Thursday 23 February 2023

Brer Fox


Brer Fox

Tigger in his blog (Tigger’s Wee-blog) the other day mentioned ‘his’ fox burying a bone. What clever animals they are.

My heart misses a beat when I see one trotting purposefully across my garden and my blood chills when I hear them screaming in the small of the night. The sobbing cry of the vixen as she calls for a mate or while mating is other-worldly.

I know they are loathed by farmers and can understand their vexation at the damage they cause, but still I admire their cunning, their style, their elegance.

As a child I liked all the Uncle Remus tales, but one of my favourites was Brer Fox and the Tar Baby. Later, I enjoyed Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, which lauds the wit of the fox. (I wonder if that story has fallen prey to the prissy rewriters of much-loved tales?)

Foxes feature in much children’s literature, frequently in Aesop’s Fables, those pithy moral tales. The gingerbread man (Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me , I’m the gingerbread man) meets his end on the fox’s nose, and Chicken Licken and his friends are fooled into entering Foxy Loxy’s den, never to be seen again. The fox in Beatrix Potter’s book, The Tale of Mr Tod, does battle with Tommy Brock the badger, using ‘dreadful bad language’. ‘Fox in Sox’ by Dr Seuss is another favourite with small children.

In song, there is  'The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night' sung by Bob Shane., and found on YouTube.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Basil Brush was a fox glove puppet and the star of a television programme for children. He spoke rather in the perceived manner of ‘a fox-hunting man’ and was given to atrocious jokes, always followed by his catch
phrase, ‘Ha, ha, ha. Boom! Boom!’

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Leicester City Football Club adopted Filbert Fox as their mascot in 1992. Filbert is always to be seen on match days, dressed in blue, entertaining the crowds and cheering on his team from the sidelines.

Reynard was the country nickname for a fox, deriving from mediaeval English by way of the French ‘Renart’ and the Old German name ‘Reginhart’. ‘Tod’ is also from Middle English and is still used in Northern England and Scotland as a name for the fox.

Foxes are believed to be largely nocturnal and yet there are many well-documented stories of foxes sunning themselves on roofs or leaping over walls and fences from one garden to another during daylight hours. My next-door neighbour has a visiting fox that spends much of its time resting on her lawn. We have nocturnal foxes and cubs regularly crossing our front garden. They have well-defined paths and never seem to stay long, so I don’t know what they’re looking for. Snails, maybe? They don’t come into the back garden since we installed our cat enclosing fencing. One night, before the installation, we watched a vixen teaching her cub to catch rats, but we have not, to date, managed to photograph a fox. Must try harder!



  1. So much well researched fox lore - F had to mend a Basil Brush (lookalike) at a recent Repair Cafe. He was decidedly in need of some chicken. Little foxes (about Tigger sized) used to run up and down our rows of veg when F was watering in the twilight time. They were so bold they would even inspect the bucket of vegetables - carefully removing the onions to see what was underneath. Their Mum used to sit by the BBQ of the people in the adjoining house and wait for her share of the food. The fox in our backyard used my Tigger flap in the fence until Mr B blocked it up (to stop me, not the fox), but she probably didn't need it as she could leap onto the fence and run along the top of the row of wooden palings with perfect balance. My humans still put out food scraps for the fox. We have loads of urban fox tales.

    1. Tigger, I applaud you and your humans, living cheek by jowl with such clever animals. Perhaps you could persuade F to regale us with her tales.

  2. Nobby is of course excited by the mere mention of a fox. Once, when he was a very small puppy and I was encouraging him to do his early morning pee on the back lawn, to my utter horror in the breaking dawn light I spotted the larger of our two neighbourhood foxes walking across the other side of the lawn. Fortunately I manage to grab Nobby and take him inside before anything untoward happened.
    That said, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, I loved Basil Brush when I was a child. Not sure how well he'd go down these days!
    Cheers, Gail.

  3. Lucky escape for Nobby - or maybe it was the fox that was lucky. Terriers have that inbred instinct
    to chase foxes. Our JRs certainly did.

  4. From my 4th floor I can see a fox crossing the lawn, once it was even followed by 3 fox babies, some people feed them, sometimes when it was so hot they slept in the middle of the lawn. So cute !

  5. I counted myself lucky to see a mama fox and three cubs one day while at a rural school on business. You have seen so much more!

  6. It's always a privilege to see wild animals in the wild (rather than in a zoo)


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