The Fox (Styrásh: shir, Shir) is a bushy-tailed, long-snouted creature similar to dogs and wolves. There are three basic species of Foxes from which other sub-breeds are divided into. These species include the Desert Fox (semershir, Semershir), the Red Fox (arshir, Arshir), the Grey Fox (raoshir, Raoshir), and the Winter Fox (wynshir, Wynshir). Foxes are known for being quick and smart, which is where their elven named is derived from ("shiren" is Styrásh for “clever”). Foxes can be found almost anywhere, from the cold tundra of Northern Sarvonia to the harsh deserts of the Ráhaz'Dáth and even in Aeruillin and Nybelmar.
Image description. The Red Fox, also referred to as Arshir. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
The Fox resembles small,
slender dogs, though many say they have an almost cat-like
quality to them. All species of the Fox are around the same size, roughly 60 to
70 nailbreadths long, not including the tail, which adds an additional 35 to 40
nailsbreadths to the length. Usually these agile creatures weigh anywhere from 6
to 11 ods, or sometimes even less.
Foxes tend to have elongated noses as compared to other canine animals, at the end of which is a small black nose that is fairly sensitive to smell. They typically have large ears, which give them keen hearing. The eyes of the Fox look out from either side of the snout, and are actually very cat-like in shape. The colour of the eyes differs depending on breed.
The Fox has slender legs at the ends of which are fairly small paws. A Fox has five small toes on each front foot, but the first tow is underdeveloped, typically, and does not reach the ground. The hind legs have only four toes. When the Fox trots or walks, its hind paws usually step in the tracks of the front paws. They carry their bushy tails straight backward when running, but lets it droop when at a walk. The tail is also curled around the animal, covering its nose, when the creature sleeps.
The colour of the coat as well as the region define what group a fox is classified in. Types of Foxes are as follow:
The Desert Fox
The Desert Fox, or Semershir, lives primarily in deserts, including the Ráhaz'Dáth Desert and on the continent of Aeruillin as well as in some parts of Nybelmar. The fur is usually sandy-coloured or tawny with whitish parts on the belly, neck, and on the insides of the legs. However, the Desert Fox is not set in this description. Some Semershir have yellow-gray fur, even dirty tan, and may have black trim on the tail, legs, and face. They usually have large, thin ears. After a chase, blood moving through the ears will cool off in the air and help the entire body to cool down. These ears can be anywhere from 10 to 15 nailsbreadths from tip to base!
Desert foxes are the smallest kind of the Fox, as well. They can be anywhere from 38 to 51 nailsbreadths long, not including a tail of around 28 to 30 nailsbreadths. These small Foxes only weigh between 2 to 6 ods!
The Red Fox (Arshir)
Also called the “Common Fox,” the Red Fox is known for its bright rusty-red or orangey-red coat. The belly of this Shir is usually white, though it may be off-white as well, and has been known to even be a tawny colour. They are also noted for the tips of their tails, which are always white. No one is quiet sure why they always have this white tip, but it has become a characteristic for which the Arshir is known for. Red Foxes also have black legs or paws. This colouration is the most common, but the Red Fox is also known to have different markings that denote their sub-breed. These markings are usually in black.
Because they are called “Common Fox,” one might guess that these Foxes tend to fall into the common measurements for Shir. They are usually 58 to 69 nailsbreadths in length, not including a tail of 36 to 41 additional nailsbreadths. Red Foxes are larger than their desert cousins, and usually weigh between 8 and 11 ods. They are typically found in southern Santharia, especially in the Tolonian Heath, the Heath of Cijur, and the Steppe of Kruswik.
The Grey Fox (Raoshir)
Also called the “Silver Fox” or “Il’shir” (short for "ilaról"), this breed is marked by its light gray or silver colour. This colour usually marks the face, back, and tail, and is actually bits of salt and pepper-coloured fur meshed together. The under parts of the Roashir’s body, though, are typically white, including the belly, the inside of the legs, and the chest. This white may also extended under the neck, and is usually apparent on the face. Though known for being gray, theses Foxes are not completely in gray-tone. They will often times have rusty brown in their coat, usually around the neck, ears, and on the tail. Sometimes this colour also decorates the legs. Grey Foxes are also sometimes coloured with tawny or light orange. It is common for the Grey Fox to have black on the tips of their tails, as well, or to have black patches apparent on their fur.
Grey Foxes are very common, and thus they, like the Red Fox, usually fall in the common measurements. They are usually 57 to 70 nailbreadths long, with a tail of between 34 and 39 nailsbreadths. They tend to weigh between 7 and 9 ods. Unlike the Common Fox, though, they tend to enjoy cooler environments in northern Santharia, including the Aurora Plains, the Heath of Jernaís, and the Silver Marshes. Some sightings have been seen of these creatures dwelling in the Ashmarian lands as well.
The Winter Fox
Winter Foxes, or Wynshir, are the Foxes of the north, and are larger than most other Shir, due to their need of fur to sustain themselves in the harsh terrain. They live in Northern Sarvonia. Being found on the Wilshirer Heath, the Heath of Wilderon, the Stone Fields of Peat, the Shadow Marshes, the plains of Rilla, and many other open areas in Northern Sarvonia, they have the largest territory of all the Shir. They usually weigh from 6 to 10 ods and average about 70 nailsbreadths, not including their tail witch adds an additional 38 nailsbreadths to their length.
The Wynshir’s short legs and body, short ears, and dense winter fur make them seem stocky in comparison to the Red Fox. These Foxes actually have two coats, molting twice a year as the season chases. They usually shed their winter fur, which is sometimes white, but will also come in allia and grayish blue, in mid-spring, and by mid-summer will have a short-haired coat of a darker hue. Those with white winter coats gain brown ones in the summer, though their belly and sides will usually be a yellowish-white or tawny colour. Those Winter Foxes with gray-blue or allia coloured winter coats gain darker summer coats, which are usually gray or charcoal-coloured. The Wynshir gain back their winter coats in mid-autumn.
The Fox has extremely good hearing, gained by its large ears. A Red Fox can hear
a mouse squeak from 30 peds away! Also, being part of the dog family, it has an
amazing sense of smell, which helps them track food and avoid danger. Though
Shir are able to see objects that move quickly, they tend not to notice objects
that are standing still, which can sometimes make it difficult for them to see
predators or traps.
Most Foxes are well adapted to their environment. The Desert Fox (Semershir) for example, which live in arid deserts and dry lands, have large, thin ears that help them to cool their blood off after a long chase. In this way, they don’t overheat despite their coats. The Wynshir of Northern Sarvonia can avoid freezing by growing a winter coat when the weather begins to get cold. Overall, all Foxes are clever and agile, quick and cunning, and famous for such qualities.
Territory. Shir can be found all over the continent of Sarvonia and on the continent of Aeruillin. They like open spaces, usually in plains or heaths, but are also fond of hilly places. They like places where there are many rodents for them to catch and for them to steal holes from. Foxes like to make their dens by extending the holes of rodents such as ground kuatu and other such creatures. However, they are not limited to building their dens in the old homes of rodents. They will also make their dens in caves, among rocks, or in or under fallen trees. Most Foxes, however, make their dens from old burrows.
A den can be as long as 23 peds and have several entrances. These dens must be big, as most Foxes live together in small communities. The main entrance usually leads all the way through the den and has many little chambers off of it where there are places for resting and storing food. These dens, apart from being used as a sleeping place and for storing food, can also serve defensive purposes, yielding itself to a great place to hide. Most Shir, however, won’t make a den until they plan to settle and make a family.
Habitat/Behaviour. Foxes are fairly social creatures for the most part, but don’t form packs the way wolves do. Families will usually live together in one den with a mother, father, and the children. However, eventually the children, once they are old enough, will be sent off to make room for a new litter and to find a den and mate of their own. Until they do find a mate, Shir are very solitary animals. However, once two Shirs have become a mate, they are extremely close, and will often play together and hunt in cooperation. They are also protective of each other, and if an enemy is chasing one of them, the other will help in chasing the pursuer away.
Foxes have a complicated and intricate communication system of yips and growls, as well as yelps and yapping barks. Though Shir are, for the most part, sociable, they do make territories for themselves to tell other Shir that the space is occupied. They will usually mark their territory using urine.
Diet. Foxes commonly prefer rodents, such as mice, rats, rabbits, etc. but will eat anything that they can catch with relative ease. They will also hunt and eat birds, lizards, insects, frogs, and other such animals. Many farmers dislike Shir because they will often sneak into their taenish coops and kill one or two during the night. However, Foxes are indispensable in keeping the rodent population at bay. The Shir are also great scavengers. Most predators will kill a prey and bury it for later. However, with their sensitive noses, the Foxes can easily sniff out these hidden remains. They will also eat fruits and seeds.
Foxes usually hunt at night and are active throughout the year. They creep through the tall grasses of meadows, sometimes pushing themselves on their hind legs to get a better view, listening for the sounds of rodents, especially mice, scurrying around in the darkness. Because of the size of mice, it is not often that a Shir can actually see them, but if they see the slight movement of a blade of grass, they will jump at that spot. They will also sometimes lie in wait for a rodent to leave its burrow and pounce on it as it does.
Mating. A male and female mate in late to mid autumn or early winter. Usually the male and female will mate for life, but if one of them dies, the other mate may seek out a new companion. After choosing their mate, the Shir typically makes a den for the family, if there isn’t one available. Depending on the breed, the gestation period may range anywhere from 50 to 80 days. The female Shir thus gives birth to her pups, or Shirlets, in late winter or early spring. The number of pups in a litter depends on the breeds. Common Foxes typically have between four to nine shirlets, while the Grey Fox (Raoshir) typically have between three and five. A Desert Fox (Semershir) may have between five and eight while the Winter fox (Wynshir) may have as many as 15 pups, though litters usually average 7.
A newborn fox is about 2.5 muts and is completely helpless. Its muzzle is short, and their eyes are closed. They look very similar to small dog pups, and some find it hard to tell a fox and a dog apart at this age. However, after about nine days, the eyes of the pup will open. The pups drink their mother’s milk for usually the first five weeks following their birth, though they will begin leaving the den at 3 weeks. After about four weeks, the pups begin eating meat and will start to hunt for themselves and by 6 weeks, are weaned off of their mother’s milk.
As they are growing up, Shirlets will often play, pouncing on sticks, leaves, insects, and their parents’ tails. Sometimes the parents will even bring small prey like mice back to the den alive to give the pups practice in their hunting. The parents teach their young how to stalk for prey, and in the late summer or early autumn following their birth, the young Fox will begin living on its own. The Foxes reach sexual maturity at about 9 to 10 months, and can live up to 14 years.
Usages. Though the meat of the Fox isn’t edible, the fur of this animal is very popular, especially among the high-class. The brilliant colour of the Red Fox is one of the most popular, but the blue, allia, and white coats of the Winter Fox are by far the most sought-after and the most highly prized. However, because of the dangerous terrain in which these Foxes live, the pelts of these creature are close to impossible to get. Most Shir are caught and killed for their fur with the use of traps.
Researchers. Foxes have been researched since before the first Sarvonian War. Their agility, cunning, and appealing appearance has lead to many recording observations of them or jotting down their appearance in journals. Being a common creature, especially in Santharia, they have been noted in all sorts of works. They are fairly easy to study and enjoyable to observe.
One of the most prominent researchers of Foxes is a Centoraurian named Calien Merindon, who is said to have stumbled upon a family of Raoshir living on his father’s estate in 1238 when his horse’s hoof crashes through the Shir’s den. Feeling so bad about what he’d done, he rebuilt the damaged den using parts of a broken-down carriage. He grew ever fascinated with the Fox that he began recording their behavior, going out at night with a candle and watching them, trying to observe them as they hunted. His notes were extremely detailed and precise.
By 1253, at the age of 32, he was known through much of Xaramon for his research, but felt unsatisfied with studying only one breed and traveled southward where he spent 18 years studying the Red Fox (Arshir). He published his findings in 1272 before moving southwards again where be began researching the Desert Fox (Semershir). However, after only five years into his studies of these Foxes, he had a stroke, which most attribute to the heat. He returned to his estate in 1278, where he lived until his death in 1281.
Calien Merindon is believed to have sparked a great deal of interest in the Fox, and many have since taken up the study of this fascinating creature.
Information provided by Rayne Avalotus