LOOK: The Cross Fox Might Be the Most Intimidating-Looking Animal You’ve Never Seen Before

by Lauren Boisvert

If you’ve never seen a cross fox before, let me formally introduce you. It’s a red fox with a melanistic color morph, which gives it a cool pattern on its fur. The Twitter page Nature is Lit recently shared a photo of a lounging cross fox and the color pattern on its head is remarkable. It has fur that is partially black, but also orange like a regular red fox. It’s the animal embodiment of Halloween.

The cross fox also has deep orange eyes, and in the photo, they stare intensely at the viewer. It feels like this fox could stare into my soul. What is it about this animal that makes it such a marvel, besides its coloring? Here’s a crash course on this animal and why it’s the coolest fox on the block.

How Are Cross Foxes Created?

The cross fox is a mix between a red and a silver fox, which results in a partial melanin color morph. Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment that creates a dark color in the skin, hair, or eyes of people and animals. It’s an amino acid that goes through a chemical process called melanogenesis, resulting in the dark pigment.

Red, silver, and cross foxes are all under the species Vulpes vulpes, with the red coloration being the most common. Silver foxes are usually all black, while the cross is a mix of the two. But, they are all the same species, which is commonly known as a red fox. They just have color morphs that make them look different. At one point, though, it was incorrectly thought that the cross was a different species, Canis decassatus. This was disproven even as trappers continued to treat the silver, red, and cross foxes as different species.

Where Do They Live?

This unique fox most commonly lives in North America and Canada. Actually, 30% of Canada’s red fox population has this color morph. It has also been occasionally seen in Scandanavia, Norway, and Finland. Cross foxes were once abundant in Utah and similar areas of the United States, but the fur trade all but wiped them out, unfortunately.

Silver fox pelts were much more valuable in the fur trade, but hunters still collected cross fox pelts. During the late 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company exported 4,500 cross fox pelts a year, according to a report in volume 12 of the Intellectual Observer from 1868. Apparently, the darker the coat, the more valuable the pelt.

How Rare is This Color Variation?

Surprisingly, this color variation isn’t all that rare, despite the unique look. While the silver fox represents about 10% of the Vulpes vulpes population, cross foxes make up around 25% of the population in North America. As mentioned above, in Canada they represent 30%. So, really, despite looking extremely rare, they’re actually pretty common.