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Can foxes be dark brown?

Can foxes be dark brown?

Foxes come in a variety of colors, ranging from red and orange to grey, black, and even dark brown. The most common fox species, the red fox, is known for its distinctive reddish-orange fur. However, some red foxes can be quite dark, almost black in some cases. Other fox species like the grey fox and Arctic fox have grey, white, and brown color variations. So yes, it is certainly possible for foxes to be dark brown.

The color of a fox’s coat is primarily determined by two factors – their species and geographic location. Red foxes in particular exhibit a fair amount of color variation, including morphs that are dark brown. The prevalence of brown foxes depends on the subspecies and their habitat. For example, North American red foxes are more likely to be pale red or orange overall, while European red foxes tend to be more variable with darker brown individuals.

What Determines a Fox’s Coat Color?

A fox’s species and subspecies is the primary determinant of its fur color and pattern. After that, geographic location can influence coloration. Here are some of the key factors:


There are 12 fox species, and they display different coat colors. Arctic foxes are white or grey, fennec foxes are tan, and grey foxes are grey, to name a few examples. Even among red foxes, which are the most widespread species, there is variation.


There are 45 recognized subspecies of red foxes that inhabit different regions. Their fur can range from pale yellow to deep red and chocolate brown. The subspecies influences typical coloration.


Foxes tend to match their environments. Desert foxes are pale, Arctic foxes are white, and forest foxes are red-brown as camouflage. Within a subspecies, individuals from colder climates also tend more towards darker coats.

Seasonal Changes

Some foxes, like the Arctic fox, change coat color between seasons. Their thick winter fur is white while summer fur is brown. Red foxes also develop thicker fur in winter, which can make them appear darker.

Genetics & Melanism

Genetic mutations can produce darker brown or black foxes, called melanistic morphs. These are more common in some areas.

Dark Brown Fox Species

While most red foxes are bright orange, several fox species regularly display darker brown coats. Here are some of the foxes that can be dark brown:

Red Fox

Some red fox subspecies are quite dark, like the Japanese red fox native to parts of Asia. And melanistic mutations produce black individuals. About 10% of European red foxes are dark brown.

Grey Fox

The grey fox has salt-and-pepper fur ranging from grey to black. Their legs, ears, and underside are rusty brown. Some are very dark overall.

Urocyon Foxes

The island fox, a miniature grey fox, is dark silvery grey. The common grey fox also has brown and darker grey phases.

South American Foxes

The Sechuran fox and pampas fox have grey, brown, or reddish coats. The hoary fox is mottled grey and brown.

Bat-eared Fox

Found in Africa, these foxes have brown, black, and white fur. Some populations are very dark overall.

Prevalence of Dark Brown Fur in Red Foxes

Red foxes demonstrate the most coat color variety of any fox species. Here is an overview of how common dark brown red foxes are in different regions:

Region Prevalence of Dark Brown Foxes
North America Uncommon, less than 10%
Europe Moderate, up to 20% in some areas
Northern Africa Uncommon, about 10%
Middle East Rare
Central Asia Moderate, more in mountainous areas
Asia Pacific High, up to 40% in Japan and China

As shown, dark brown red foxes are rare in North America and parts of the Middle East where foxes tend to be pale orange or light red. They are more common in areas like Japan and China where the native subspecies display more color variation. Melanism also occurs at higher rates in certain Asian and European fox populations.

Causes of Dark Brown Fur in Red Foxes

There are several reasons why some red foxes have chocolate brown or charcoal fur rather than the typical fiery orange coat.


The genes inherited from parents and local interbreeding play a major role. Some subspecies are genetically predisposed towards darker coats.


A melanistic fox has a genetic mutation that results in excessive black pigment production. There are higher rates of melanism is some regions.


Foxes found in mountainous areas at higher elevations often have darker fur, which holds in heat better.


Foxes are adapted to match their environment. Those in dense forests tend to be darker than foxes in open areas.


Young fox cubs have fluffier grey fur. As they mature, their adult red coat grows in. In winter, foxes also grow thick underfur that can darken their appearance.

Benefits of Dark Brown Fur

The variations in red fox coloration are due to adaptive benefits of different coat colors in certain habitats. Here are some of the advantages of having darker brown fur:

Camouflage – Provides better concealment when hunting prey or hiding from predators in dense brush or dark forests.

Insulation – The extra melanin in dark fur generates more heat, which helps foxes survive frigid winters and high altitudes.

UV protection – Dark fur contains more pigment to shield foxes from harmful ultraviolet radiation. This is beneficial in sunny, open environments.

Signaling – Dark morphs may use their unusual coloration to signal dominance or attract mates.

So while the iconic red fox is boldly orange, dark brown foxes are specially adapted to thrive in particular environments. The variety of coloration allows different foxes to succeed in diverse habitats across the globe.


In summary, many fox species can display brown or black fur, especially the highly variable red fox. Darker red fox phases occur naturally across different regions, most commonly in parts of Europe and Asia. Melanistic mutations also contribute to very dark individuals. The coloration is driven by a combination of genes, geography, altitude, camouflage needs, and other evolutionary factors. While not typical, dark brown foxes are a normal part of natural color variation in vulpes vulpes and other species. So yes, foxes can certainly be dark brown due to their adaptable fur pigmentation. With habitats ranging from the Arctic to the desert, foxes utilize different coat colors like white, grey, red, and brown to thrive.