片思い - かたおもい - kataomoi - unrequited love
Quite by chance on the way home I managed to get some photos I’ve been trying to get for years; a vixen and dog together!
These photos really show the difference in size and substance between the vixen (left) and the dog (right). In general males are quite a bit bigger than vixens, with a larger, broader skull and heavier body mass.
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What role does the male play in fox society?
For a long time it was believed that the male, or dog fox played little to no role in rearing cubs simply mating with the vixen and then leaving her to do all the rearing. While the vixen is indeed the primary care giver to the cubs the male also plays his part in helping to raise his family.
Shortly before giving birth the vixen becomes confined to her earth and cannot leave her cubs for the first few weeks after their birth. It then becomes the job of the dog fox to bring her enough food so she can produce milk for the cubs. Once the cubs are weaned he will then begin to bring food for the young. At first this food will come in the form of regurgitated meals, but once the cubs are old enough he will bring them whole prey. Sometimes he will even play with the cubs and take them on excursions away from the earth to teach them how to hunt and survive.
It is also the primary job of the dog fox to defend the territory and fight off any intruders, thus securing a place for his family to live and grow up in. Most conflict happens in autumn and winter when dispersing males are looking for their own territory. At this time the resident dog fox must patrol his territory every night and call out to warn other foxes to stay away. He must also guard the vixen again other males who’ll be looking to breed with her. To ensure he is the father of his mate’s cubs the dog fox will go for days without eating or resting when the vixen is coming into heat. He may also stray into neighboring territories and try to breed with any other vixens in the area but will only help raise the cubs of his partner. Many dog foxes end up raising another male’s cubs without ever knowing it!
While infidelity is relatively common during the mating season, the male remains dedicated to his chosen mate throughout the rest of the year and in most cases will remain with her for life or until she dies.