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Are foxes red or brown?

Foxes come in a range of colors, from red and brown to silver and black. While the famously flame-colored red fox may jump to mind first, foxes actually display a surprising diversity in fur shades. Understanding the range of fox colors and patterns can help shed light on these widespread yet elusive creatures.

Quick Facts on Fox Colors

Here are some quick facts on fox colors:

  • The most common fox colors are red, silver/black, and cross foxes.
  • Red foxes range from pale yellowish-red to deep reddish-brown.
  • Silver foxes are black with white-tipped guard hairs giving a silver appearance.
  • Cross foxes have a mix of red and black fur interspersed with white.
  • Less common color morphs include melanistic black, platinum, and fire foxes.
  • Arctic foxes change color seasonally from white in winter to brown in summer.
  • Fox kits are born gray and develop their adult colors as they mature.

The Common Red Fox

The red fox is the most widespread and well-known fox species. Their fur can range from a light yellowish red to a dark reddish brown. On their backs, sides, and legs, the fur is generally a rich reddish-brown. The throat, chin, and belly fur tends to be lighter cream or white.

There is quite a bit of variety in shades among red foxes. Overall, foxes in colder northern regions tend to have deeper, richer red fur than those in warmer southern areas. The lush winter coat is also darker than the thinner summer coat.

Red foxes have black fur on their legs, ears, and the tops of their tails. White fur also often occurs on the tail tip and underside. Their muzzles are white, as are sections of their underbelly fur.

Silver and Cross Foxes

After the red fox, one of the most common fox color phases is the silver fox. Silver foxes are actually a color variant of the red fox, where the black fur on the legs and backs is more extensive. The black areas are highlighted by white-tipped guard hairs interspersed throughout, giving the fox a silvery or frosted appearance.

Cross foxes represent a color pattern halfway between red and silver foxes. They have a mix of red and black fur interspersed with white guard hairs. The black forms cross-shaped markings on their backs, leading to the name “cross” fox.

Rarer Color Morphs

While red, silver, and cross foxes represent the most common colorations, some rarer fox color morphs also occur:

  • Melanistic foxes have black fur over their entire bodies due to excess melanin production.
  • Platinum foxes are primarily greyish-white due to lower melanin.
  • Fire foxes have primarily black fur with yellowish-red highlights on the face, legs, and underside.

These color morphs tend to be relatively uncommon in the wild. However, selective breeding in fur farms has produced some fox populations where they are more prevalent.

Seasonal Changes in Arctic Foxes

The arctic fox is the only canid species to routinely change its coat color seasonally. In the summer, arctic foxes have brown fur so they can blend in with tundra vegetation and dirt. In the winter, their fur transitions to a pure white color to provide camouflage in the snow and ice.

This seasonal shift is driven by changes in daylight exposure. As winter approaches, the foxes’ bodies react to the decreasing daylight by producing more of the white pigment melanin. This makes the fur pale and eventually snowy white by mid-winter. In spring, the process reverses as daylight hours increase, and the white fur is shed for the brown summer coat.

Fox Kittens

Newborn fox kittens look quite different than mature adults. Kits are born with soft fluffy fur in various shades of grey. At this stage, it can be difficult to discern their final coloration. Over the first few months of life, the juvenile foxes gradually develop the adult coloration and patterns characteristic of their species and color phase.

For example, red fox kits are born grey but slowly develop the reddish tones. Arctic fox kits transition from grey to brown before shifting to white for the winter. By 3-4 months of age, fox kits closely resemble adults in terms of fur color and markings.

Summary of Fox Colors

Here is a summary of the major fox colors and patterns:

Fox Type Description
Red fox Pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown fur with black legs, ear tips, and tail tops.
Silver fox Black fur with white guard hairs giving a frosted silver appearance.
Cross fox Mix of red and black fur with white guard hairs.
Arctic fox Brown in summer, white in winter.
Melanistic fox All black fur.
Platinum fox Greyish-white fur.
Fire fox Primarily black with yellowish-red highlights.


Foxes display a remarkable diversity in fur coloration. While red coats are the most iconic, foxes actually come in a wide spectrum of hues. The common variations range from red to silver to cross foxes. More unusual types like melanistic black foxes also occur. Arctic foxes undergo a seasonal coat color change from brown to white.

Understanding the range of potential fox fur colors and patterns helps shed light on their biology and adaptations. Next time you spot a fox, take a closer look at its coat color. You may be surprised by the beautiful variety hiding beneath the surface!