Foxes and folklore

Roly Smith unearths some fascinating facts about the life of one of our most handsome, and common, mammals: the red fox.
Fox, Danny Green - 2020 Vision

Fox, Danny Green - 2020 Vision 

Reynard, the old country nickname for a fox, comes from medieval Middle English, through the French renart and the Old German name ‘Reginhart.’

Another old country name for the fox is Tod, which also comes from Middle English and is still widely used in the north of England and Scotland. Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr Tod, first published in 1912, is about a fox called Mr. Tod and his arch enemy, a badger also bearing another old country name of Tommy Brock.

Roald Dahl’s children’s novel Fantastic Mr Fox (1970) was made – appropriately by 20th Century Fox – into an animated film starring George Clooney in 2009. It tells the story of a fox who steals food every night from three wealthy but miserly farmers.

There are many old wives’ tales surrounding wily old Reynard. One of the most persistent is that of a fox ridding itself of fleas and other parasites by taking some wool or fur in its mouth and slowly backing into a pond. The idea is that the fleas would migrate up to its nose and eventually onto the piece of wool which is released when the fox submerges, thus ridding Reynard of the pests.