116            American Black or Silver Fox

                                [Vulpes vulpes]

                         AMERICAN BLACK, OR SILVER FOX.
                            [Red Fox (silver phase)]

                              PLATE CXVI.--FEMALE.

     V. magnitudine V. fulvi, argenteo niger, cauda ad apicem alba.

     Size of the red fox (vulpes fulvus); body, silvery black; tip of the tail,


     RENARD NOIR OU BAHYNHA.  Sagard Theodat., Canada, p. 744.
     EUROPEAN FOX--var. A, black.  Pennant, Arct. Zool., vol. i., p. 46.
     RENARD NOIR OU ARGENTE.  Geoffroy, Collect. du Museum.
     GRIZZLED FOX.  Hutchins, MSS.
     RENARD ARGENTE.  F. Cuvier, Mamm. Lith., 5 livr.
     CANIS ARGENTATUS.  Desm., Mamm., p. 203.
     CANIS ARGENTATUS.  Sabine, Franklin's Journey, p. 657.
     CANIS ARGENTATUS.  Harlan, Fauna, p. 88.
     CANIS ARGENTATUS, THE BLACK OR SILVER FOX.  Godman, Nat. Hist., i. 274,
       p. 94.
     BLACK FOX.  DeKay, Nat. Hist. New York, p. 45.
     TSCHERNOBURI.  Russians.


     Specimen from the Hon. Hudson's Bay Company.
     Body, clothed with two kinds of hair; the longest, or outer hair, extends
in some parts two inches beyond the under or shorter fur, especially on the
neck, beneath the throat, behind the shoulders, along the flanks, and on the
tail; this hair is soft, glossy, and finer than even that of the pine marten.
     The under fur is unusually long and dense, measuring in some places two
inches, and is exceedingly fine, feeling to the hand as soft as the finest
sea-island cotton; this under fur surrounds the whole body even to the tail, on
which it is a little coarser and has more the appearance of wool; it is shortest
on the legs and forehead, and least dense on the belly; the hairs composing this
fur, when viewed separately, exhibit a crimped or wavy appearance; on the ears
and nose scarcely any long hairs are to be seen, these parts being thickly
clothed with fur.
     The soles of the feet are so thickly clothed with woolly hair that no
callous spots are visible.


     The under fur is uniformly blackish-brown or chocolate; the long hairs are
brown at their roots, then silver gray, and are broadly tipped with black; the
hairs on the neck, and on a dorsal line extending to the root of the tail, are
black, forming a broad black line at the neck, which narrows towards the tail.
     Chin, throat, and whole under surface, brownish-black; a tuft of white
hairs on the neck near the chest; another white tuft near the umbilicus; upper
parts glossy silvery black; sides, sprinkled with many shining silvery white
hairs, which produce a somewhat hoary appearance; tail, brownish-black to near
the extremity, where it is broadly tipped with white.


                                                     Feet.    Inches.

     Nose to root of tail,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  2       5
     Length of tail,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1       7
     Height of ear,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0       2 3/4
     From nose to end of ear stretched back,  .  .  .  0       8 1/2
     From nose to eyes,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0       3 1/8


     Our account of the habits of this beautiful Fox will be perhaps less
interesting to many than our description of its skin; for, as is well known, the
Silver-gray Fox supplies one of the most valuable furs in the world, not only
for the luxurious nobles of Russia and other parts of Europe, but for the
old-fashioned, never-go-ahead Chinese, and other Eastern nations.
     In the richness and beauty of its splendid fur the Silver-gray Fox
surpasses the beaver or the sea-otter, and the skins are indeed so highly
esteemed that the finest command extraordinary prices, and are always in demand.
     The Silver-gray Fox is by no means abundant, and presents considerable
variations both in colour and size.  Some skins are brilliant black (with the
exception of the end of the tail, which is invariably white); other specimens
are bluish-gray, and many are tinged with a cinereous colour on the sides:  it
perhaps is most commonly obtained with parts of its fur hoary, the shiny black
coat being thickly interspersed with white or silvery-blue tipped hairs.
     According to Sir JOHN RICHARDSON, a greater number than four or five of
these Foxes is seldom taken in a season at any one post in the fur countries,
though the hunters no sooner find out the haunts of one than they use every art
to catch it.  From what he observed, Sir JOHN does not think this Fox displays
more cunning in avoiding a snare than the red one, but the rarity of the animal,
and the eagerness of the hunters to take it, make them think it peculiarly shy.
     This animal appears to be as scarce in northern Europe as in America but we
do not mean by this to be understood as considering the European Black Fox
identical with ours.
     The Black or Silver Fox is sometimes killed in Labrador, and on the
Magdeleine Islands, and occasionally--very rarely--in the mountainous parts of
Pennsylvania and the wilder portions of the northern counties of New York,
where, however, PENNANT's marten is generally called the "Black Fox," by the
hunters and farmers.
     It gives us pleasure to render our thanks to the Hon. Hudson's Bay Company
for a superb female Black or Silver-gray Fox which was procured for us, and sent
to the Zoological Gardens in London alive, where J. W. AUDUBON was then making
figures of some of the quadrupeds brought from the Arctic regions of our
continent for this work.  Having drawn this beautiful animal, which was at the
time generously tendered us, but thinking it should remain in the Zoological
Gardens, as we have no such establishment in America, J. W. AUDUBON declined the
gift in favor of the Zoological Society, in whose interesting collection we hope
it still exists.  When shall we have a Zoological Garden in the United States?
     This variety of the Fox does not differ in its propensities from the red
Fox or the cross Fox, and its extraordinary cunning is often equalled by the
tricks of these sly fellows.
     The white tip at the end of the tail appears to be a characteristic of the
Silver-gray Fox, and occurs in every specimen we have seen.
     It is stated in MORTON's New England Canaan (p. 79), that the skin of the
Black Fox was considered by the Indians, natives of that part of the colonies,
as equivalent to forty beaver skins; and when offered and accepted by their
kings, it was looked upon as a sacred pledge of reconciliation.
     The present species has been seen "mousing" in the meadows, near Ipswich,
Massachusetts, as we were informed by the late WILLIAM OAKES, who also wrote to
us that "the common and cross Foxes were abundant about the White Mountains, and
that they were most easily shot whilst scenting and following game, when their
whole attention appears to be concentrated on that one object."
     This Fox is occasionally seen in Nova Scotia, and a friend there informs us
that some have been shot in his vicinity.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     As this variety of the Red Fox chiefly occurs in the colder regions of our
continent, we cannot set it down as a regular inhabitant of even the southern
parts of the State of New York, nor any part of Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
     The specimens which have been obtained in the two former States were killed
at long intervals, and were, moreover, not of so fine a pelage or so beautiful a
colour as those from more northern latitudes.
     The skins sold to the American Fur Company are from the head waters of the
Mississippi river, and the territories northwest of the Missouri, and are
considered equal to the best.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     The production of peculiar and permanent varieties in species of animals in
a wild or natural state, is a subject of remarkable interest, although it cannot
be explained on any data with which we are at present acquainted.
     It is singular that in several species of red Foxes, widely removed from
each other in their geographical ranges, the same peculiarities occur.  The red
Fox of Europe (Canis vulpes), a species differing from ours, produces no
varieties in the southern and warmer parts of that continent, but is everywhere
of the same reddish colour, yet in high northern latitudes, especially in
mountainous regions, it exhibits not only the black, but the cross Fox
     In the western portions of our continent the large red Fox of LEWIS and
CLARK, which we described from a hunter's skin in our first volume (p. 54), and
to which we have elsewhere given the name of Vulpes Utah, runs into similar