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Billybonds
06-01-2014, 07:31 PM
I clearly remember being told as a kid that foxes, to rid themselves of fleas & other parasites, had this neat trick of holding a piece of wood in their mouths and then very slowly backing into a stream or pond. As the water soaked thru their fur the parasites would keep moving up the body, onto the snout...and when almost all the animal underwater, onto the piece of wood and "Presto" ...no more parasites.

I have searched in vain for some reference to this for a while now ....and can find none at all ....can anyone enlighten as to whether this is a myth or a documented fact

Musicat
06-01-2014, 08:01 PM
Why don't you give it a try? Why should it only work for foxes?

Does it work for raccoons? Are foxes smarter than raccoons? How about dogs? Dogs often have fleas. Did you ever see a dog backing into the water? Cats?

I once saw a bigfoot backing into the water. Maybe he was trying to get rid of parasites?

As a kid, I was told that snakes made hoops to roll downhill, you shouldn't swim after eating, and God was real. Then I grew up.

Billybonds
06-01-2014, 08:13 PM
Crikey! Sorry I asked such a dumb childish question ...I'll slink back to my playroom now

turtlescanfly
06-01-2014, 08:24 PM
Why don't you give it a try? Why should it only work for foxes?

Does it work for raccoons? Are foxes smarter than raccoons? How about dogs? Dogs often have fleas. Did you ever see a dog backing into the water? Cats?

I once saw a bigfoot backing into the water. Maybe he was trying to get rid of parasites?

As a kid, I was told that snakes made hoops to roll downhill, you shouldn't swim after eating, and God was real. Then I grew up.

I hope I'm not the only one who thought that was needlessly harsh....:(

Billybonds, that said I would say its an urban (rural?) legend. For one, it would do nothing for the eggs that have surely been laid. In any case, why should the fox (or any other animal) provide a safe refuge for the fleas? Just jump in the water and drown 'em, assuming they are smart enough to realize that (1) the fleas are the source of their discomfort and (2) that drowning them will work.

Really Not All That Bright
06-01-2014, 08:26 PM
I thought it was needlessly harsh, too.

percypercy
06-01-2014, 08:32 PM
Yep seems harsh to me too. I've never heard of it.

Kenm
06-01-2014, 08:40 PM
Jesus, Musicat.

Nanoda
06-01-2014, 08:51 PM
I hope I'm not the only one who thought that was needlessly harsh....:(


I heard that long ago, but whatever source I was reading had it as wool. I don't think this is a stretch for any reasonably sentient furred animal to figure out; stand in a stream to drink, and it might feel fleas jump higher from it's legs. Figure that if you provide a dry location even further up they'll go there, and you've got a fox in the river biting part of it's last meal.

All the sources I was able to find in the last bit seem to indicate that while the story goes back to Aesop's time, it has no known merit.

I would posit that something came up with the technique at some point... and if an observant shepherd didn't see this happen, I'm not sure why it would occur to anyone otherwise. :dubious:

samclem
06-01-2014, 08:55 PM
This urban legend evidently goes back to at least the 1890s.

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0063.html

njtt
06-01-2014, 09:09 PM
Well, foxes are traditionally supposed to be cunning.

This urban legend evidently goes back to at least the 1890s.

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0063.html

I note that there is also a story on that page that is titled "The Jackal and the Flees" (sic), but is actually about a monkey and some wheat, and makes no mention of either jackals or fleas (or even "flees").

Colibri
06-01-2014, 09:33 PM
Why don't you give it a try? Why should it only work for foxes?

Does it work for raccoons? Are foxes smarter than raccoons? How about dogs? Dogs often have fleas. Did you ever see a dog backing into the water? Cats?

I once saw a bigfoot backing into the water. Maybe he was trying to get rid of parasites?

As a kid, I was told that snakes made hoops to roll downhill, you shouldn't swim after eating, and God was real. Then I grew up.

Moderator Note

Whether this is snark or a poor attempt at a joke, it's inappropriate as a first response (or any response) in GQ. Don't do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Peter Morris
06-02-2014, 02:59 AM
Billybonds, that said I would say its an urban (rural?) legend. For one, it would do nothing for the eggs that have surely been laid. In any case, why should the fox (or any other animal) provide a safe refuge for the fleas? Just jump in the water and drown 'em, assuming they are smart enough to realize that (1) the fleas are the source of their discomfort and (2) that drowning them will work.

True. Also, it would require that the fleas can: 1) see the rising water 2) recognise the oncoming danger 3) figure out that they must migrate to higher ground.

Also, doesn't fur trap air, allowing them to breathe anyway?

Musicat
06-02-2014, 03:09 AM
Moderator Note

Whether this is snark or a poor attempt at a joke, it's inappropriate as a first response (or any response) in GQ. Don't do this again.

Colibri
General Questions ModeratorIt's a stupid question that doesn't belong in this forum, and you know it.

bob++
06-02-2014, 05:11 AM
It also seems to be an Indian (not red) fable as in The Jackal and the fleas. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CrCUyqxWALoC&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=%22The+Jackal+and+the+Fleas%22&source=bl&ots=b0kj55qsf4&sig=dDl5xWUCbaCo5T2FSTFMBUpGyY8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ET2MU6SEGoHsO8KpgPgL&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22The%20Jackal%20and%20the%20Fleas%22&f=false

He doesn't go in backwards though.

blindboyard
06-02-2014, 07:11 AM
I've heard of it, but have no idea if it's true.

Mangetout
06-02-2014, 07:48 AM
I'd heard of it too, but always reasoned that it would require a level of abstraction, planning and reward delay we don't always even see in humans, so should not expect to see in foxes.

I think James Herbert used it (or something like it) in his novel Fluke which was about:The adventures of a man reincarnated as a dog, with full recollection of his human life.
(not really sure that needs a spoiler tag, but just to be safe)

But I'd heard of it prior to that - this has the ring of an ancient fable to it. This (http://www.icr.ro/bucharest/animalia-ro-33-2009/the-fox-from-fable-to-reality.html) page claims it is contemporary with the fables of Aesop.

Really Not All That Bright
06-02-2014, 09:37 AM
It also seems to be an Indian (not red) fable as in The Jackal and the fleas. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CrCUyqxWALoC&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=%22The+Jackal+and+the+Fleas%22&source=bl&ots=b0kj55qsf4&sig=dDl5xWUCbaCo5T2FSTFMBUpGyY8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ET2MU6SEGoHsO8KpgPgL&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22The%20Jackal%20and%20the%20Fleas%22&f=false
Tales of the Panjab is a collection of short fiction by Flora Annie Steel. It reads a bit like Aesop's fables because that's the style British writers worked in during the Raj, but it's not a collection of folk tales or anything. You see the same kind of tone and style in Kipling. I think you've found the source of the urban legend, though.

Dewey Finn
06-02-2014, 12:46 PM
Moderator Note

Whether this is snark or a poor attempt at a joke, it's inappropriate as a first response (or any response) in GQ. Don't do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator
It's a stupid question that doesn't belong in this forum, and you know it.
That justifies rudeness?

njtt
06-02-2014, 12:58 PM
It's a stupid question that doesn't belong in this forum, and you know it.

Given that the OP makes it quite clear that he recognizes that it is likely to be false, and is clearly seeking a source at least as much as a confirmation, not it isn't, and yes it does.

jbaker
06-02-2014, 03:42 PM
Contrary to Musicat's claim, this is not a stupid question. I have seen many times the story of how a fox may get rid of fleas in the manner the OP suggests. I seem to recall that it was related by a writer in antiquity (not Aesop), although I cannot confirm that now. A search right now takes it back to the Winchester Journal (Oct. 16, 1878), and I'm sure it's older than that.

Some of the accounts are in apparently respectable sources. For example, advertisements for American Wild Life Illustrated (1940), and I assume the book itself, cite this as a fact. Various newspapers in 1900 (e.g., Columbus Daily Times (Sept. 19, 1900)) recount a story of a hunter and naturalist witnessing this in the Patapsco River.

Is the story true? No doubt a degree of skepticism is in order. Natural History Magazine, without elaboration, says simply "False," http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/picks-from-the-past/061788/museum-quiz?page=3. And if it did occur, you would have to bear in mind that (1) the strategy would not be completely effective, as it would not get rid of eggs, and (2) this would be a learned behavior, so not all foxes would engage in it.

Leonard
06-02-2014, 03:57 PM
I can tell you that if you bathe a flea infested cat, all the fleas absolutely will run to its head to avoid the water. I learned to soap up a ring around their necks before soaking the rest of of them. So I think the trick could feasibly work, but that doesn't address whether foxes actually know how to take advantage of it.

PurpleClogs
06-02-2014, 04:34 PM
I can tell you that if you bathe a flea infested cat, all the fleas absolutely will run to its head to avoid the water. I learned to soap up a ring around their necks before soaking the rest of of them. So I think the trick could feasibly work, but that doesn't address whether foxes actually know how to take advantage of it.

I've noticed this bathing dogs before, but I thought they ran up to escape the soap, because water alone does nothing to them. ?

Colibri
06-02-2014, 06:04 PM
It's a stupid question that doesn't belong in this forum, and you know it.

Moderator Warning

Your post was against General Questions rules, and you know it. And the place to complain about moderation is in ATMB. This is an official warning for being a jerk. Keep this kind of stuff out of this forum.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Ignotus
06-02-2014, 07:13 PM
You can find this story, together with several others about the cleverness of foxes, in Olaus Magnus' Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, printed in 1555. So it has been around in Europe for quite a while.

Ulfreida
06-02-2014, 08:48 PM
It's an interesting antique fable but it wouldn't work in reality. First, undercoat doesn't get wet even if the top coat is, especially merely by swimming. Purple Clogs is right, it's the soap lathered down to the skin that they are fleeing. Second, almost all the fleas are going to be in the nest/den/bed, not on the fox. Rolling in dust might be more effective.

Mr. Duality
06-02-2014, 10:15 PM
You may be interested in knowing that the Sioux name for a fox translates to "lousy one".

Colophon
06-03-2014, 05:58 AM
I still don't understand why the fox wouldn't just dunk its whole body under. Why provide a floating flea island refuge?

Mangetout
06-03-2014, 06:50 AM
I still don't understand why the fox wouldn't just dunk its whole body under. Why provide a floating flea island refuge?

I think the (false) notion is that the fleas will crawl from a wet place to a dry one, but won't just abandon ship if it's all getting wet.

Drunky Smurf
06-03-2014, 12:23 PM
You may be interested in knowing that the Sioux name for a fox translates to "lousy one".

Is there a reason for that or is just a coincidence or something?

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