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(Back to Menu) Taxonomy: Many texts on fox natural history cannot help but draw comparisons between the fox and the cat and, if you spend any time watching them, you’re certainly struck by how similarly they behave: both have the same delicate, tripping gait; both stalk and pounce in much the same way; both sit and sleep with tails curled around their bodies; both twitch tail tips to allow young to practice hunting; both will use a paw to scoop unwary fish out of a garden pond.
Anatomically, however, foxes have the large ears, the long pointed muzzle, the 42 teeth and the non-retractable claws (five on forefeet and four on hind) that we typically associate with dogs, although they do share the vertically-slit pupils commonly associated with cats (larger canids, such as wolves and domestic dogs, have round pupils).
In their 1982 comparison of Red and Arctic ( comes from the Old World and dates to the early Pleistocene (between 1.8 and 1 mya) of Hungary and, in her 2008 study of Red fox dentition, Polish Academy of Sciences mammalogist Elwira Szuma suggested that the current line evolved either in Asia Minor or North Africa around this time.
As fox populations rose in Eurasia, those in North America appear to have dwindled.
Nonetheless, taxonomists (those who study how species are related to each other) currently think that the carnivorans evolved from animals called miacids, which were small tree-living mammals that looked similar to modern-day civets.
At some point -- by current thinking, around 42 million years ago (mya), during the mid-Eocene -- it appears that the carnivorans split into the two groups, or suborders, that we recognise as cat-like (Feliformia) and dog-like (Caniformia).
According to Wang and Tedford, the first true foxes appeared in North America late in the Miocene (around 9 mya) and were represented by a small Californian species known as , which was found in the Central African country of Chad and dates to the late Miocene (some 7 mya).