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Coyote vs Fox: The Main Differences in Comparison

As wild canids, coyotes (Canis latrans) and foxes have many similarities. In fact, telling the difference between a coyote vs fox can be quite challenging. After all, these two creatures have similar habits, predatory nature, and shape.

Coyotes can only be found in Central America and North America, but foxes can be found in every continent except Antarctica. Therefore, you might have seen a fox at some point in your life, and here, we’ll help you determine if the canid in your area is a fox or coyote.

Main Differences Between Fox vs Coyote

The main differences between fox vs coyote are:

  • Fox belongs to the genus Vulpes, whereas the coyote is a wild canine.
  • Fox is an opportunistic predator that consumes a wide range of prey, whereas coyotes are specialized feeders that prefer hunting a huge wild animal like deer.
  • Foxes can be found in every part of the planet except Antarctica, with the most common ones being gray fox and red fox (Vulpes vulpes), whereas coyotes can be found in Central and North America.
  • Foxes weigh between 8 and 15 pounds, whereas coyotes weigh between 20 and 50 pounds.
  • The body length of the fox ranges between 18 and 35 inches, whereas coyotes’ body length is between 32 and 37 inches.

The Difference Between Fox and Coyote

Coyotes and foxes are members of the Canidae family, but they are distinct animals with several differences in physical characteristics, behavior, and habitat. Here are some key differences between coyotes and foxes:


Coyotes are generally larger than most foxes. They typically weigh between 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 23 kilograms) and have a length of 32 to 37 inches (81 to 94 centimeters) from nose to tail. The eastern coyote is larger than the western coyote, while the urban coyote is bolder.

Foxes, on the other hand, come in various species and sizes. Red foxes, one of the most common wild animals, are smaller than coyotes, with an average weight of 8 to 15 pounds (3.6 to 6.8 kilograms) and a length of 18 to 35 inches (45 to 90 centimeters) from nose to tail.

So, in general, coyotes are larger and heavier than foxes, with the smallest ones being kit fox and swift fox. However, it’s important to note that there are many foxes, including the gray fox and red fox, and their size can vary depending on the specific animal and geographic location.


Coyotes and foxes have distinct coloration patterns, although there can be some variations among different individuals.

Coyotes generally have gray or gray-brown fur that provides good camouflage in a variety of habitats. Their fur can vary somewhat, but it often has a mixture of gray and brown tones. The underside of a coyote is typically lighter in color, often white or cream-colored. 

Coyotes may have rusty or reddish highlights on their fur, particularly on their legs, ears, and muzzle.

On the other hand, the fur color of foxes varies among species. Red foxes, one of the most common fox species, are known for their reddish-brown fur, although it can range from a bright red to a darker rusty or brownish-red. Other foxes may have different coat colors, such as the gray fox, which has a gray coat with a hint of red.

A fox’s belly is typically white or a lighter color compared to their back and sides. This coloration provides some camouflage when viewed from below.

Last but not least, foxes often have distinct facial markings, including white patches on their muzzles, throat, and chest. Their ears may also have black tips or markings.

It’s important to note that there can be variations in coloration within each animal due to factors like age, geographic location, and genetics. Additionally, some foxes, like the Arctic fox, have specialized fur coloration adapted to their cold environments, which can be pure white in winter and gray-brown in summer.


The tails of coyotes and foxes are distinct and can help differentiate between these two animals.

Coyotes have a long, bushy tail that is typically held low to the ground. The tail is often carried horizontally or slightly drooping. The tail of a coyote typically matches the color of its body fur, which is usually gray or gray-brown with some reddish or rusty highlights. The tip of the tail can be black or dark gray.

Coyote tails are relatively long and can make up a significant portion of their overall body length.

On the other hand, foxes, especially red foxes, have a long and bushy tail that is often held upright, which is a distinctive feature. This upright tail posture is one of the key visual differences between foxes and coyotes.

The tail of a fox, like the rest of its body, varies by species. Red foxes, for example, have a tail that matches their reddish-brown body fur, and it may have a white tip or a black stripe down the top. Fox tails are also relatively long compared to their body size and are an important part of their balance and communication.

The difference in tail posture, with coyotes typically holding their tails low and foxes holding their tails upright, is one of the most noticeable distinctions between these two animals in the field.


Coyotes are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forests and grasslands to urban areas. They have successfully expanded their range in North America.

On the other hand, foxes also have a broad habitat range but are more commonly associated with wooded areas and farmlands.

Social Behavior

Coyotes are known for their opportunistic feeding habits and are often scavengers, eating a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, fruits, and carrion. Foxes are also omnivorous but tend to have a more carnivorous diet, which includes small mammals, birds, insects, and some plant matter.

Social Structure

Coyotes are typically more social than foxes and often live in family groups called packs, which can include a mated pair and their offspring. Foxes are generally solitary or live in small family groups. They are less likely to form large packs.


Coyotes are known for their distinctive howling, yipping, and barking vocalizations, often heard at night. Foxes communicate with various vocalizations, including barks, screams, and high-pitched calls, but their vocalizations are generally less elaborate than those of coyotes.

It’s important to note that there are many species of foxes and regional variations in both coyotes and foxes, so some of these characteristics may vary depending on the specific species and location.

Fox vs Coyote: Similarities Between the Two

Coyotes and foxes are both members of the Canidae family, and while they have many differences, they also share several similarities:

  • Canid Family: Both coyotes and foxes belong to the Canidae family, which includes a wide range of carnivorous mammals, including wolves, domestic dogs, and jackals.
  • Diet: Coyotes and foxes are both opportunistic feeders. They have omnivorous diets and will eat various foods, including birds, insects, fruits, and carrion.
  • Hunting Habits: Both animals are skilled hunters and use similar hunting techniques, including stalking, pouncing, and chasing their prey.
  • Solitary Behavior: While coyotes can form family groups called packs, they often forage and hunt alone. Foxes are typically solitary animals, although they may form small family groups.
  • Nocturnal Behavior: Coyotes and foxes are often active during the nighttime hours, making them primarily nocturnal animals.
  • Diverse Habitats: Both species are adaptable and can be found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, urban areas, and farmlands. They can thrive in diverse environments.
  • Communication: Coyotes and foxes use vocalizations to communicate. They both produce a range of sounds, including howls, barks, yips, and whines, for purposes such as territorial marking and social interaction.
  • Burrowing: Some fox species, like the red fox, are known to dig burrows or dens as shelters and for raising their young. Coyotes may also use dens for shelter and to give birth to their pups.
  • Territorial Behavior: Both species exhibit territorial behavior, and they may mark their territories with urine or scent markings.
  • Survival Skills: Both coyotes and foxes have adapted well to human-altered landscapes and are known for their ability to survive in close proximity to human populations.

Despite these similarities, it’s important to remember that coyotes and foxes are distinct species with their own unique characteristics and behaviors. Their differences in size, coloration, tail shape, and social structure, as previously discussed, make them easily distinguishable in the wild.


Generally, coyotes are larger and stronger than foxes; therefore, they tend to kill them when provoked. But they can tolerate them at times. Compared to foxes, coyotes have a longer tail, which makes up a huge portion of their body.

Luckily, they do have a number of similarities, with the most common one being that they’re opportunistic feeders.

These skilled hunters have some unique hunting techniques, including chasing, pouncing, and stalking their prey. Another similarity is they have some unique territorial behaviors, which include marking their surroundings using scent and urine markings.

To communicate with each other, they produce a wide range of noises, including whines, yips, barks, and howls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do foxes have bigger tracks than coyotes?

No, coyote tracks resemble fox tracks, but they’re daintier and a tad bigger. Fox tracks are between 2 and 3 inches long.

What’s stronger, fox or coyote?

Coyotes are stronger than foxes. In fact, even the largest fox can never measure up to a mature coyote in terms of strength.

What’s the relationship between coyotes and foxes?

Generally, coyotes tolerate foxes, but sometimes, they can be aggressive towards foxes and end up killing them. 

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