A fox is a carnivorous mammal characterized by a long, narrow snout, and a bushy tail. The most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox, although various species are found on nearly every continent. The presence of fox like carnivores all over the globe has led to their appearance in the popular culture and folklore of many nations, tribes, and other cultural groups.
Typically, foxes are solitary, opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey, especially rodents. Using a pouncing technique practised from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. Foxes also gather a wide variety of other foods ranging from grasshoppers to fruit and berries.
In many cultures, the fox appears in folklore as a symbol of cunning and trickery, or as an animal possessed of magic powers. In early Mesopotamian mythology, the fox is one of the sacred animals of the goddess Ninhursag. The fox acts as her messenger.
The Moche people of Peru believed the fox to be a warrior that would use his mind to fight. The fox would never use physical attack, only mental. It would often be depicted in their art.
In Chinese mythology, huli jing are powerful spirits that are known for their deception and cunning. They often take on the form of female humans to seduce men. In contemporary Chinese, the word is often used to describe a mistress negatively in an extramarital affair.
In Japanese folklore, the fox like kitsune is a powerful animal spirit known for its highly mischievous and cunning nature. In Shinto of Japan, kitsune sometimes helps people as an errand of the deity Inari.
There is a Tswana riddle that says that “Phokoje go tsela o dithetsenya” translated literally into “Only the muddy fox lives,” meaning that only an active person who does not mind getting muddy gets to progress in life in philosophic sense.
The fox theme is often associated with transformation in European literature. There are stories about anthropomorphic animals imbued with human characteristics and tales of fox transformations into humans and vice versa.
The word shenanigans, a deceitful confidence trick or mischief, is considered to be derived from the Irish expression sionnachuighim, meaning “I play the fox.”