Despite the king's objection, he became foreign secretary in the marquess of Rockingham's Whig ministry (1782) and helped to secure the repeal of Poynings's Law (see under Poynings, Sir Edward), thus giving Ireland legislative independence. He quarreled with the earl of Shelburne over the negotiation of peace with the former American colonies, France, and Spain, and he resigned when Shelburne succeeded Rockingham. Fox then allied himself with his old enemy, Lord North, to insure Shelburne's defeat, and he became (1783) foreign secretary again, in a coalition with North. This ministry fell in the same year, when George III brought his influence to bear in the House of Lords to secure defeat of Fox's bill vesting the government of India in a commission nominated by Parliament. He was replaced in office by William Pitt, whom he bitterly opposed for the rest of his life.
In 1788, when George III became temporarily insane, Fox wanted an unrestricted regency vested in the prince of Wales (later George IV). This position seemed to belie his strongly professed belief in the supremacy of Parliament and the need to restrict royal power, but the prince, who was Fox's close friend, would have brought Fox and the Whigs back to office. George III recovered, however, and Fox remained out of power.
Fox favored the French Revolution and opposed British intervention in the French Revolutionary Wars. He objected to the suppression of civil liberties in wartime and was the parliamentary spokesman of several reform movements, urging such measures as enlargement of the franchise, parliamentary reform, and political rights for Roman Catholics and dissenters. At Pitt's death he became (1806) for a few months foreign secretary in the "ministry of all the talents." Abolition of the slave trade, which he proposed and urged, was passed in 1807, soon after his death.
Fox combined dissolute habits with remarkable warmth of character and great courage and skill in debate. Although he could be opportunistic as well as idealistic, he is remembered as a great champion of liberty.
See biographies by G. O. Trevelyan (1880, repr. 1971), E. C. P. Lascelles (1936, repr. 1970), J. W. Derry (1972), and D. Schweitzer (1989); E. Eyck, Pitt versus Fox (tr. by E. Northcott, 1950); J. Carswell, The Old Cause (1955); J. Cannon, The Fox-North Coalition (1970); L. G. Mitchell, Charles James Fox and the Disintegration of the Whig Party, 1782-1794 (1971).
See George Fox: An Autobiography (ed. by R. M. Jones, 2 vol., 1903-4); his narrative papers (ed. by H. J. Cadbury, 1972); biography by H. E. Wildes (1965); study J. H. Yolen (1972).
See his Confidential Correspondence (1918-19).
Foxes feed on insects, earthworms, small birds and mammals, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter, especially fruits. Unlike other members of the dog family, which run down their prey, foxes usually hunt by stalking and pouncing. They are known for their raids on poultry but are nonetheless very beneficial to farmers as destroyers of rodents.
Foxes are occasionally preyed upon by larger carnivores, such as wolves and bobcats, as well as by humans and their dogs; birds of prey may capture the young. Despite extensive killing of foxes, most species continue to flourish. In Europe this is due in part to the regulatory laws passed for the benefit of hunters. Mounted foxhunting, with dogs, became popular in the 14th cent. and was later introduced into the Americas; special hunting dogs, called foxhounds, have been bred for this sport. Great Britain banned foxhunting in which the hounds kill the fox in 2005.
Most fox species belong to the red fox group, genus Vulpes. The common red fox, Vulpes vulpes, is found in Eurasia, N Africa, and North America. It is hunted for its valuable fur and, especially in England, for sport. An extremely wary animal, it is skilled at evading traps and dodging pursuers. There are many local varieties; European red foxes are larger than those of North America, which average about 23 in. (58 cm) in body length, stand about 16 in. (41 cm) at the shoulder, and weigh about 5 to 10 lb (2.3-4.6 kg). North American red foxes inhabit areas of forest mixed with open country, from the Arctic Ocean to the S United States. Although most active at night, they are also seen by day. Coat color varies, but the tail is always tipped with white, and the legs, feet, and tips of the ears are always black. The rest of the coat is commonly reddish; black, silver, and cross (reddish, with a dark, cross-shaped region on back and shoulders) are among variations that may appear in any red fox litter. Silver fox pelts, black with white-tipped outer hairs, are much in demand; many are derived from animals raised on fox farms. From the silver fox, breeders have developed a platinum fox, whose pale gray pelt is highly valued, and (in Siberia) a tame, domesticated breed.
The kit and swift foxes (V. velox and V. macrotis, respectively) are small, swift, pale gray or yellowish foxes, found on the deserts and plains of the W United States and N Mexico. Their numbers have been greatly diminished by trapping and poisoning, and they are now rare in many parts of their range. Other Vulpes species are found in Asia and Africa.
The gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, is a New World species; it is the only fox that sometimes climbs trees. Found from the N United States to N South America, this fox is slightly larger, on the average, than the North American red fox. Its coat is salt-and-pepper above and buff-colored below; the upper side of its tail is black. Gray foxes inhabit woods, swamps, and brushy areas that afford them cover; they are more retiring and more strictly nocturnal in their habits than red foxes. Their fur is of little value.
The arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, is found on arctic coasts and islands; it has a circumpolar distribution. Characterized by short, rounded ears and heavily furred feet, all arctic foxes are brown to gray in summer; some turn pure white in winter, while others, called blue foxes, turn bluish gray. The blue fox, a natural variant that is more common in some areas than in others, is highly valued for its pelt, and breeders have developed all-blue strains. Although their diet includes small animals and plant matter, arctic foxes are chiefly scavengers, feeding especially on the remains of polar bears' kills.
The smallest fox is the fennec, or desert fox (Fennecus zerda), of the Sahara and Arabian deserts. An excellent burrower, it has enormous ears and a fluffy pale cream coat. Other foxes (sometimes called zorros) are found in South America.
Foxes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Canidae.
See H. G. Lloyd, The Red Fox (1980); J. D. Henry, Red Fox: The Catlike Canine (1986).
Most foxes live 2 to 3 years, but they can survive for up to 10 years or even longer in captivity. Foxes are generally smaller than other members of the family Canidae such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs. Dogs (male foxes) weigh on average, 5.9kg and vixens (female foxes) weigh less, at 5.2kg (13 lbs and 11.5 lbs, respectively). Fox-like features typically include an acute muzzle (a "fox face") and bushy tail. Other physical characteristics vary according to their habitat. For example, the fennec fox (and other species of foxes adapted to life in the desert, such as the kit fox) has large ears and short fur, whereas the Arctic fox has small ears and thick, insulating fur.
Unlike many canids, foxes are usually not pack animals. Typically, they are solitary, opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey (especially rodents). Using a pouncing technique practiced from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. Foxes also gather a wide variety of other foods ranging from grasshoppers to fruit and berries.
Foxes are normally extremely wary of humans and are not kept as pets (with the exception of the fennec); however, the silver fox was successfully domesticated in Russia after a 45 year selective breeding program. This selective breeding also resulted in physical and behavioural traits appearing that are frequently seen in domestic cats, dogs, and other animals: pigmentation changes, floppy ears, and curly tails.
Canids commonly known as foxes include members of the following genera:
Foxes are readily found in cities and cultivated areas and (depending upon species) seem to adapt reasonably well to human presence.
Red foxes have been introduced into Australia for hunting rabbits and to other countries for the same reason. Australia lacks similar carnivores, and the introduced foxes prey on native wildlife, some to the point of extinction. A similar introduction occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in temperate North America, where European reds (Vulpes vulpes) were brought to the colonies for fox hunting, where they decimated the American red fox population through more aggressive hunting and breeding. Interbreeding with American reds, traits of the European red eventually pervaded the gene pool, leaving European and American foxes now virtually identical.
Other fox species do not reproduce as readily as the red fox, and are endangered in their native environments. Key among these are the crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous) and the African bat-eared fox. Other foxes such as fennec foxes, are not endangered, but will be if humans encroach further into their habitat.
Foxes have been successfully employed to control pests on fruit farms, where they leave the fruit intact.
Historians believe foxes were imported into non-native environments long before the colonial era. The first example of the introduction of the fox into a new habitat by humans seems to be Neolithic Cyprus. Stone carvings representing foxes have been found in the early settlement of Göbekli Tepe in eastern Turkey.
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