Tibetan fox

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Tibetan fox
Tibet Fox.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Vulpes
V. ferrilata [2]
Binomial name
Vulpes ferrilata [2]
Hodgson, 1842 [3]
Tibetan Fox area.png
Tibetan fox range

Vulpes ekloni (Przewalski, 1883)

The Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata), also known as Tibetan sand fox, is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh plateau, Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan, up to altitudes of about 5,300 m (17,400 ft). It is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, on account of its widespread range in the Tibetan Plateau's steppes and semi-deserts. [1]



The Tibetan fox is small and compact, with soft, dense coats and conspicuously narrow muzzles and bushy tails. Its muzzle, crown, neck, back and lower legs are tan to rufous coloured, while its cheeks, flanks, upper legs and rumps are grey. Its tail has white tips. The short ears are tan to greyish tan on the back, while the insides and undersides are white. [4] Adult Tibetan foxes are 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 in), not including tail, and have tail lengths of 29 to 40 cm (11 to 16 in). Weights of adults are usually 4 to 5.5 kg (8.8 to 12.1 lb). [5]

Among the true foxes, its skull is the most specialised in the direction of carnivory [6] ; it is longer in the condylobasal length, and in mandible and cheek tooth length, than those of hill foxes. Its cranial region is shorter than that of hill foxes, and the zygomatic arches narrower. Its jaws are also much narrower, and the forehead concave. Its canine teeth are also much longer than those of hill foxes. [7]

Distribution and habitat

The Tibetan fox is restricted to the Tibetan Plateau in western China and the Ladakh plateau in northern India. It occurs north of the Himalayas in the northernmost border regions of Nepal and India, across Tibet, and in parts of the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Xinjiang, Yunnan and Sichuan. [1] It primarily inhabits semi-arid to arid grasslands, well away from humans or from heavy vegetation cover. It lives in upland plains and hills from 3,500 to 5,200 m (11,500 to 17,100 ft) elevation, and has occasionally been sighted at elevations of around 2,500 m (8,200 ft). [8]

Behaviour and ecology

The Tibetan fox primarily preys on Plateau pikas, followed by rodents, marmots, woolly hares and lizards. It also scavenges on the carcasses of Tibetan antelopes, musk deer, blue sheep and livestock. Tibetan foxes are mostly solitary, daytime hunters as their main prey, pikas, are diurnal. [4] Tibetan foxes may form commensal relationships with brown bears during hunts for pikas. The bears dig out the pikas, and the foxes grab them when they escape the bears. [5]

Mated pairs remain together and may also hunt together. [9] After a gestation period of about 50 to 60 days, two to four young are born in a den, and stay with the parents until they are eight to ten months old. [8] Their burrows are made at the base of boulders, at old beach lines and low slopes. Dens may have four entrances, with entrances being 25–35 cm in diameter. [4]

Diseases and parasites

Tibetan foxes in the Sêrxü County of China's Sichuan province are heavily infected with Echinococcus , while foxes in western Sichuan are definitive hosts of alveolar hydatid disease. [4]

In culture

A photograph of a Himalayan marmot under attack by a Tibetan fox won the first prize in the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. [10]

Related Research Articles


Vulpes is a genus of the sub-family Caninae. The members of this genus are colloquially referred to as true foxes, meaning they form a proper clade. The word "fox" occurs on the common names of species. True foxes are distinguished from members of the genus Canis, such as domesticated dogs, wolves, jackals and coyotes, by their smaller size (5–11 kg), longer, bushier tail, and flatter skull. They have black, triangular markings between their eyes and nose, and the tip of their tail is often a different color from the rest of their pelt. The typical lifespan for this genus is between two and four years, but can reach up to a decade.

Chinese mountain cat Small wild cat

The Chinese mountain cat, also known as Chinese desert cat and Chinese steppe cat, is a small wild cat endemic to western China that has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals.

Swift fox Species of mammal

The swift fox is a small light orange-tan fox around the size of a domestic cat found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It also lives in southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, where it was previously extirpated. It is closely related to the kit fox and the two species are sometimes known as subspecies of Vulpes velox because hybrids of the two species occur naturally where their ranges overlap.

Blanfords fox

Blanford's fox is a small fox native to the Middle East and Central Asia.

Himalayan marmot

The Himalayan marmot is a marmot species that inhabits alpine grasslands throughout the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau. It is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern because of its wide range and possibly large population.

Wildlife of Ladakh

The flora and fauna of Ladakh was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s. The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia generally, and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau. An exception to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 318 species have been recorded. Many of these birds reside or breed at high-altitude wetlands such as Tso Moriri.

Corsac fox

The corsac fox, also known simply as a corsac, is a medium-sized fox found in steppes, semi-deserts and deserts in Central Asia, ranging into Mongolia and northeastern China. Since 2004, it has been classified as least concern by IUCN, but populations fluctuate significantly, and numbers can drop tenfold within a single year. It is also known as the steppe fox. The word "corsac" is derived from the Russian name for the animal, "korsák" (корса́к), derived ultimately from Turkic "karsak".

Pale fox

The pale fox is a species of fox found in the band of African Sahel from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east. It is one of the least studied of all canid species, in part due to its remote habitat and its sandy coat that blends in well with the desert-like terrain.


Vulpini is a taxonomic rank which represents the fox-like tribe of the subfamily Caninae, and is sister to the dog-like tribe Canini.

Himalayan wolf Subspecies of mammal

The Himalayan wolf is a canine of debated taxonomy. It is distinguished by its genetic markers, with mitochondrial DNA indicating that it is genetically basal to the Holarctic grey wolf, genetically the same wolf as the Tibetan wolf, and has an association with the African golden wolf. No striking morphological differences are seen between the wolves from the Himalayas and those from Tibet. The Himalayan wolf lineage can be found living in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau predominantly above 4,000 m in elevation because it has adapted to a low-oxygen environment, compared with other wolves that are found only at lower elevations.


The Caninae, known as canines, are one of three subfamilies found within the canid family. The other two canid subfamilies are the extinct Borophaginae and Hesperocyoninae. The Caninae includes all living canids and their most recent fossil relatives. Their fossils were first found in North America and dated to the Oligocene era, then spreading to Asia at the end of the Miocene era, some 7 million to 8 million years ago.

Plateau pika

The plateau pika, also known as the black-lipped pika, is a species of mammal in the pika family, Ochotonidae.

Ladak pika

The Ladak pika, also known as the Ladakh pika, is a species of mammal in the family Ochotonidae found in China, India, and Pakistan. Prior to identification as a separate species, specimens were thought to be of the plateau pika. Named for the Ladakh region, they are commonly found in valleys of the mountain ranges spanning from Pakistan through India to China at an elevation between 4,300 and 5,450 m and are herbivores.

Moupin pika Species of mammal

The Moupin pika, also known as Ribetischer Pika, Moupin-Pika, Pika del Tibet, and Manipuri pika, is a species of mammal in the pika family, Ochotonidae. It has many subspecies, some of which may be distinct species. Its summer pelage is dark russet-brown with some light spots on the dorsal side, and ochraceous buff tinged on the belly. In winter it is lighter, with buff to dull brown dorsal pelage. A generalist herbivore, it is found in the mountains of the eastern Tibetan Plateau in China, Bhutan, India (Sikkim), and northern Myanmar. Both the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species and the Red List of China's Vertebrates classify it as a species of least concern; although one subspecies may be endangered.

Mammals of Glacier National Park (U.S.)

There are at least 14 large mammal and 50 small mammal species known to occur in Glacier National Park.

Mongolian wolf Subspecies of mammal

The Mongolian wolf is a subspecies of the grey wolf which is native to Mongolia, northern and central China, Korea, and the Ussuri region of Russia.


  1. 1 2 3 Harris, R. (2014). "Vulpes ferrilata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2014: e.T23061A46179412.
  2. 1 2 Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Species Vulpes ferrilata". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  3. Hodgson, B. H. (1842). "Notice of the Mammals of Tibet, with Descriptions and Plates of some new Species". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 11 (124): 278–279.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Sillero-Zubiri, C.; Hoffman, M.; MacDonald, D. W. (2004). "Tibetan Fox" (PDF). Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs - 2004 Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. ISBN   2-8317-0786-2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2006.
  5. 1 2 Harris, R. B.; Wang, Z. H.; Zhou, J. K. & Liu, Q. X. (2008). "Notes on biology of the Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata)" (PDF). Canid News. 11: 1–7.
  6. Heptner, V. G.; Naumov, N. P. (1998) [1967]. "Genus Vulpes Oken, 1816". Mammals of the Soviet Union. Volume II Part 1a, Sirenia and Carnivora (Sea cows; Wolves and Bears). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Libraries and The National Science Foundation. pp. 385–570.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  7. Pocock, R. I. (1941). "Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson. The Tibetan Sand Fox". Fauna of British India: Mammals. Volume 2. London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 140–146.
  8. 1 2 Clark, H. O.; Newman, D. P.; Murdoch, J. D.; Tseng, J.; Wang, Z. H. & Harris, R. B. (2008). "Vulpes ferrilata (Carnivora: Canidae)". Mammalian Species (821): 1–6. doi: 10.1644/821.1 .
  9. Liu, Q.X.; R. B. Harris; X.M. Wang & Z.H. Wang (2007). "Home range size and overlap of Tibetan foxes (Vulpes ferrilata) in Dulan County, Qinghai Province". Acta Theriologica Sinica (in Chinese). 27: 370–75.
  10. "Wildlife photographer of the year 2019 winners – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2019.