I absolutely love photographing foxes. Getting to know red foxes and understand the ways in which they communicate and behave has taught me so much about how to photograph them without disturbing them.

Learning to read their body language has enabled me to anticipate events, be still and silent when I need to be and to know when I can make a little noise and get away with it.

So, here it is, my short guide to fox body language which, hopefully, will help you to enjoy watching them and peeking into their world of ear wiggling, tail flicking and barking! If you’re eager to learn more about photographing foxes, read on!

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Photographing Foxes: Posture

First, when considering what you need to know about photographing foxes, let’s consider their posture. The posture of a red fox can convey a lot about its emotional state. When a fox is feeling confident and dominant, it will stand tall with its ears and tail erect. This posture is often accompanied by a low growl or a series of barks. On the other hand, when a fox is feeling submissive or afraid, it will crouch down with its ears and tail lowered. This posture is often accompanied by whining or whimpering sounds.

Tail Movements

The tail of a red fox is a highly expressive part of its body, and different tail movements can convey different messages. When a fox is feeling relaxed and content, it will hold its tail loosely behind its body, often wagging it slightly. This is a sign of happiness and contentment. When a fox is feeling threatened or aggressive, it will raise its tail straight up in the air, often puffing it out to appear larger. This is a warning to potential predators or competitors to back off – if you’re photographing foxes and you see this, they are definitely aware of your presence. When a fox is feeling playful or curious, it will often twitch its tail back and forth in a quick, jerky motion.

Ear Movements

When it comes to photographing foxes, it’s important to note that the ears of a red fox are also highly expressive, and different ear movements can convey different messages. When a fox is feeling alert and attentive, it will hold its ears erect and facing forward. This is a sign that the fox is on the lookout for potential prey or danger. When a fox is feeling relaxed and content, it will often hold its ears out to the side or slightly back. When feeling fearful or submissive, it will flatten its ears against its head, a sign that the fox is trying to appear smaller and less threatening.

When photographing foxes, it’s worth keeping an eye on the ears as they can be moved independently to track noises – if it turns an ear towards you- it may have just heard you.


When the ears are up and attentive, the fox is alert and listening for danger.

The direction of the ears shows you the direction from which the sounds are coming.

Photograph copyright: David Robinson

Facial Expressions

Red foxes can pull all sorts of facial expressions, which can convey different emotions and intentions. When a fox is feeling aggressive or threatened, it will often bare its teeth and growl or snarl just like a domestic dog. When it’s feeling relaxed and content, it will often close its eyes and appear to be smiling. I’ve seen foxes looking utterly chilled and content like this. Fear and submission are often expressed by averting its gaze and avoiding eye contact.


Red foxes are highly vocal animals, and often the noise is your first indication that they are around. Note that when photographing foxes, their vocalizations can convey a range of emotions and intentions. Foxes feeling threatened or aggressive will often emit a series of high-pitched barks or growls as a warning to other animals to stay away. Playful or excited foxes emit a series of short, sharp barks or yips, much like a playful domesticated puppy. When feeling relaxed and content, it will often emit a series of low-pitched whines or grunts.

As anyone who has ever heard foxes mating will know, mating is accompanied by noises that can best be described as “a child or woman screaming”. It’s a distinctive noise and many a fox has been reported to the police as a ‘woman being attacked’.

Scent Marking

Red foxes, like so many mammals, also use scent markings to communicate with other animals. They have scent glands located on their feet and bum, which they use to mark their territory and communicate their presence and let other foxes know who is around. Confident and dominant foxes scent mark most frequently and in more conspicuous locations. When a fox is feeling submissive or afraid, it may avoid scent marking altogether so as not to draw attention to itself, or only mark in inconspicuous locations.

Ears relaxed, sitting calmly with tail on the ground shows that this dog fox is chilling out, not at all bothered by me being there, but curious about what Im doing.

Photograph by David Robinson

Everything You Need To Know About Photographing Foxes

Hopefully, these little clues will help you to find, watch, understand, and enjoy your encounters with foxes and even give you the knowledge to work out which foxes are in the same family, who is boss fox and who is at the bottom of the pecking order. If this guide has helped you to enjoy your time photographing foxes, I’d love for you to drop me a comment below!


 Video copyright: David Robinson

Watch a subordinate fox react as a more dominant one appraoches; ears down, cowering and making little wimpering sounds.