Rüppel's fox (Vulpes rueppellii)
|Also known as:||Rüeppell’s fox, Rüppell’s sand fox, sand fox|
|French:||Renard De Rüppell, Renard Famélique|
|Size||Male head-body length: 40 – 52 cm (2)|
Female head-body length: 34 – 49 cm (2)
Tail length: 29 – 37 cm (3)
Ear length: 8 – 11 cm (3)
Male weight: 1.1 – 2.3 kg (2)
Female weight: 1.1 – 1.8 kg (2)
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Rüppel’s fox is one of the smallest and most elusive members of the Vulpes genus. Even though this fox is much smaller than the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), this elegant fox has a similar external form, but with ears that are larger than its head. The fur of Rüppel’s fox varies in colour from region to region, but is usually light reddish-grey with a series of dark patches leading from the eyes to the nose, and a white tipped tail (3). The thin legs and soft, fur-covered foot pads suggest that, unlike some other foxes, Rüppel’s fox does not burrow (4).
Rüppel’s fox ranges from Northern Africa eastwards to Afghanistan. It has been found in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Somalia and Ethiopia. Its presence is uncertain, however, in occupied Palestinian territory and Qatar (1).
Primarily found in arid and semi-arid areas, such as sand and stone deserts that are common throughout Asia and Northern Africa, Rüppel’s fox tends to make use of the natural crevices and caves found in these landscapes (2) (5). It has also been found to thrive in coastal areas where there is a sparse amount of vegetation, and is able to survive in areas where there is little water, such as Saudi Arabia (1).
Rüppel’s fox is most active at dusk and throughout the night, spending most of the day in caves and crevices (2). These den-sites are occupied for, on average, four to five days at a time before a new den-site is found (6). During the night, this omnivorous species forages for a large variety of rodents, birds, insects, lizards, carrion and fruits (3). While this species often forages on its own, in some regions, it has been shown to be more gregarious in nature and travels in groups (2).
A monogamous species, the female gives birth to a litter of three to six pups, after a gestation period of 53 to 55 days. Once born, the pups are weaned predominately on milk for a six to eight week period (2).
While Rüppel’s fox is not currently considered to be threatened with extinction due to its wide range (1), itis thought that its habitat is susceptible to loss, fragmentation and degradation, causing populations to decrease. In addition, it is notorious for attacking livestock, such as chickens, causing many farmers to treat it as a pest. As a result, this fox can also be susceptible to persecution by hunters, and the indiscriminate uses of poisons (2). Furthermore, it is on the verge of extinction in Israel, where the red fox, following its recent range expansion, is out-competing Rüppel’s fox for resources, such as prey (1). In recent years, some Rüppel’s foxes have contracted acute toxoplasmosis after ingesting meat that has been infected with the potentially fatal Toxoplasma gondii parasite. This could turn into a serious problem for the population if the numbers of infections rise in the upcoming years (5).
This species is protected by law in Israel, where no hunting, trapping or trading of the animal is allowed (1), and Israel and the United Arab Emirates hold a number of Rüppel’s foxes in captivity in an attempt to increase its numbers through breeding programs. While, generally, such efforts have not been very successful, in recent years the Hai Bar Breeding Centre in Eilat, Israel, has had some success (1). Rüppel’s fox also occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1). However, the status of this elegant and magnificent creature remains uncertain in many parts of North Africa (1).
To learn more about the conservation of Rüppel’s fox, and other fox species, see:
IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group:
Sahara Conservation Fund:
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- Carrion: the flesh of a dead animal.
- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Gregarious: tending to form a group with others of the same species by habitually living or moving in flocks or herds rather than alone.
- Monogamous: having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Omnivorous: feeding on both plants and animals.
IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
- MacDonald, D.W. and Sillero-Zubiri, C. (2004) The Biology and Conservation of Wild Canids. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Qumsiyeh, M.B. (2006) Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock.
Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (March, 2010)
- Pas, A. and Dubay, J.P. (2008) Toxoplasmosis in sand fox (Vulpes ruppelli). Journal of Parasitology, 94: 976-977.
- Lindsay, I.M. and MacDonald, D.W. (1986) Behaviour and ecology of the Rueppell’s fox (Vulpes rueppelli) in Oman. Mammalia, 50: 461-474.