Russian Red Fox (Siberian Fox): Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

A red fox cub running in the grass

James Warwick / Stone / Getty Images

The tame Russian red fox (Siberian fox) is a genetic anomaly; it's the only domesticated breed of fox. This fox was developed from selective breeding experiments in Russia in 1959. Their looks mutated somewhat from their wild cousins, and they became domesticated like dogs. While a pet fox is not the easiest pet to acquire, you may be able to source them from Russia and U.S.-based backyard breeders for a hefty price.

Species Overview

Common Name: Tame Russian red fox or Siberian fox

Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes

Adult Size: The tame Russian red fox's body is up to 22 inches; weighing up to 20 pounds

Life Expectancy: Up to 14 years in captivity

Russian Red Fox Behavior and Temperament

Russian red foxes have genetic differences from wild foxes, making them—for all intents and purposes—domesticated. They have lower adrenaline levels and other physiological mutations like floppier ears and sometimes curling tails. They rarely get aggressive with humans, but like any dog, they may bite if distressed or threatened.

Tame foxes show characteristics similar to a domesticated dog, such as friendliness and excitability around humans with tail wagging. In some cases, a domesticated fox will whimper to attract attention and will sniff and lick its caretaker, similar to a dog.

Foxes do generally like to be cared for and loved. They will often become attached to their human parents and will show affection.

This tame variety is still very much wild, exhibiting traits more like feral breeds. They are athletic creatures and can jump over 6 feet high, dig, and swim exceptionally better than dogs. They are also fast and can run up to 30 miles per hour. Also, they can be unpredictable and guided by instincts. To remain happy and healthy, these brilliant creatures need plenty of environmental enrichment. A bored fox becomes a destructive fox.

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8 Things to Know Before Adopting a Pet Fox

Housing the Russian Red Fox

A large enclosure (approximately 10 by 20 feet) makes an ample living area for a pet fox. The pen must be secured with a buried fence to prevent your pet from digging out and predators from getting in. The fence must be a minimum of 6 feet high to contain these high-jumping animals. A roof is recommended for protection from the elements. The outdoor enclosure should also have a shelter or indoor area that has bedding, straw, or woodchips for digging.

Use dog potty-training pads much the same way as you would for a dog when potty-training your pet fox. Train it to eliminate in a designated area. Do not house your pet fox inside your home unless you are willing to tolerate strong-smelling urine and their destructive nature.

If you let them loose indoors, supervise your fox closely. Put away breakables and anything valuable (including car keys), keep electrical cords out of reach, and consider using child locks on cabinet doors. 

Food and Water

In the wild, red foxes are omnivores, eating small rodents, birds, raccoons, insects, reptiles, and plant material, including fruit. A fox's diet in captivity can include a grain-free dog food supplemented with fruit and vegetables. You can purchase most high-quality dog food brands at pet stores. Feed your fox according to the package directions for the body weight, twice a day. Adjust amounts accordingly if it's losing or gaining too much weight. You can use standard dog dishes with this breed.

Fruit and vegetables should only account for a small portion of your fox's total diet. Usually, 1/4 cup a day works well as a supplement. They love strawberries, blueberries, apples, carrots, and mushrooms. Some red fox breeders also recommend raw meat, eggs, and taurine supplements. And of course, a fresh water bowl should be provided daily for your pet.

Common Health Problems

Pet foxes are susceptible to most canine diseases, including rabies and distemper. Research vaccines carefully and discuss them with your exotics veterinarian before you decide to vaccinate your pet fox. Some domestic foxes can suffer from reactions to conventional vaccines. However, you will need to accept the risk if your unvaccinated fox (or even one that is vaccinated) bites a person. Depending on the laws of your state, your fox can be euthanized.

Foxes can also catch livestock diseases—including bovine tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, and Darling’s disease—and can transmit certain other illnesses to both humans and pets.

illustration of foxes as pets, care sheet
The Spruce/Wenjia Tang

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Russian Red Fox?

Before you buy or adopt a fox, check that it is allowed where you live. Several states ban foxes as pets, including California, Texas, and Oregon. In New York, only fennec foxes are allowed. In North Carolina, residents can own a fox as long as they obtain an exhibition license and use the fox for learning programs in schools, libraries, or nature centers. Virginia allows pet foxes if you file for a permit.

Oddly, in Arkansas, you are allowed to catch wild foxes to keep as a pet with a limit of six foxes per household. However, taking in wild foxes is discouraged; they tend to be very destructive and have strict raw food diet requirements. Fox kits from the wild could also carry diseases that include rabies, which can be fatal to people if they are not vaccinated before symptoms start.

Purchasing Your Russian Red Fox

You can import Russian red foxes for up to $9,000. There may be a few domestic sources of breeders in the U.S., although you must verify the breed you get is genuinely a tame Russian red fox. Disreputable breeders will try to pass wild fox kits off for Russian red foxes. The now-defunct Las Vegas-based company Sibfox had been the major importer of pet Russian red foxes for about $6,000 each. They went out of business in 2012.

Domesticated breeds of foxes are tough to come by. As an alternative, fox lovers can sponsor rescued foxes from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, the World Wildlife Fund, or another fox rescue organizations and enjoy fox ownership without all the work.

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