To see one of these animals on their own is good luck, and if it crosses your path then you can expect great gains in life, rubbing the animals fat on your bonce will cure baldness, and carrying the animals teeth around with you will treat a bad leg. But to see one near your house, or even worse, to see many of these animals together, spells dooooom!, and if you’re bitten by one of these animals you’ll have no more than 7 years to live.
To city dwellers these superstitions may raise a few eyebrows, because they see this animal more than anyone! We’re talking about the beautiful fox; although we must remember that these superstitions were dreamt up when the fox was much more of a recluse, restricted to the countryside, and certainly not living in our back yards.
One of the keys to this beautiful creatures success in our towns and cities is their unfussy eating habits, being equally happy hunting and munching rats and rabbits, scavenging for carrion, or eating leftover KFC. And contrary to popular belief, like ourselves and their fellow canine species, dogs and wolves, foxes are actually omnivorous, with plants and berries also being part of their diet.
Another factor to their urban success is their cat like agility, which enables them to negotiate the assault course which is our urban landscape - whether they’re scaling or hurdling fences, squeezing in between park gates, or diving headfirst into a bin.
So how long have foxes been in our towns and cities for? Not long actually. The first reports of red foxes taking up residency in our cities dates back as recently as the 1930’s, and it was only after WWII where sightings became very common. Despite the popular myth which suggests the fox’s urbanisation was a result of them starving in the countryside due to myxomatosis wiping out the rabbits, it was much more likely the expansion of cities which prompted the fox to pick up sticks. As suburbia encroached on the countryside, foxes were more and more exposed to human life, and the possible threat that humans posed was well worth the gamble for some readily available morsel.
Now that the fox is no longer limited by rarity to just being a farm pest, or ill-placed sport for the gentry, the various superstitions concerning the fox should be taken with a very hefty pinch of salt. I personally would always feel lucky to see one, in town or in country, and especially lucky to see many of these beautiful and clever creatures together.
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How do you defeat those pesky Romans: with a broadsword, a throwing spear, a battle horse? All of those sound like they could be very useful, but what you really need in your arsenal is a Hare. Just ask Queen Boudica - and if anyone should know it would be this red hared heroine, who impressively managed to defeat the all conquering Romans in three separate battles.