Cape Fox {Vulpes chama}

The Cape Fox is the only true fox that has its natural habitat in South Africa

South Africa WildlifeThe Cape Fox {Vulpes chama}

The small Cape fox looks as cuddlesome as it does beautiful. It is also known as the silver jackal, cama (or kama) fox and silver-backed fox; and it is found throughout the grass plains and semi-arid parts of southern Africa.

These foxes have silver colouring on their backs, while their flanks and bellies are yellow. They are characterised by a long bushy tail, which is mainly brown with a black tip. This colouring stands the Cape fox in good stead in terms of camouflaging itself in the African savannahs. The legs are long and slender and the ears are large and pointed.

Interestingly, this is the only true fox that has its natural habitat in South Africa.

Quick Facts


The Cape fox is a small one, with a body length of between 45 and 61 cm (18 to 24 inches). Added to this length is its tail, which is usually between 30 and 40 cm, or 12 to 15.5 inches long. At its shoulder, it is about 28 to 33 cm (or 11 to 13 inches) tall.


This fox weighs between 3.5 (7.7 pounds) and 5 kg (11 pounds).


The Cape fox is found in grassy plains, savannahs and semi-arid plains all over southern Africa. It likes open countryside, with scattered scrubs and thickets.


This fox is fairly widespread, and can be found throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. In South Africa, it lives in the Free State, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Northern Cape provinces, as well as in the kingdom of Lesotho.

Diet - Omnivore

Cape foxes have a diet that comprises both plants and animals. They will dine on insects, eggs, rodents, reptiles, rabbits, birds, spiders and bunnies, or they will scavenge on carrion. They will also have fruit and berries, when they are available.


This nocturnal animal is most active in the hours just after the sun has set or the moments just before it rises. In the heat of the day, it usually hides in underground burrows or holes, where it can rest and keep cool. The Cape fox digs its own burrows, but has been known to modify the warrens of hares and occupy these too.

Although this fox will form a mating pair, it is a solitary animal. As a pair, they will still forage separately and spend much of their time without the other one. They are not really territorial by nature, but use a strong scent to mark out their territory nonetheless. When communicating with one another, a series of gentle chirps, calls and whines is used. A surprise will warrant a louder yelp or bark. Aggression is generally shown by spitting and growling at the attacker.


The Cape fox mates for life, generally speaking. While they usually have their pups between October and January, they can actually breed and give birth any time of year. She gives birth to between 3 and 6 cubs, who weigh only about 50 to 100 g at birth. For the first two weeks of the cubs’ life, the male will also take care of the mother’s food needs as she cares for the helpless young.

Both parents are responsible for feeding and protecting the cubs, which are weaned at between 6 and 8 weeks. The little ones stick close to their mother until they are 4 months old, when they emerge from the burrows and start to go out foraging with her. Only a month later, they become independent of her and begin to live their adult life. If not, they will be evicted from the ‘home’ when new pups are on their way. The Cape fox reaches sexual maturity at only 9 months of age.


The gestation period of the Cape fox is between 51 and 53 days long.

Life Expectancy

This fox is known to live for up to 10 years, although its average lifespan is between 6 and 10 years.


Sometimes, the Cape fox falls prey to larger predators (including birds). These include owls, hawks, caracals, leopards, hyenas and lions. However, humans remain its biggest threat, as they mistakenly hunt them as jackals, or kill and persecute them as vermin. They are also often caught in the traps intended for other animals.


The Animal Files; Kruger National Park; Arkive; Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference; Biodiversity Explorer.


Cape Fox
Conservation Status

  • Least Threatened

South Africa's Big Five

Did you know?

The Cape Fox is the only true fox that has its natural habitat in South Africa.

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