Philobiblon: The intelligence of the urban fox

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The intelligence of the urban fox

Champ and I had our first encounter with an urban fox on this evening's walk. The fox was trotting out of a commercial parking area (no doubt with good rubbish bins) and came around a blind corner about 10 feet from us.

Now I don't know if it is possible to conduct intelligence tests on foxes (the BBC's dog intelligence test can be found here), but I'd reckon as a rule of thumb that, like Bangkok street dogs, their lifestyle puts pretty strong selection pressure on brains.

The fox turned instantly and high-tailed* it back the way it had come. By contrast, when I met foxes when walking with Beanie, when she was a stout and elderly Staffordshire bull terrier, they would usually just stand and watch her, even when this close.

Not conclusive, but I suspect they've got some sense of the different threats presented.

And Champ? Well I don't think he's read the government's Hunting with Dogs Act, put it that way.

* I was wondering about the origin of the phrase - it was variously given as a reflection of the behaviour of white-tailed deer and mustangs on this site.


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