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Vulpy, the fox skeleton


This week I'm going to write about my fox skeleton which I've called Vulpy. (All my skeletons have alphabetical names and I'm up to Y so far). This fox was given to me by a gamekeeper in my village, and last September I buried it by the Secret Lake. Last month I dug it up, brought it home and left the bones to clean in biological washing powder.

Gamekeepers shoot loads of foxes, especially this time of year, because they eat pheasants and lambs. On Friday I saw a trap for crows and jackdaws in which the bodies of two shot foxes had been put as bait.

I was really lucky that the skull still had all the cheek teeth and was just missing a few incisors. When we dug it up we thought it was missing a canine tooth but I found it had dropped out of the wire mesh. Fox teeth are very like dog teeth.

There were about 170 bone pieces in total. When I laid them out it looked like this. It's one of the most complete skeletons I have so far:

These are the bones of the front leg. Deer's front legs are the same, and even humans.

The back legs are almost the same as deer, but deer don't have a fibula. The bit between the femur and the tibia is actually the top of the tibia that hasn't fused yet, meaning that bone was still growing.

The pelvis is in two halves. I have seen in very old deer and sheep it's one piece. In very animals it can be in four pieces. The Y-shaped bit of bone between them fills in the gap between them. Deer don't have all the tail bones, only one or two, because not all types of deer have tails (red deer do, roe deer don't) and if they do they are only small. I think it was female from the pelvis (here's why).

This fox was shot in the chest. The circles show the broken ribs and the rectangle shows where there a rib missing. I think the bullet went through from the right side to the left because the exit wound is always bigger.

The tops and bottoms of the femur were fused on, meaning it had stopped growing, but the top of the tibia wasn't fused on. I think means it had almost finished growing up.

On one of the tibia was a lump on the bone, as if it had some kind of bone cancer or had damaged the bone.

I wasn't exactly sure about the paws, but this is how I think the bones were. The claw sheaths would go over the last bit of bone.

One of the bones that's easy to recognise is the atlas, which is the first bone in the spine, next to the skull. I got the wrong way round in the picture of the whole skeleton, but it's the right was round here.

Dad was out this morning looking for newly born red deer calves. He spotted something furry curled up and he thought it was a baby deer, but when it looked up he realised it was a fox sleeping !

I think foxes are beautiful animals. I see the reason why gamekeepers and farmers have to shoot them but if it was up to me I would prefer them not to die.

UPDATE: Here's another picture of the tail because Jacob asked for one in the comments.

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Jacob said...

Jake, this is amazing! I'm still trying to piece together a fox I found about5-6 months ago, but I've literally no idea how to put the tail together. You've done incredibly well for a boy your age.

P.S. Could you send in a picture of the tail?

Jake said...

Hi Jacob !,

I've added another picture of the tail above. I'm not sure I got it completely right but I think it begins with bones a bit like tiny lumbar vertabrae, and ends with thin bones.

Jacob said...

Thanks, this has really helped!

Genevieve said...

Hi your fox bones are really cool - yhanks for sharing. I have a mummified skeleton but i cant tell whether it's fox or dog - do you have any tips for me to tell them apart? Thanks :) gen

Jake said...

Hi Genevieve,

It is difficult to tell until you see the skull. I had a mummified dog that I think is now a fox as well. Dog skulls usually have a bigger forehead than foxes. There are tons of different types of dog skull, though, but all red foxes look the same, and are about 15cm long. Will's Skull Site will show the difference between foxes and dogs but it's mainly about how the skull goes down between the top of the head and the snout.

Genevieve said...


That's brilliant, thanks :) i'll go check out that site then.

Well done with all this stuff, your knowledge and site is amazing and it is obvious you will go far :)


Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Megan. I am 10 years old and a few months ago my dad shot two oppossums. I have found the bones, not in any order at all. Well, I only found bones to ONE of the oppossums, but I found three shoulder blades. Two were near each other and the other was on the other side of the path me and my dad made. But, I couldn't find the other bones to the second oppossum. And I only found one jaw bone. I've also found that there are A LOT of worms near the bones, so should I check for the second body where I find a lot of worms? I think that the bones and dead flesh is good fertilizer for the dirt and worms.
Anyways, I also wanted to ask you a question: Does the peroxide disinfect the bones or just bleach them?
Also, I LOVE your website! :D

Jake said...

Hi Megan !
It bleaches and disinfects. It sounds like another animal took away the second opossum, or maybe just parts of it. That happens a lot !

Anonymous said...

Howdy Jake,

I am a professional archaeologist in the desert state of Arizona, in the United States. I think you do a great job, and I love your website. I collect bones too as part of my job, plus I just think they're very beautiful. Hopefully someday I can come visit Scotland. What fun things are there to do in Scotland?


Gina Gage,
Project Director
Northland Research, Inc.
Tempe, AZ United States

Jake said...

Hi Ms Gage !
The scenery and wildlife are pretty amazing, and so are the castles !

Anonymous said...

Jake, My son Jake found a bone today when we went on a hike in the woods. It looked like a duck foot, but we knew that ducks feet have webs, however the bone looked like a webed ducks foot. later on the hike we found two more bones that looked like leg bones. They had teeth marks on them. We have fox and Coyote around here. When we got home we searched the internet for the origin of the "duck foot" and we ended up at your site. My son was so happy to be able to put the pieces together and see that we had a deers scapula, femur, and tibia. Thank you for your help

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