Black-eared foxes dwell predominantly in the short grass plains and open woodland where there is plenty of food for them. The main populations of black eared fox are found mainly in Southern Africa and East Africa but they can also be found in Botswana and Namibia, as well as parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Black-eared foxes are preyed upon by many different species; including leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs and rock pythons. They usually evade predation by fleeing to one of their many underground dens, which are connected by tunnels that run beneath the savannah. Their dens are also used to shelter from high temperatures and extreme winds.
The little foxes are surprisingly members of an incredibly old species: the fossil records show the first occurrence of black-eared foxes during the middle of the Pleistocene epoch, which was around 800,000 years ago making the species one of the early mammals.
The fox is one of the smaller African canines weighing only around 10 pounds on average and only reaching around a foot tall at the shoulder. They are the same size as the fox found in the UK. However they differ with their very large (almost comically disproportionate) and distinctive ears which are rimmed in black and which give them their name. They also have a brown-grey coat with a pale underside and neck and a lighter, racoon-like face. Their large ears serve a purpose as they contain many blood vessels, which shed heat and allow the fox to remain cool in the African savannah. They also of course give the fox a remarkable sense of hearing, which is all the more important when it comes to their diet: the black-eared fox is the only animal of its kind to have abandoned meat-eating in favour of an insects-based diet, and its ears are essential in enabling the animal to find its hard-to-see prey using sound and movement instead.
Another surprising fact about the black-eared fox is that between 80% and 90% of the black fox’s diet is made up of harvester termites. When such prey is not available, they also eat other types of termites, as well as spiders, millipedes, ants, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, beetles, scorpions and, in rare cases, reptiles, small mammals, and birds. The black-eared fox gets much of its required water intake from the fluids provided by its usual diet of insects, and only rarely does it need to drink.
The black-eared foxes are primarily nocturnal creatures, who emerge at dusk and feed through the night. They are usually monogamous, often mating with a partner for life, and reside in pairs (although sometimes they have been known to mix in larger groups). They breed once a year, and usually give birth around the rainy season, which is also when there is the greatest abundance of insects to feed their young. The females have a gestation period of around two months, and usually give birth to between 1 and 5 cubs. Both partners play a part in rearing the young, though in contrast to many other similar species, the male’s role is usually stronger than the female’s.