significantly longer than Foxes, often reaching up to 14 years in the wild and sometimes even more, up to 18 years in captivity..
Fox Vs Coyote – Predators
Foxes and coyotes are both members of the Canidae family, but they have different predators. Foxes have a variety of predators including domestic dogs (both hunting and guard dogs), birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and owls; larger mammals such as wolves, bears, and cougars; and humans. Coyotes also have many predators such as wolves, bears, and humans, but they also face threats from large birds of prey such as eagles and vultures.
Foxes are generally much smaller than coyotes, making them an easier target for predators. Coyotes, on the other hand, have bigger bodies that make them better able to defend themselves against predators.
Unfortunately for foxes, they are still hunted for sport in many countries including the UK. Hunts are organized events using dogs to flush out the foxes while they are chased down and shot by humans on horseback. These hunts often lead to clashes between organisers and protesters who see the events as being a barbaric display of privilege and cruel to the foxes.