52            Swift Fox

                              VULPES VELOX.--Say.

                              SWIFT FOX. KIT FOX.

                               PLATE LII.--MALE.

     V. gracilis, supra cano fulvaque varices, infra albus; v. fulvo minor.

     Smaller than the American red fox, body slender, gray above, varied with
fulvous; beneath, white.


     KIT FOX, or small burrowing fox of the plains.  Lewis and Clark, vol. i.,
       p. 400. Vol. iii., pp. 28. 29.
     CANIS VELOX, Say. Long's Expedition, vol. ii., p. 339.
     CANIS VELOX, Say. Harlan's Fauna, 91.
     CANIS VELOX, Say. Godman's Nat. Hist., vol. i., p. 282.
     CANIS CINEREO ARGENTATUS, Sabine, Franklin's Journey, p. 658.
     CANIS (vulpes) CINEREO ARGENTATUS, Richardson, Fa. B. Ame. p. 98.


     This little species of Fox bears a great resemblance to our American red
fox, in shape, but has a broader face and shorter nose than the latter species;
in colour it approaches nearer to the gray fox.  Its form is light and slender,
and gives indication of a considerable capacity for speed; the tail is long,
cylindrical, bushy, and tapering at the end.
     The entire length from the insertion of the superior incisors to the tip of
the occipital crest, is rather more than four inches and three-tenths:  the
least distance between the orbital cavities nine-tenths of an inch; between the
insertion of the lateral muscles at the junction of the frontal and parietal
bones, half an inch.  The greatest breadth of this space on the parietal bones,
thirteen-twentieths of an inch."--(SAY.)  The hair is of two kinds, a soft dense
and rather woolly fur beneath, intermixed with longer and stronger hairs.


     The fur on the back, when the hairs are separately examined, is from the
roots, for three-fourths of its length, of a light brownish gray colour, then
yellowish brown, then a narrow ring of black, then a larger ring of pure white,
slightly tipped at the apical part with black.  The upper part of the nose is
pale yellowish brown, on each side of which there is a patch of brownish, giving
it a hoary appearance in consequence of some of the hairs being tipped with
white; moustaches black; upper lip margined by a stripe of white hairs.  There
is a narrow blackish brown line between the white of the posterior angle of the
mouth, which is prolodged around the margin of the lower lip.  The upper part of
the head, the orbits of the eyes, the cheeks and superior surface of the neck,
back, and hips, covered with intermixed hairs, tipped with brown, black, and
white, giving those parts a grizzled colour.  Towards the posterior parts of the
back there are many long hairs interspersed, that are black from the roots to
the tip.  The sides of the neck, the chest, the shoulders and flanks, are of a
dull reddish orange colour; the lower jaw is white, with a tinge of blackish
brown on its margins; the throat, belly, inner surface of legs, and upper
surface of feet, are white.  The outside of the forelegs, and the posterior
parts of the hindlegs, are brownish orange.  The slight hairs between the
callosities of the toes are brownish.  The tail is on the under surface
yellowish gray with a mixture of black, and a few white hairs; the under surface
is brownish yellow and black at the end.


                                                                 Feet.   Inches.

     From point of nose to root of tail,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    1       8
     Tail, (vertebrae,)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       9 3/4
     Tail, to end of hair,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    1       0
     From tip of nose to end of head,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       2 1/8
     Between the eyes,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       1 3/8
     Breadth between the ears, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       2 3/8
                                   Weight 8 1/2 lbs.

Measurement of a young animal killed at Fort Union.

     From point of nose to root of tail,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    1       0 1/4
     Tail, (vertebrae,)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       4 7/8
     Tail to end of hair,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       5 3/4
     Width at the shoulders,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       7 1/4
     Length of head,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       3 1/2
     Between the eyes,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       0 7/8
     Breadth between the ears, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    0       1 3/4


     The First Swift Fox we ever saw alive was at Fort Clark on the upper
Missouri river, at which place we arrived on the 7th of June, 1843.  It had been
caught in a steel-trap by one of its fore-feet, and belonged to Mr. CHARDON, the
principal at the Fort, who with great kindness and politeness presented it to
us; assuring us that good care would be taken of it during our absence, (as we
were then ascending the river to proceed to the base of the Rocky Mountains,)
and that on our return to the Mandan village, we might easily take it with us to
     Mr. CHARDON informed us that this Fox was a most expert rat catcher, and
that it had been kept in a loft without any other food than the rats and mice
that it caught there.  It was a beautiful animal, and ran with great rapidity
from one side of the loft to another, to avoid us.  On our approaching, it
showed its teeth and growled much like the common red fox.
     Soon after we left Fort Clark, between the western shore of the Missouri
river and the hills called the "Trois mamelles" by the Canadian and French
trappers, on an open prairie, we saw the second Swift Fox we met with on this
journey.  Our party had been shooting several buffaloes, and our friend ED.
HARRIS, Esq., and ourself, were approaching the hunters apace.  We were on foot,
and Mr. HARRIS was mounted on his buffalo horse, when a Swift Fox darted from a
concealed hole in the prairie almost under the hoofs of my friend's steed.  My
gun was unfortunately loaded with ball, but the Fox was chased by Mr. HARRIS,
who took aim at it several times but could not draw sight on the animal; and the
cunning fellow doubled and turned about and around in such a dexterous manner,
that it finally escaped in a neighbouring ravine, and we suppose gained its
burrow or sheltered itself in the cleft of a rock, as we did not see it start
again.  This slight adventure with this (so called) Swift Fox convinced us that
the accounts of the wonderful speed of this animal are considerably exaggerated;
and were we not disposed to retain its name as given by Mr. SAY, we should
select that of Prairie Fox as being most appropriate for it.  Mr. HARRIS,
mounted on an Indian horse, had no difficulty in keeping up with it and
overrunning it, which caused it to double as just mentioned.  Had our guns been
loaded with buck shot we should no doubt have killed it.  It is necessary to
say, perhaps, that all the authors who have written about this fox (most of whom
appear to have copied Mr. SAY's account of it) assert that its extraordinary
swiftness is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the animal.  GODMAN
observes that the fleetest antelope or deer, when running at full speed, is
passed by this little Fox with the greatest ease, and such is the celerity of
its motion, that it is compared by the celebrated travellers above quoted, LEWIS
and CLARK and Mr. SAY, "to the flight of a bird along the ground rather than the
course of a quadruped."
     There is nothing in the conformation of this species, anatomically viewed,
indicating extraordinary speed.  On the contrary, when we compare it with the
red fox or even the gray, we find its body and legs shorter in proportion than
in those species, and its large head and bushy tail give it rather a more heavy
appearance than either of the foxes just named.
     Dr. RICHARDSON informs us that the Saskachewan river is the most northern
limit of the range of the Kit Fox.  Its burrows he says are very deep and
excavated in the open plains, at some distance from the woody country.  LEWIS
and CLARK describe it as being extremely vigilant, and say that it betakes
itself on the slightest alarm to its burrow.
     On our return to Fort Union after an excursion through a part of the
adjacent country, we found at some distance from the stockade a young Swift Fox
which we probably might easily have captured alive; but fearing that its burrow
was near at hand, and that it would soon reach it and evade our pursuit, Mr.
HARRIS shot it.  This was the last specimen of this Fox that we were able to
observe during our journey; we have given its measurement in a former part of
this article.  On our return voyage, we found on arriving at Fort Clark that the
living Swift Fox given us by Mr.CHARDON was in excellent condition.  It was
placed in a strong wooden box lined in part with tin, and for greater security
against its escape, had a chain fastened to a collar around its neck.  During
our homeward journey it was fed on birds, squirrels, and the flesh of other
animals, and finally safely reached our residence, near New-York, where it was
placed in a large cage box two-thirds sunk beneath the surface of the ground,
completely tinned inside, and half filled with earth.  When thus allowed a
comparatively large space and plenty of earth to burrow in, the Fox immediately
began to make his way into the loose ground, and soon had dug a hole large,
enough to conceal himself entirely.  While in this commodious prison he fed
regularly and ate any kind of fresh meat, growing fatter every day.  He drank
more water than foxes generally do, seemed anxious to play or wash in the cup
which held his supply, and would frequently turn it over, spilling the water on
the floor of the cage.
     The cross fox which we described in our first volume does not appear to
require water, during the winter months at least, when fed on fresh meat, as one
that we have had in confinement during the past winter would not drink any, and
was not supplied with it for two or three months.  Probably in a wild state all
predatory animals drink more than when in confinement, for they are compelled to
take so much exercise in the pursuit of their prey, that the evaporation of
fluids, by perspiration, must go on rapidly; besides which, they would probably
often try to appease the cravings of hunger by drinking freely, when unable to
procure sufficient food.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     The Swift Fox appears to be found on the plains of the Columbia river
valley, as well as the open country of the region in which it has generally been
observed, the extensive prairies of the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.
     It does not appear to be an inhabitant of New Mexico, Texas or California,
as far as our information on the subject extends.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     Our esteemed friend, Sir JOHN RICHARDSON, (Fauna Boreali Americana, p. 98,)
has supposed that SCHREBER's; description of Canis cinereo argentatus applied to
this species, and hence adopted his specific name, to the exclusion of SAY's
name of C. Velox.  In our first volume, (p.  172,) we explained our views on
this subject.  In the descriptions of C. Virginianus of SCHREBER, and C.
Argenteus, ERX., they evidently described mere varieties of the gray fox, (Y.
Virginianus); we have consequently restored SAY's specific name, and awarded to
him the credit of having been the first scientific describer of this animal.