Cape Fox: Everything You Need To Know

Are you interested in learning about the only true fox found in sub-Saharan Africa? Look no further than the Cape Fox, also known as the Asse or Silver-Backed Fox.

From its appearance to its behavior, diet, reproduction, population threats, and ecological niche, here is everything you need to know about this fascinating creature. And, if you’ve ever wondered about owning a Cape Fox as a pet, we’ll explore whether or not that’s a good idea.

Cape Fox Habitat

This small and slender fox is native and lives in southern Africa and is generally common and stable across much of its range. The Cape Fox can be found in a range of environments, from savannas and scrublands to deserts and semi-arid regions.

Territorial Behavior

Cape Fox may not exhibit especially territorial behavior, but they do mark their territory with strong scents. This is their way of communicating their presence and establishing a sense of ownership over their territory. They are solitary animals but pair up with a mate for life and engage in social behavior during mating rituals.

Where Do Cape Foxes Make Their Dens?

Cape Foxes are known to burrow animals and construct their dens in various locations. They typically shelter in burrows underground, hollows, holes, or dense thickets during the day.

  • Underground burrows: They dig their own burrows using their sharp claws and long snouts. These burrows are usually found in sandy or loamy soil. Cape Foxes use these burrows as a shelter during the day and for breeding.
  • Hollows and holes: Sometimes, Cape Foxes use pre-existing hollows or holes in rocks, termite mounds, or abandoned burrows of other animals as their dens. They may modify these structures by digging out more space or blocking off entrances to make them more secure.
  • Dense thickets: Cape Foxes may use dense thickets as their den sites in areas without much soil or rock. These thickets provide protection and cover from predators.

Cape Foxes are solitary animals but may share their dens with their mate and offspring. These dens play an important role in the Cape Fox’s survival and are essential for their reproduction and protection.

Cape Fox Appearance

In terms of physical characteristics, the cape fox has a slender body, thick wavy underfur, a dense coat of guard hairs on top in reddish-brown color, and a long bushy tail black-tipped.

Its distinctive markings make it easily recognizable. The dark patches on the back of the thighs, the narrow dark strip at the muzzle’s tip, and the triangular marks between the eyes and nose all add to the uniqueness of this animal.


The cape fox is relatively small compared to other fox species and can weigh between 3.6-5 kg, stands at a height of 28-33 cm, and can measure 45-61 cm in length. Despite its small size, the cape fox is a unique and fascinating species. Its adaptations to its arid habitat make it an important part of the ecosystem.

Cape Fox Behavior

The Cape fox is a night-time dweller that is most animated in the early hours of the morning and the early evening. They are loners; although they will couple with a companion, they usually hunt alone.

Additionally, they use various forms of communication, such as vocalizations or facial expressions and tail posturing, to show their level of excitement. The higher the tail is raised, the more enthusiastic the fox is thought to be.

Are Cape Foxes Aggressive?

These little creatures are not typically aggressive toward humans. In fact, they’re more likely to avoid conflict and retreat to their burrows or hide in dense thickets when they feel threatened. However, like wild animals, they may become defensive if they feel cornered or perceive a threat to their young or territory. When provoked, the Cape fox has a tendency to growl and spit at its aggressors.

So, it’s important to remember that all wild animals should be treated with caution and respect, and it’s best to observe them from a safe distance.

Cape Fox Lifespan

The Cape fox, a species that can live for up to 10 years, typically has an average life expectancy of six years.

Cape Fox Vocalizations

Cape foxes communicate with a variety of vocalizations, including soft calls, chirps, whines, and even loud barks when they feel threatened. These vocalizations serve different purposes, such as bonding with their mate, marking their territory, and warning others of danger.

As nocturnal animals, vocal communication is especially important for cape foxes to navigate the darkness and find food and shelter.

Cape Fox Vision

They have adapted to have excellent night vision, and this helps them detect prey in their desert habitat, which can often blend in with the sandy surroundings. They use their keen eyesight to spot small mammals, insects, and reptiles.

Once they have spotted their prey, cape foxes use their hunting skills to catch it. With their excellent vision and hunting techniques, the cape fox is perfectly adapted for life in the desert.

Cape Fox Diet

These small foxes are opportunistic feeders and are able to adapt to the harsh conditions of the sub-Saharan African desert by consuming a variety of plant and animal matter. Here are some key aspects of the cape fox’s diet diversity:

  • They feed on invertebrates, rodents, small mammals, reptiles, rabbits, birds, spiders, beetle larvae, eggs, carrion, fruits, and most insects.
  • Their prey selection varies depending on availability and seasonality, and they have been known to switch their diet from animal to plant matter.
  • They use their keen sense of smell and hearing to locate food and will dig to uncover burrowing prey.
  • Foraging behavior is typically done at night, and they are known to store excess food in their dens for future consumption.

Cape Fox Gestation & Reproduction Period

During the breeding season, the pair will mate, and the female will give birth to one to six cubs after a gestation period of 51-53 days. The cubs are born underground in burrows.

Do Cape Foxes Mate For Life?

Cape Foxes are monogamous animals and mate for life, and this means that they have a strong bond with their partner and work together to raise their young. Their mating habits are just one aspect of their social behavior, as they are generally solitary animals.

What Time Of The Year Do Cape Foxes Have Pups?

They can breed at any time of the year but generally give birth from October to January. During this time, breeding behavior becomes more active.

How Long Do Baby Cape Foxes Stay With Their Mothers?

Cape foxes show remarkable breeding habits and reproductive behavior. They are known to be devoted parents who take great care of their young. The pups are born blind and helpless, but they quickly develop and grow under the watchful eyes of their parents. The female will nurse and care for the pups while the male hunts and brings food back to the den.

The cubs remain close to the den until they are about four months old. At around two months of age, cubs are weaned from their mother’s milk. However, they will begin to find their own food once they are four months old. By the time they are five months of age, cubs are usually independent and ready to leave the den. Sexual maturity is reached at nine months old.

Are Cape Foxes Good as Pets?

If you’re considering adopting a Cape Fox as a pet, it’s important to note that they’re not suitable for domestication and should be left to thrive in their natural habitat. While they may seem like unique and exotic pets, there are several reasons why keeping them as pets is not a good idea. Here are four reasons why Cape Foxes are not good as pets:

  1. They’re wild animals and can’t be fully domesticated.
  2. It’s illegal to own them in some areas.
  3. They have specific care requirements that are difficult to meet in a domestic setting.
  4. There are alternative exotic pets that are more suitable for domestication.

It’s important to consider these factors before making a decision to adopt a Cape Fox as a pet.

Conservation Status

The Cape Fox is listed as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The conservation status of the Cape Fox is stable, and the species is generally common to fairly abundant across much of its range. Conservation efforts have successfully kept the population stable, and there are currently no major threats to the species.

However, the illegal and widespread use of agricultural poisons on commercial farms poses the main threat to Cape Fox. Also, they are frequently the victims of fatal diseases like canine distemper and rabies and have been ensnared in traps meant for nuisance animals, and many of them are struck by cars on the road.

It’s important to educate the public about the importance of the Cape Fox in their ecosystem and its role in keeping down the number of small mammals.


So there you have everything you need to know about the Cape Fox!

This small but fascinating fox has a lot to offer, from their appearance to their behavior, diet, and reproduction. While they may not make the best pets, they are incredibly important to their ecosystems and play an important role in their respective habitats.

It’s important to continue to prioritize conservation efforts and protect these animals so that they can continue to thrive in their natural habitats for generations to come.

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