What Does The Fox Say? Experts Weigh In

09/10/2013 01:22 pm ET
Still from YouTube

Last week, "Norway's Lonely Island" uploaded a music video with a simple hook: fox calls are mysterious. Everyone knows what cats, dogs, sheep, etc. sound like... but what does the fox say? The proposed answers, delivered by brothers Bård Ylvisåker and Vegard Ylvisåker in animal suits, are nothing short of spectacular.

The video went viral, meaning brief online fame for Ylvis (the comedy pop duo's official name), and an epic plug for the new season of their talk show on TVNorge.

But the question still lingers. What does the fox say, anyway? It's simply not possible to watch this video over and over and over again (true story), without wondering. A quick jaunt through YouTube's vulpine footage yields mostly screams -- the sound a fox most likely makes when faced with a nosy human. But what about in the quiet of its cave? With its loved ones? Deep in the woods, an angel in disguise?

HuffPost turned to the experts to solve the age-old brand new mystery.

Bob Huddelson, owner of Lost River Game Farm, and a breeder of such animals as the red fox (the video seems concerned with the red, the largest of the "true foxes"), did not know what to make of the question. That did not stop him from answering it:

This almost sounds like a joke. A red fox makes about three different noises, but I'm not about to make them on the phone right now. You know how a cat purrs? Ok, when a fox -- when a female fox -- is looking for a male fox she does a loud purr that is very loud. And she’ll make that, and it probably lasts 3 seconds or 4 seconds. That’s one noise that a fox makes.
Then, if you stumble on a fox’s den where she’s got puppies and she feels like you’re a threat, she’s got a wild scream that she makes that 99 percent of people would run for their lives [from], and that’s the idea. When that happens, she’ll move the puppies to a new den. A young fox, they make two or three noises as well. Most of them are soft, kind. [Sounding slightly exasperated] You have to play with a young fox to really hear what they're like.

At California State University in Stanislaus, research ecologist Brian L. Cypher studies San Joaquin kit foxes. Cypher took a while to write back, but his response was worth it for comparative analysis purposes:

I'm actually away on vacation and just saw this. Probably too late to do much good. And anyway, most of my work has been with kit foxes and island foxes. They are relatively quiet compared to other foxes. I'm assuming the fox in the video is likely a red fox, although I haven't see the video yet. Red's tend to be a bit more vocal, from what I understand.

So there you have it. "Foxes make several noises," to quote the no-nonsense Bob Huddleson. "Ahee ahee ha-hee," to quote Ylvis.

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