“Dog goes woof, cat goes meow, bird goes tweet and mouse goes squeek…but there’s one sound that no one knows, what does the fox say?”. Remember this song by the Norwegian duo band, Ylvis? It is one crazy track with an even crazier music video that got anyone wondering: what does the fox really say? Does it go “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding” or “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow”? Or maybe it’s “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff”? I think it’s time to really see what the fox says. She should make a sound of sorts, right? Have you ever heard her?
If not, don’t despair, there are ethologists who spend their lives studying the sounds and different call types that animals use to communicate. Back in 1963, a German guy identified 28 different types of calls that foxes make. Later, another group of scientists narrowed them down to 20, 8 of them being uttered by the baby foxes. They’ve made 3 categories of them: contact calls, interaction calls and alarm calls.
What is the fox contact call?
As two foxes meet with each other, they make this type of sounds, like a “wow-wow-wow” or like a dog bark. They mean to tell each other that they are close. So, if you ever hear a high-pitched dog bark in the woods or an owl hooting, then it’s most likely a fox. Foxes have rather smaller bodies and the bark they utter can be mistaken for many things. You’ve probably heard a fox call out in the woods, but never really knew it was a fox. Foxes actually have the ability to sound like many other animals and they are easily to be mistaken. When they get close to each other, they make a sound that resembles that of a chicken clucking. Quite treacherous animals, wouldn’t you say? No wonder they play the villain in many popular stories and fables.
The fox interaction call is like a chatter
Don’t think that foxes do not have social statuses in their world! There are badass foxes of higher status and submissive ones who acknowledge their “master’s power”. This we know by the sounds they make when they interact with one another. Scientists have found out that the foxes who submit emit more of a high-pitched whine when coming into contact with a bigger and more powerful fox. When they become aggressive towards one another they send out a gekkering, more like a chattering sound that babies might always make when they are playing with their siblings or other baby foxes.
How does a fox sound the alarm?
The last category of fox calls is the alarm calls, used by parents to warn their babies that peril is coming and they should hide. “Waaaah” screams the fox and the cubs are all alarmed. If you happen to be close when the alarm sound is produced by a fox parent, it will sound more like a cough to you. Do not think that this is where the fox range of sounds end! They actually have a mating cry that sounds like a desperate cry of anguish, that both the male and female produce when they are seeking one another.
Foxes are such versatile animals when it comes to communicating with one another, don’t you think? I mean, you could mistaken them for many other animals, like dogs, owls. It’s no wonder people don’t really know what the fox says because it is all so confusing. She cries, it barks, it chatters, she’s a complex animal. Maybe the large variety of sounds they produce is one reason why the fox is considered to be a true-born villain in many of our stories, always treacherous, beguile, misleading, but is she?