What does the fox say? No, it’s not “ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding” or “wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow,” which was based on the song, ‘The Fox’ by Ylvis.
Instead, fox sounds are of three categories – alarm calls, contact calls, and interaction calls. Sounds from male foxes (dog foxes) are different from the females (vixens).
Foxes create a lot of sounds and noises to communicate with each other. This includes screaming, barking like a dog, staccato barking, clicketing, gekkering, coughing sounds, and whining. These sounds have different meanings, although some of them may sound the same.
There are 23 known fox species, but the two most common ones are the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). Foxes usually live in the forest and grasslands but may also live near human habitats.
In this guide, you will learn the sounds and noises that foxes make, as well as their meanings.
8 Fox Sounds and Noises
1. Vixen’s Scream
A vixen’s scream is the loudest and creepiest sound that foxes make. This scary sound is mostly produced by female foxes to attract males at night during mating season.
Dog foxes may also scream to attract females but very rare. In most cases, they only scream at top of their lungs as a response to a vixen’s scream.
Male foxes also scream to announce their dominance over other males or to claim territory. Foxes may also produce this unique, very high-pitched scream to warn others of potential danger or when they feel threatened.
A fox’s scream at night also sounds like a murder has just happened. It can wake you up, too!
2. Foxes Bark Like Dogs
A fox’s bark or “wow-wow-wow” is like a dog’s bark but with a shorter sound and a higher pitch. This difference is because foxes have smaller bodies as compared to dogs.
Interestingly, a barking fox is also sometimes mistaken for a howling owl. Foxes can distinguish this barking sound, regardless of gender.
Foxes bark as a way of calling the attention of another fox. Once another fox barks or replies, it means that they will start to approach each other.
As they get closer to each other, they will sound like two chickens clucking at each other. Fox cubs also bark like adults do, especially when they are calling their mother.
3. Staccato Bark
In music, staccato is a term describing sharp notes that are played quickly and repeatedly and with the same beat. It sounds like a woman wearing high heels walking on a tile floor.
Staccato barking is done by dogs when they are excited or under stress. Dogs and puppies in pain create this sound once you touch them.
Also called the yapping bark, staccato barking is done by foxes but in various segments and for different reasons. This includes declaring territory ownership via long distance and signaling cubs that the area is safe from predators. Foxes also do this odd type of barking to tell other group members to stay in touch.
4. Foxes Laugh, Too
People laugh when there’s something funny, and foxes also do. Technically, animals cannot identify “funny,” but they respond to things that excite them.
According to a study, domesticated foxes laugh like us due to two reasons – to attract attention from people and during a prolonged interaction with humans.
In a 2021 YouTube video, a captive-born fox named Dixie is heard making a “ha ha” sound as if the animal is laughing like a human while being playful with a woman.
The fox’s laughing sound is funny, irresistible, and can also make people laugh. It also sounds like someone cannot stop laughing while telling a joke!
5. Clicketing Sound
Clicketing is a sound that foxes usually make during the mating season, which is from January through March. However, some species may mate during winter, from December to early February. This clicketing or clicking sound like chickens may also be similar to the sound when two foxes are approaching each other.
Foxes produce this clicketing sound by releasing a short vocal from the back of their throat. Both sexes produce this unique sound and can distinguish whether it is coming from a male or female.
But although the purpose of clicketing is to attract a mate, foxes only produce this sound if they spot another fox nearby.
Gekkering is the sound that foxes make when adults are in dispute or in an aggressive encounter with one another. This chattering sound is a mixture of stuttering throaty vocalizations and a rattling noise and may also sound like howling. Dog foxes produce gekkering sounds as long as they can before a fight.
Generally speaking, adult foxes want to avoid physical fights with one another. So, instead of biting and scratching each other at once, they stand up on two feet and make gekkering sounds while pushing each other.
On the other hand, cubs may produce gekkering sounds while they are playing and wrestling with each other.
7. Coughing Sound
Foxes cough when they are sick, but may also produce coughing sounds even if they are well. This “low growling” sound is usually produced by vixens involving a mild vibration of their stomachs.
A coughing vixen means that she is warning her cubs of possible danger and to hurry up or telling them that it is time for feeding.
A coughing fox usually sounds short but sharp. In most cases, you cannot hear it unless you are very close to the animal. It can also be described as a “purr” or “mew” since foxes produce the sound with their mouths closed. A vixen may also slightly open her mouth while “coughing” if her cubs will not respond at once.
8. Whining Noise
Whining is a high and long-pitch sound that resembles a cry of a baby or the sound you make when someone wakes you up from a sound sleep. Foxes whine also for the same reasons.
Cubs whine but are not necessarily hungry or in pain. They whine once their sleep is interrupted or they want their mother’s attention.
Cubs start to whine once they are 19 weeks old. They may also produce warbling noises if they feel alone.
On the other hand, vixens create whining sounds as “caring calls” to their cubs. Whining foxes may also sound soft and mellow, just like when they create coughing sounds. Male foxes rarely whine, though.
How Many Sounds Do Foxes Make?
In 1963, a German ethologist named Gunter Tembrock studied the vocalizations that foxes make. He found out that foxes make 28 different sounds.
In 1991, Dr. Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher and his team conducted a sonographic analysis on foxes and learned that 8 out of 20 fox sounds and noises are created by cubs.
Are Foxes Noisy Animals?
Foxes are not noisy in general. Although they can create different noises as part of communicating with each other, these furry animals are more of using scents and body language to communicate.
Like cats and dogs, they also urinate to mark their territory. Foxes are only very noisy during their mating season.
Do Foxes Also Scream During the Day?
Foxes also scream during the daytime but not often. These mammals are nocturnal, which means that they are most active at night.
Foxes are also often alone, which is why you can hear them screaming at night. However, you can also hear foxes screaming in broad daylight, especially during mating season.
Do Foxes Also Scream at Night During Summer?
Foxes also scream at night during summer. Although winter is usually the mating season for foxes, these furry creatures are active all year round.
Again, foxes scream not only when they are looking for a mate. Vixens also scream as a warning to others of danger, while male foxes scream to declare their territory.
Do Foxes Scream When They See People?
Foxes may also scream when they see people, but it is very rare since we are among their predators. In fact, foxes are more afraid of us than we are afraid of them.
They will scream when they are cornered but will run away if given the chance. Foxes are very unlikely to attack humans unless they have rabies.
Some people keep foxes as pets, but it does not mean you should also own one. Foxes are wild animals, and you cannot train them like you train dogs.
If you spot foxes in or outside your property, don’t feed them. If you hear them screaming in the middle of the night, don’t scream, too. After all, they are not screaming at you.
List of Sources
Red Fox. (2018). Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
What does the fox actually say? (2013). The University of Melbourne.
Newton-Fisher, N. E., et al. (1993). Structure and Function of Red Fox Vulpes Vulpes Vocalisations. University of Kent.