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  #1  
Old 01-24-2011, 01:35 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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How Smart Are Foxes?

Fox cleverness is the stuff of lore. But how intelligent are they really? You don't see them cited in discussions of very intelligent animals. Are they more intelligent than any other species of canine?

Are there any studies of this?
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  #2  
Old 01-24-2011, 02:22 PM
CC CC is offline
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Back in the day, say, when the Straight Dope only appeared in the Reader, this would have been the kind of question that The Master might have tackled - something to do with "the common wisdom." He would have told us why they were considered to be wise back in the days of Aesop, etc. and he would have used some current animal psychology studies to confirm or disconfirm those notions. Maybe he'll still give this one a whirl. It seems to be right up his alley, if you'll excuse the expression.

Master?
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  #3  
Old 01-24-2011, 04:59 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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They can be tamed, which suggests that they are close enough to domestic dogs (i.e. wolves) in intelligence. I know that tameability is not the same thing as intelligence, but it does suggest capacity.

And oh so cuuute! Yours for only $6000.
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Old 01-24-2011, 05:24 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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And oh so cuuute! Yours for only $6000.
From that site: D'aaaaaaaaw.
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  #5  
Old 01-24-2011, 06:04 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Wolves are generally considered more intelligent than domesticated dogs, and coyotes sometimes are as well. It wouldn't be surprising to find foxes also outsmarting the average pooch.

I think their legendary canniness is relative to other animal families though. They are probably considered in the same range as the rest of the canidae family. And until the Russian taming project, it may have been difficult to assess their intelligence. It doesn't seem that easy to get a good reading on intelligence with other canids anyway.
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  #6  
Old 01-24-2011, 07:30 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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You are missing a key part of the folk lore. Foxes are depicted as smart but usually not in a flattering way. They are known as devious thieves because they sneak in and kill small livestock in a cunning way. They aren't pack animals like wolves and coyotes (and not disgusting like coyotes either) and they like to kill live prey while acting alone. They are more like sleazy assassins which has both its good and bad associations with a strong problem solving component but with weak moral character.

In the canine world, it breaks down like this if you put it in Mafia terms:

1) Alpha wolf is the Godfather
2) Beta wolves are the underbosses
3) Foxes are the hit men.
4) Coyotes are the expendable street thugs.

They are smart but not genius level smart. Those would be the raccoons who are the technical geeks in that branch of the animal family.
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  #7  
Old 01-24-2011, 08:48 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Wolves are generally considered more intelligent than domesticated dogs...
Yes and no. They have different smarts. Dogs are much "smarter" at reading human beings than wolves are. In fact, they are even smarter than chimps in that respect. For example, they are the only animal that understands what a human means when we point at something.
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  #8  
Old 01-24-2011, 08:51 PM
NurseCarmen NurseCarmen is offline
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They aren't smart. They're sly.
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  #9  
Old 01-24-2011, 11:22 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Yes and no. They have different smarts. Dogs are much "smarter" at reading human beings than wolves are. In fact, they are even smarter than chimps in that respect. For example, they are the only animal that understands what a human means when we point at something.
I had to stop before entering a longer post, but yeah, definitely. Wolves show more self motivation in solving problems (mostly how to get food out of a difficult spot). But dogs have an intelligence of their own. I'm not sure how well we can work out the intelligence level of animals, but dogs and their cousins are way up there.
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  #10  
Old 01-24-2011, 11:50 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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The thing about comparing animals is you have to remember each is pretty good at being what it is.

A wolf is good at being a wolf and would perform poorly at fox type behaviours and vice versa.

Foxes are very sneaky. I know a woman who decided to raise chickens. She said, she had never even seen a fox in her entire life. Then after she got the chickens, suddenly every fox in a ten mile radius decended on her house. (She lived in the far suburbs of Atlanta, almost rural).

But it just goes to show you, she lived for years there and never saw a fox, but they were there and when she got the chickens they came to get some.

Foxes are also known for killing more than they can eat and burying the rest for later. This makes some people assume they kill for no reason. But while they may kill one chicken to eat, they will kill other chickens and bury them for later meals.
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  #11  
Old 01-25-2011, 08:07 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
I had to stop before entering a longer post, but yeah, definitely. Wolves show more self motivation in solving problems (mostly how to get food out of a difficult spot). But dogs have an intelligence of their own. I'm not sure how well we can work out the intelligence level of animals, but dogs and their cousins are way up there.
Yeah, dogs hired us chimps to solve some of the really difficult problems.
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  #12  
Old 01-25-2011, 09:10 AM
Maus Magill Maus Magill is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View
I had to stop before entering a longer post, but yeah, definitely. Wolves show more self motivation in solving problems (mostly how to get food out of a difficult spot). But dogs have an intelligence of their own. I'm not sure how well we can work out the intelligence level of animals, but dogs and their cousins are way up there.
Yeah, dogs hired us chimps to solve some of the really difficult problems.
So, you're saying this whole domestication thing was really a 50,000 year long plan to finally have someone to throw a ball?

Wow - that is devious.

Last edited by Maus Magill; 01-25-2011 at 09:10 AM..
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  #13  
Old 01-25-2011, 09:20 AM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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Originally Posted by Maus Magill View Post
So, you're saying this whole domestication thing was really a 50,000 year long plan to finally have someone to throw a ball?

Wow - that is devious.
Read Kurt Vonnegut's short story, Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog, and dog behavior starts to make sense. I finally understand that odd look my dog gives me.

Last edited by shiftless; 01-25-2011 at 09:20 AM..
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  #14  
Old 01-25-2011, 09:46 AM
Zamander Zamander is offline
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My uncle, who used to hunt foxes back in the day it was still legal in Finland (1950s) always said that foxes are very cautious and very good at hiding, so it was one of the hardest preys to hunt. I would assume that earlier, with less efficient weapons, it would have been even harder, which combined withtheir craftiness in attacking fowl, might account for their reputation in craftiness.
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  #15  
Old 01-26-2011, 02:35 AM
Walther Ego Walther Ego is offline
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Fox is legal in Finland. You can get the licence to your phone here.
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  #16  
Old 01-26-2011, 01:01 PM
Toxylon Toxylon is offline
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Yeah, fox is one of the few animals in Finland that can be hunted year-round, using a wide variety of weapons, as of 2011. My personal experience on foxes is that they are extremely wary and alert. I've gotten close to wild foxes on occasion by turning to stone for an hour or two, downwind and in full camo, but as soon as I've moved even a bit, they've almost literally vanished into thin air, without a sound. Spooky. Traditionally, foxes were trapped rather than shot, and even then a wooden trap needed to age for a year or two in the woods before a fox would fall for it. (Then there are those suburbanite degenerate foxes who don't think twice about strolling through backyards in bright daylight in search for garbage to eat).
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