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Pampas fox – the wild dog of the pampas

Do you know where the pampas fox lives? As the name suggests, he lives in the pampas. But where exactly? In South America! This little fox roams the Steppe’s plains in Argentina, but it spreads even to the east of Bolivia, the west of Paraguay, and a part of south-east Brazil. In this article, you will learn everything about the pampas fox and why this fox is actually a dog! Now, how do you recognize a pampas fox? It certainly looks like a fox, but it is relatively small. The head-torso length is around 65 centimeters, and the shoulder height is 40 centimeters. Its fur is a mottled grey, and it has two characteristic black spots on its tail. Its eyes are particularly striking – they run diagonally and are set forward. The pampas fox can be easily recognized by its relatively large triangular ears. 

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Origin of the Pampas Fox

The pampas fox, Lycalopex gymnocercus in Latin, is a South American species that belong to real dogs’ genus. What does this mean? Is the pampas fox a fox or a dog? A tribe of dogs (Canidae) is called real dogs. They are found on almost all continents, live mostly in the wild, and belong to predators’ genus. But the pampas fox really looks like a fox. This species’ exciting thing is that its ancestry can be traced back to fossils millions of years old.

They originate from the Pliocene, which first appeared about 5 million years ago and ended about 2.5 million years ago. Fossils were found in what is now central and northern Chile, where the pampas fox is now extinct. However, more recent findings also prove the pampas fox’s existence in early Pleistocene (beginning after the Pliocene and ending with the beginning of the present time about 11,700 years ago). In the vicinity of Buenos Aires, fossils have been found indicating the existence of the pampas fox. The most recent finding is only 30,000 years old.

How does the pampas fox live?

The small fox’s typical habitat is the Pampa, an open, flat area with tall grass and a humid to dry climate. The pampas fox is a predator and carnivore that feeds on field hares, armadillos, and various rodents such as field mice, guinea pigs, and even birds. Although it prefers meat, it does not spurn fruit or carrion.

Near humans, pampas foxes also like to plunder garbage or kill chickens, lambs, or young goats. The pampas fox’s only enemy in the wild is the puma because it is a more massive carnivore. Unfortunately, humans also represent a danger for the little fox. They are often hunted or run over on the few roads that lead through the pampas. This happens mostly at night as pampas foxes are primarily nocturnal. They are solitary animals and only look for a female during the mating season. However, this is usually the same, because pampas foxes live monogamously.

During mating season, in the southern hemisphere in spring, between August and October, they seek their partner, and the young are usually born towards the end of spring. The ferns, which is the name given to the young foxes, are born in the burrow of the pampas foxes. This burrow is worth mentioning because the foxes do not dig it themselves. They live either in natural rock caves or under the roots of fallen trees. Furthermore, pampas foxes take over other animals’ burrows and turn them into their dens, such as those of the armadillos. As the pampas foxes expand or even change their territory, this burrow is often abandoned after a certain time, and they look for a new hiding place.

Another interesting detail about the pampas fox is that it excels at playing dead. If a pampas fox feels threatened, it will roll aside, close its eyes and stiffen as if it was dead. Luckily, the breed is not considered endangered by the World Conservation Union (Least Concern). This is the lowest level on the organization’s scale of threatened species. This means that if you go on a trip through the Argentinean Steppe and watch out, you will almost certainly see one or more pampas foxes. To find out which other animals you can observe in Argentina, click here.

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