Mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that Blanford's foxes and fennec foxes are sister taxa.
Like other canids, Blanford's foxes have keen eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing. They communicate with chemical cues and with vocalizations.
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Trapping and hunting have caused a large decline in the numbers of these foxes. They are protected throughout Israel, as the majority of their habitat is in protected areas. Development in other parts of their range may pose a risk to populations.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Blanford's foxes cause domestic crop damage in some areas.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
The pelts of Blanford's foxes are valuable and they are hunted. Because of their diet, this species probably controls rodent and insect populations which might have a negative impact on crops.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
Blanford's foxes help to control rapidly growing small mammal populations by preying on mammals such as rodents. They may have a similar effect on insect populations. Because they are frugivorous, they likely play some role in dispersing seeds.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Blanford's foxes are omnivorous, eating mostly insects and fruit. Prey includes insects such as beetles, locusts, grasshopper, ants, and termites. Primary wild fruits eaten are two species of caperbush (Capparis cartilaginea and Capparis spinosa), Phoenix dactylifera, Ochradenus baccatus, Fagonia mollis, and Graminea species. Fecal samples have up to 10% vertebrate remains as well. In Pakistan they have been recorded eating agricultural crops, including melons, grapes, and Russian olives.
Blanford's foxes hunt alone the majority of time. Even mated pairs tend to forage independently. They rarely cache food.
Blanford's foxes seem to rarely drink water, meeting their water needs through the foods they eat.
Animal Foods: mammals; insects
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Vulpes cana, Blanford's fox, is found from Israel throughout the mountainous regions of the middle east to Afghanistan. The range of this species likely covers all the middle-eastern countries, although populations may be discontinuous. They are known from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkistan (Kazakhstan), Israel, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, and are expected to occur throughout a wider range, including Eritrea, Sudan, and Yemen.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
Vulpes cana is found in semi-arid steppes and mountains. This species prefers areas with steep, rocky slopes, cliffs, and canyons. Historically, Blanford's foxes were considered to avoid hot lowlands as well as cooler uplands. However, they have been observed near the Dead Sea in Israel, where they are found in cultivated areas where melons, Russian chives, and seedless grapes are grown. Blanford's foxes occur up to elevations of about 2000 meters. The most important habitat feature for Blanford's foxes seems to be the presence of dry creek beds. Dens are chosen in areas with large rock piles.
Range elevation: 2000 (high) m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Average lifespan of Blandford's foxes is 4 to 5 years, and does not exceed 10 years in the wild. Old age and rabies are the primary recorded causes of mortality.
Status: wild: 10 (high) years.
Status: wild: 4 to 5 years.
Blandford's foxes are small foxes with large ears and long, bushy tails with long, dark guard hairs. They range in mass from 1.5 to 3 kg, and in head to tail length from 70 to 90 cm (tail mean length is 323 mm, body mean length is 426 mm. Males and females are similar in appearance. The snout is slender. Vulpes cana has cat-like movements and appearance. Coloration is black, brown, or grey, and is sometimes blotchy. The flanks are lighter than the back, which has a black stripe running down it, and the underside is yellow. The tip of the tail is usually dark but can be white. Males have 3 to 6% longer forelegs and bodies than females.
Range mass: 1.5 to 3 kg.
Average length: 426 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
The main predator of these foxes is humans, although one case of a Blanford's fox being killed by a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has been recorded. Blanford's foxes are not hard to catch, showing little fear of traps or humans.
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Vulpes cana is monogamous.
Mating System: monogamous
Blanford's foxes typically mate from December to February. They are strictly monogamous. The gestation period is 50 to 60 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 1 to 3 kits. The altricial young are nursed for 30 to 45 days. Young become sexually mature between 8 and 12 months of age.
Breeding interval: Blanford's foxes give birth once each year.
Breeding season: Blanford's foxes breed during December and January, and give birth between March and April.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Range gestation period: 50 to 60 days.
Range weaning age: 30 to 45 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8 to 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 to 12 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 29 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Females nurse their young for 30 to 45 days. Young are dependent on their mothers until they can forage on their own. Foxes have relatively altricial young, and usually give birth to them in a secluded den, where they can develop under the care of their mother. Because the mating system of Blandford's foxes is monogamous, and breeding pairs maintain minimally overlapping ranges, the male may also be considered to provide some care to the offspring, even if only in the form of maintaining an area from which food is supplied. Males have been observed grooming juveniles. Young remain in their natal range until the October or November in the year of their birth.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
Localized (South Sinai).
Blanford's fox is named after the English naturalist William Thomas Blanford, who described it in 1877. It is also known as the Afghan fox, royal fox, dog fox, hoary fox, steppe fox, black fox, king fox (Persian: شاهروباه, romanized: shāhrūbāh), cliff fox or Balochistan fox.
The Blanford's fox has a rather discontinuous range. Initially known only from southwest Asia, this species was reported in Israel in 1981 and was later found to be more widespread in the Arabian Peninsula. Peters and Rödel (1994) reviewed the available distribution records of this species and presented, for the eastern part of the range, what they considered to be definitive records from around the Iranian Plateau in Iran, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, with more doubtful records (usually based on skins collected from fur bazaars or otherwise indirectly) from Afghanistan and Tajikistan (though there is no such record).
There are now confirmed records in the Middle East from Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They have long been suspected of occurring in Yemen and have been reported at an altitude of about 1,200 m above sea level in Hawf Forest, Al Mahra Governorate, in the far east of Yemen, near the border with Oman. It also seemed possible that they may have lived in western Yemen, where the mountains in southwestern Arabia were contiguous, and the camera trapping record in February 2014 in Wadi Sharis in Hajjah Governorate, NW of Sana'a, now confirms their existence. There is a single record from Egypt, west of the Suez Canal, of an animal captured in 1988, originally believed to be Vulpes rueppellii. There are no verified documents from Syria, but they may have existed.
Blanford's fox is a small fox with wide ears and a long, bushy tail nearly equal to the length of its body. Its body size often varies geographically. In the Afghan-Iranian region, the collected specimens had head-body lengths of 38.5 to 80 cm (15.2 to 31.5 in) and tail lengths of 33 to 41 cm (13 to 16 in), while specimens in Oman had a total length of 73.5 to 76 cm (28.9 to 29.9 in) and a tail length of 35 to 36 cm (14 to 14 in). Weights of those specimens averaged 873g, body lengths 42 cm, tail 32.5 cm. Among all extant canids, only the fennec fox is smaller than Blanford's.
The body is brownish-grey, fading to light yellow on the belly. The winter coat is soft and woolly, with a dense black undercoat and white fur speckles in the dorsal area; together with a somewhat thicker layer of fat, it serves as thermal insulation in cold and dry winter. The summer coat is less thick, the fur is paler, and the white hair is less noticeable. A characteristic mid-dorsal black band extends caudally from the nape of the spine, becoming a mid-dorsal crest along the length of the tail. The tail is the same colour as the body. A black spot is found at the base of the spine. The tip of the tail is normally black, but it is white in some individuals. The dark mid-dorsal line, which is a distinctive characteristic of the Israeli specimens, is less noticeable in Oman specimens, although the black tail markings are similarly developed.
Like other arid land foxes, Blanford's fox characteristically large ear is an adaptation to enhance heat dissipation. However, unlike other desert foxes, it does not have pads covered with hair, and it has cat-like, curved, sharp claws described by some authors as semiretractile.
This fox has an ability to climb rocks and make jumps described as "astonishing", jumping to ledges 3 m (9.8 ft) above them with ease, and as part of their regular movements and climbing vertical, crumbling cliffs by a series of jumps up vertical sections. The foxes use their sharp, curved claws and naked footpads for traction on narrow ledges and their long, bushy tails as a counterbalance.
The Blanford's fox is strictly nocturnal, an activity pattern that is most definitely an anti-predator response to diurnal raptors. There are no significant seasonal or gender variations in the activity patterns, and climate conditions at night in the desert of Israel seemed to have little direct effect on their activity, except under extreme conditions.
Blanford's fox is omnivorous and primarily insectivorous and frugivorous. In Israel, plant food consists mainly of the fruit of two caperbush species, Capparis cartilaginea and Capparis spinosa; they also consume fruits and plant material of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), Ochradenus baccatus, Fagonia mollis, and various species of Gramineae. Blanford's foxes in Pakistan are largely frugivorous, feeding on Russian olives (Elaeagnus hortensis), melons, and grapes. The Biblical foxes in the vineyard mentioned in the Song of Songs 2:15, described as "little foxes who ruin the vineyards" are most probably the frugivorous Blanford's foxes.
Blanford's foxes are thought to be strictly monogamous. Monogamy may be beneficial in this species as the dispersion of their prey is such that, in order to accommodate additional adults, it would demand a territorial expansion that would bring more costs than benefits. Females are monoestrus and come into heat during January–February. Gestation period is around 50–60 days, and litter size is one to three. The lactation period is 30–45 days. Neonates are born with soft, black fur, with an estimated body mass of 29 g. At the age of two months, the kits start to forage with one of the parents, and at 3 months of age they begin to forage on their own. Juveniles have similar markings as adults, but their fur is darker and more grayish. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 10–12 months.
Average lifespan of Blandford's foxes is 4 to 5 years, and does not exceed 10 years in the wild.
While the IUCN has downgraded Blanford's fox to "least concern" as more has been learned about the breadth of its distribution across the Middle East, very little is known about this species and its vulnerabilities to the diseases of domesticated dogs that have so badly affected other canids. Currently, little competition exists with humans for habitat, and the fox is a protected species in Israel and protected from hunting in Oman and Yemen. Some fur hunting occurs in Afghanistan, and occasionally they may take poison intended for hyenas and other species.