Pale fox (Vulpes pallida)

Also known as: African sand fox, pallid fox.
French: Renard Pâlé
Spanish: Zorro Pálido
GenusVulpes (1)
SizeHead-body length: 38 – 45 cm (2)
Weight2 – 3.6 kg (2)

The pale fox is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The pale fox (Vulpes pallida) is one of the least known of all fox species, maybe in part due to its pale, sandy coat that blends in with its desert habitat, and its nocturnal behaviour. Its large ears look enormous against its small body and thin legs (2) (3), and it also has long whiskers and black rings surrounding the eyes (4). The long, bushy tail is reddish brown, tipped with black and a dark patch above the tail indicates the presence of a scent gland (2) (3).

The pale fox occupies the band of African Sahel, south of the Sahara, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. There are four subspecies recognised: V. p. pallida occurs in Sudan, V. p. edwardsi inhabits Mali and Senegal, V. p. harterti is found in northern Nigeria northwards to Niger and westwards to Burkina Faso, and V. p. oertzeni ranges from Libya, through Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Chad, south to Sudan (2) (3).

The pale fox inhabits sandy and stony deserts and semi-desert areas, venturing south toward the more moist savannas (2) (3).

The nocturnal pale fox is thought to live in small family groups consisting of an adult male, an adult female and their young (5). They dig extensive dens, descending two to three metres and extending up to 15 metres, with the inner chambers lined with dry vegetation. These burrows allow the foxes to escape the heat of the day until dusk when they surface to search for food. Pale foxes primarily feed on fruits, berries and vegetable matter, and they possess well-developed molars suited to this largely herbivorous diet (3). However, they also sometimes catch and eat small animals such as rodents, lizards and invertebrates (2). From their diet, pale foxes obtain sufficient moisture to enable them to survive for the long, dry, hot seasons of their desert habitat (2).

Pale foxes are believed to give birth to litters of three to four pups, after a gestation period of only seven to eight weeks. The development of the young foxes is just as quick, with weaning of the pups taking place after six to eight weeks (3). A pale fox in captivity lived to the age of three, but it is thought that in the wild they live to at least twice this age (3).

The pale fox is believed to be relatively widespread, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1). However, potential threats to this species include any alterations to the unstable and fluctuating habitat band it occupies (2), and occasional persecution after killing domestic birds (3).

It is thought likely that the pale fox occurs in some protected areas within its extensive range, but there is no conclusive information yet available. There are no known specific conservation measures in place for this species at present, and it remains one of the laest known canid species (1). The greatest need is to determine the status, biology and ecological requirements of the mysterious pale fox through further studies (3).

For further information on the pale fox see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Ltd, London.
  3. Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffmann, M. and Macdonald, D.W. (2004) Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.