Using One’s Nose

Fox scenthound5 131229

I have a dog who watches TV and aeroplanes – at least, she did when she was a puppy. By behaviour, she should be classed as a sighthound; her vision isn’t as detailed as mine, but lacks nothing in detecting movement. Sometimes we play a game where I hide a toy and instruct her to locate it – then, she uses her nose, standing tall, sniffing the air, but it clearly isn’t her preference.

Foxes aren’t scenthounds either, or even sighthounds. Mostly, they hunt by hearing. I once saw an ambling male suddenly cock his head, march twenty yards through dense grass, and leap on a rodent. This is a map in audio beyond our human experience.

But this morning, for the first ever, I saw a fox following a scent.

Fox scenthound3 131229

The behaviour was mistakable. He followed the trail through the frost, doubling back, scentmarking, studying.

Sometimes he stopped, head high, sniffing the air.

Fox scenthound4 131229

Naturally, he soon had an audience.

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He was hunting – but not for food, I suspect. The fox breeding season in the UK peaks right now, and no doubt he was intrigued by the scent of a vixen.

He was still looking for her when I left.

Fox almost hiding 131229

About Adele Brand

UEA Ecology grad, typically sighted in the company of a tall graceful Belgian shephard dog and often trying to carrying a big camera around. Dislikes urban habitat but is comfortable in either prairie or mountain biomes. Frequently watching, or being watched by, foxes.
This entry was posted in behaviour - breeding, surrey hills foxes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Using One’s Nose

  1. nice little narrative, Adele … I’ve never seen a fox hunt by scent, either. Most illuminating.

  2. Words says:

    Lovely sequence of shots, and trust the magpies to put in an appearance πŸ™‚ Looks nice and frosty too, and thankfully not much wind today either.

    • Adele Brand says:

      It’d be great if we could have two weeks of cold frosty sunshine. It was lovely this morning but has clouded over again. I would happily live without rain for a few months!

  3. gdare says:

    Magpies, they like to be a salt in every soup, eh? πŸ˜›

  4. Deb Platt says:

    I didn’t realize how much foxes relied on sound when hunting.

    Have a happy 2014!

  5. Robin says:

    Adele, our Spenser is definitely a scent hound! He doesn’t miss a thing! Especially if it’s food!

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