Coyote vs. Fox: How to Tell Them Apart

In the same mammal family as the ever-so-lovable dog, coyotes and foxes bear several differences. Here's what you need to know to distinguish between the two.

What's the difference between a fox vs coyote? Like the domestic dog, both the coyote and the fox belong to the Canidae family (where members are known as canids). While these two animals have some similarities, they are indeed quite different on closer inspection. Both the coyote and fox are the most widespread wild animals in North America currently, and the two even overlap with their behavior — These "wild dogs" might also compete with one another!

At first glance, foxes and coyotes might look similar, but other than the cartoon icon Wile E. Coyote always chasing the fast-running Road Runner (meep meep!) in Looney Tunes, or Tod from Disney's The Fox and the Hound, how much do we really know about the two canids? Here's everything you need to tell the difference between the two members of the dog family.

Physical Appearance

The most notable difference between the fox vs coyote is the size: Coyotes have much longer limbs, ears, and snout, making them overall larger and taller than the fox, whether it's the commonly seen red fox or the gray fox.

eMammal tells us about the coyote:

"The coyote (Canis latrans), is arguably the hardest of the three to differentiate. It has varied coloration, but is typically grey, brown or black. It has a very dog-like face and a long and fluffy tail."

Coyotes also have shorter tails (and more bushy tails) than foxes.

On the other hand, red foxes have black "stockings". You can also find black on their ears, along with a white-tipped tail and a more dog-like face when compared to the gray fox. The gray fox has a black-tip tail and a black stripe running down its back, along with a more cat-like face.

To put it simply: as eMammal states, "Red fox has black legs and a white tail tip, grey fox has black back stripe, and coyote is larger and taller."

Coyote vs Fox: Behavior

Other than being bigger and more vicious (Coyotes can kill a deer and other small mammals!), coyotes have other differences when compared to their fox family member. For one, coyotes are social animals and often live in extended family groups called packs. While foxes are solitary animals and prefer to only live with the female when it's time to mate. However, foxes are also known to dwell in more residential areas and urban areas. Some people even keep foxes as pets — They do make for some great pics!

Can you tell the difference between a fox vs coyote? Tell us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

This post was originally published on November 18, 2020.

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