Is that a fox or a dog? Perhaps you’ve had a double-take when you walk through the park or are curious to see a fox-like dog walking on a leash. That’s because there’s a large number of dogs that look like foxes, and it’s all down to their genetics!
But while certain breeds of dogs do look like a fox, they aren’t foxes. Dogs are domesticated, while foxes are very much wild animals. It’s not a good idea to bring a fox into the family, but you could bring home a fox-looking dog instead.
In this article, we take a look at the differences between dogs and foxes and list the best fox-like dogs that you can welcome into your family!
Are foxes dogs?
There are a curious number of dogs that look like foxes. They might be red-brown, with pointy noses, dark facial features, bushy tails, and distinctly pointy ears. They might even be a similar size and shape and can easily be mistaken for a wild fox if you see them running around off the leash.
The following dogs look similar to foxes:
- Shiba Inu
- Japanese Spitz
- Korean Jindo
- Alaskan Klee Kai
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Icelandic Sheepdog
- Finnish Spitz
But why is this? Why do certain breeds of dogs - such as the Shiba Inu or the Finnish Spitz - look surprisingly similar to the wild fox breeds you see in urban areas or the countryside?
The answer is quite simple. Genetics.
The fox and the dog both have the same origins. They descend from the same ancestors, and if you go back far enough, their family trees merge into one. In effect, foxes are genetically similar to dogs, but they are totally different species.
In fact, both dogs and foxes are part of the same family of animals. Both are members of the Canidae family of animals, including many more predatory creatures such as jackals and wolves. However, they have a different genus.
To understand this better, you can look at the ‘family tree.’ Both foxes and dogs are in the Canidae family. But dogs then diverge into the Canis genus, while foxes are in the Vulpes genus.
The Latin name for dogs is Canis familiaris, while the Latin name for the fox is Vulpes vulpes. Technically, domesticated dogs are a subspecies of the wolf. They are closely related to the wild wolves (the wolf’s Latin name would be Canis lupus, and technically the dog would be Canis lupus familiaris).
- Dogs are not foxes; foxes are not dogs!
- Dogs descend from wolves.
- Wolves and foxes descend from the same ancestors.
- Wolves and foxes diverged over 7 million years ago into distinct species.
- Dogs and foxes have the same family (Canidae) but are from a different genus.
So are foxes canines? Sort of. They are in the Canidae family. But are foxes dogs? Definitely not (they just look similar because of their shared genetics!)
Significant differences between dogs and foxes
Clearly, dogs and foxes are similar. But what is it that undoubtedly sets a fox apart from a dog? It’s these facts that make all the difference, so let’s take a look at them in more detail!
While some dogs do look like foxes, they are still obviously different in appearance. Foxes have far less variation in terms of looks (humans haven’t bred them for specific traits), but in general, they are much smaller in size than your average breed of dog.
Domesticated dogs can live on average for much longer than foxes. The average lifespan of a fox in the wild is just two years, with four years considered old!
In comparison, dogs regularly live up to 15 years and longer - depending on the breed. Some dogs are even known to live well into their twenties. This variation is due to the lifestyle because foxes in captivity typically live much longer than those in the wild.
The most significant difference is in terms of domestication.
Dogs have been domesticated over thousands of years, whereas foxes are still very wild animals. They are shy, independent, and fierce. While dogs might have these traits, they are not nearly as pronounced as in foxes, as humans have selectively bred out these undesirable personality markers.
Foxes do not make good pets because they can’t be trained and don’t easily learn commands. Ultimately, this is the most significant difference between dogs and foxes and why one is wild and not!
Is a fox-dog hybrid possible?
Dogs and foxes have similar genetics due to their shared background or, more accurately, the wolf and the fox’s shared background.
The oldest dog breeds in the world will be closer in looks and character traits to the wild wolf, as they are even closer in terms of genetics than more domesticated dogs.
Dogs look like foxes because of their shared ancestry, but does this mean it’s possible to create a fox-dog hybrid? No. This is not a possibility because dogs and foxes aren’t compatible in this way. Their genetics are simply too diverged now to produce any sort of hybrid.
Types of dogs that look like foxes
If you’re a fan of foxes, though, then don’t worry! There are lots of dogs that look remarkably similar to foxes. These dogs are often closely related to the wolf and not far descended from their wild cousins.
They often have fox-like features, including pointy ears and bushy tails, and the temperament to go with it. They are often fiery and independent (with a wolf-like character) and typically require a little extra training to domesticate fully.
Stick to it, though, and soon enough, they’ll be cuddling up after using their bed ramp for dogs to crawl into bed with you! This isn’t a conclusive list by any means because some smaller mixed dog breeds can have similarities to foxes as well, but we’ll stick with larger dogs for the sake of simplicity throughout this article!
Here are the best dogs that look like a fox. Some of these just so happen to be on the oldest dog breeds list!
#1 Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu is a spitz dog that has wonderfully pointed ears and a fox-like face. They often have coats in a similar color to foxes, too, such as red-brown or light brown.
Shiba Inus were initially bred in Japan to be hunting dogs and so still retain many of the characteristics of their wolf-cousins. Still, they are easy to train and very tame.
The Akita is another one of the Japanese dogs that look like foxes, although Akitas is considerably larger than any fox you would find in the wild.
The Akita has a fox-like face, with large pointy ears that stand tall. However, their commanding size gives them as much a wolf-like appearance as it does a fox-like manner. Akitas are famously loyal, but they can be a handful.
#3 Finnish Spitz
The Finnish Spitz is a hunting dog that looks uncannily similar to a wild fox. They are usually light red with bushy tails and fox-like facial features.
While larger than foxes, their puppies can easily be mistaken for a wild fox. The Finnish Spitz is native to Finland and still performs as a hunting dog in the cold Arctic tundra, where its thick coat proves itself helpful!
#4 Icelandic Sheepdog
The Icelandic Sheepdog also looks very similar to a fox, given its red fur coat and bushy tail. The Icelandic Sheepdog is another spitz, descended not too distantly from wolves, and retaining those distinctive fox-like features.
These are hardworking dogs, known for their stamina and agility. They are intelligent, independent, and loyal!
Our final say on foxy furry friends!
While certain dog breeds look suspiciously like foxes, these two creatures are very different. They have different temperaments, different character traits, and ultimately, a different appearance, too.
While dogs have been selectively bred to live alongside humans for thousands of years, foxes are very much wild animals and are almost impossible to domesticate!
If you love the idea of having a pet fox, then don’t despair, because you can look after a dog with fox-like looks instead!
Bookmark this article on dogs that look like foxes, and find your perfect companion!