Sound and vision blog

10 October 2013

What does the fox say?

What does the fox say? Good question. This is something that usually occupies the thoughts of scientists beavering away in a lab or a muddy field somewhere. It seems as if they're not alone though. Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis has recently responded to this question with their own imaginative interpretation.  The Fox (what does the Fox say?) has so far entertained over 100 million viewers around the world and comes complete with dance routine and costumes (if only wildlife conferences were more like this).


Is this an accurate rendition of the Red Fox's vocabulary though? On the surface it appears like nothing more than a wee bit of fun, but in some cases they're actually not far off the mark. Phrases such as "Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow" and "Chacha-chacha-chacha-chow"  may seem plucked out of the sky but it wouldn't be unusual to find this kind of description gracing the pages of an identification guide. We've got over 250 recordings of Red Fox calls here at the British Library and I've been doing a little comparision of my own.

The most commonly heard sound is the familiar "wow-wow-wow" contact call:

Red Fox "wow wow wow" bark 1'22"

Then you've got those ear splitting, spine chilling screams that rip through the air on cold winter nights: 

Red Fox screams 0'57"

After these come a range of wudders, whickers, chatters, wails and yaps that make up a sophisticated communication system featuring 40 or so identified vocalisations. I don't know about you, but I think this last example, recorded in a Hackney backgarden in 2010, comes pretty close to Ylvis' take on the subject:

Red Fox chattering 1'27" 

Are the pair here saying "Tchoff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff" or perhaps "Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow"? In the end in all comes down to personal interpretation. But when Ylvis ask "What is your sound?" and "What do you say?" we can actually say that we've got a pretty good idea of both.

Listen to more Red Fox sounds at British Wildlife Recordings


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