Foxes are one of the most popular phenotypes chosen by furries, with the Red Fox being a popular subspecies.
This may be due to the frequent anthropomorphization of the fox in literature such as in Aesop's Fables, and movies such as Disney's Robin Hood. In addition, the fox is part of popular figures of speech, such as “the fox guarding the henhouse”, “crazy as a fox”, “she's a fox”, etc.
As the fox is portrayed frequently and in a myriad of ways, this may give it broader appeal, and make it easier for people to associate with; hence, its popularity as a fursona.
In the aforementioned media, the fox is portrayed as mischeivous and cunning (Aesop), or heroic (Robin Hood), but in furry fandom, the fox is such a universally popular character that it is in no way restricted to those traits. In fact, furries choosing the fox as their fursona typically fall into one of the following three categories: #Realistic – Often chosen by those who desire a quiet, introspective, and perhaps shy persona. This is likely due in part from observing the mannerism of the fox in its natural habitat, and observing its quiet beauty in photographs. Moreover, these people are often intelligent, choosing the fox for its fabled cunning. #Toony – Although the fox is seldom portrayed as a buffoon in popular media, many furries choose to portray the fox in a silly manner. Toony fox fursuits are popular, as is playful online roleplaying. Furries may run over a fox with a steamroller, whilst chatting on Anthrochat. Furries who carry their affinity for sports over into their character would fall into this category as well. #Yiffy – As with any other species, a percentage of furries wish to emphasize an adult sense of playfulness in their character, and the fox is no exception. Often foxes are chosen by those who consider themselves submissive as well.
Since the fox enjoys such widespread popularity as a fursona, occasionally multiple furries with fox fursonas will choose the same name, which causes confusion. Indeed, on popular servers with many users, a fox furry may be unable to obtain the user name of choice, and may be forced to add one or more numbers after the username to differentiate from other users. This is probably the source of the assertion that “foxes are numbered”, but in reality, they are not yet identified by sequential enumeration.
Foxes, in old religions, were associated with gender changes. (For example, kitsune were traditionally depicted as being able to turn into an old man, a young woman, or a mature fox, as desired.) It may not be coincidental, then, that (according to Pounced) the fox is the most common phenotype among transgendered furs, with almost 1 in 6 being vulpine.
A furry equivalent of the “dumb blonde” stereotype applies to many fox characters, leading to practices like the telling of vixen jokes. This is directly contradicted by the “cunning fox” stereotype however, so foxes can be clichéd as either ditzy or devious. West Corner Of the Park bases many of its running gags around the supposed stupidity of foxes.
In furry lore, kitsune are born either from one or two kitsune parents or a drifting kitsune soul possessing an unborn child's body. Mortals may also be turned into kitsune through 'sharing' spirit with another kitsune, or by divine figures. Some hold that kitsune live to the age of 1000 years, and then 'ascend' past the mortal world to a sort of kitsune nirvana. Others disregard any upper limit. (After all, what is a thousand years to those on other planets or the void of space?) Still others say the Kitsune may be reborn, starting their lives all over again, when they become bored of the nirvana-like state.
Kitsune might have been tied to the 13 Oriental elements in the original folklore, but in furry are almost always depicted as belonging to one of many elements, including the 'classical' elements (earth, fire, wind, and water), primal forces (good, evil, time), various scenes in nature (mountain, ocean, river, forest), and various artistic pursuits (dance, music, painting). Other, original elements have been invented for specific characters. To survive, a kitsune must be immersed in his or her element, or drain chi from living beings. Chi may be drained through many ways, but the most common are sexual intercourse and stealing breath. Because of this, many kitsune in old stories are depicted as 'evil', intent on killing humans.
Kitsune are rated in power by the number of tails they have. Very young kitsune have one tail; the most powerful mortal kitsune have nine tails (Japanese: 九尾, kyūbi). In furry lore, the Goddess of Kitsune is usually depicted as being the only ten-tailed kitsune. This goddess – a symbol of fertility, power, and immortality – is also sometimes depicted in furry lore as a hermaphrodite, possibly because the associated kitsune deity Inari is often depicted as being of either gender. In most stories, age is the sole determinant of the number of tails, and the number of tails determines the kitsune's power. In others tails may be awarded by more powerful forces as a reward for services performed or exceptional deeds accomplished.
Kitsune powers typically involve illusion, although some mind-affecting magic tricks and kitsunebi (Japanese: 狐火, 'foxfire') are known. However, a kitsune's greatest asset is not his or her magic, but intelligence, wit, and misdirection. Traditionally, kitsune were vulnerable to faith, blessed weapons, and 'men of the cloth' from religions other than Shinto or Buddhism. Oni (Japanese: 鬼, demon) were said to be able to strip a kitsune's spirit away and devour it with little more than a glance. Within the fandom, these weaknesses are usually glossed over and ignored.
Kitsune can feed on live beings, but also on elements. Whatever is being fed on will weaken, but won't necessarily be destroyed. In the case of live beings they will weaken and become pale. When feeding on elements, the kitsune can snuff out flames, cause the land to dry and crack, water to become still and stale, and sealife to die. Young kitsune may not have a very noticeable effect, but older and more powerful ones could present a considerable problem for the area where they decided to manifest.
A fair proportion of furries have chosen kitsune as their personas or fursona; in some roleplaying spheres, kitsune match or outnumber normal foxes. Kitsune are popular for being aged, enlightened, yet energetic and adventurous (and for being foxlike, but more unique and exotic than foxes). They're also attractive for their gender/shapeshifting powers.
Ironically some kitsune seem more proud and arrogant than mortal foxes, even showy with their powers. Kitsune are stereotypically lithe, feminine, aggressively sexual figures. In contrast, others are played as hyper, cheerful, silly characters, the furry version of Kender. Stereotypes are, of course, meant to be broken.