Dogs and foxes are members of the canidae animal family, but they’re incredibly different otherwise. They can’t make babies, for starters! They do share certain qualities, however: dogs are curious, playful, and enjoy exploring their surroundings just like their distant woodland cousins. Some dogs share physical qualities in common swith foxes, too, from distinctive pointy ears to reddish-gold coats. Get ready to meet some of these beautiful dogs that look like foxes.
A number of these breeds aren’t well-known outside of their native regions, while others have gained worldwide popularity. No matter their status, they’re truly gorgeous dogs.
Originating from the “land of 60,000 lakes,” the Finnish spitz is the most popular dog breed in Finland (though not very common in the United States). There they have worked as bird-hunting dogs who specialize in mesmerizing prey with slow-wagging tails and specialized “yodeling” of up to 160 barks per minute.
Unlike the shy fox that the Finnish spitz resembles, these dogs are outgoing and friendly by nature. They’re similar in size, though, weighing in at up to 33 pounds and standing up to 20 inches tall at the shoulder. They’re related to other northern spitz breeds such as the Greenland dog, Chow Chow, and even the diminutive Pomeranian.
These beautiful herding dogs got their start when Iceland was first settled, over a thousand years ago. Spitz-type dogs rode into Iceland with the Vikings in their ships, and they helped with herding sheep and ponies. In time, they became what we now know as the Icelandic sheepdog.
Icelandic sheepdogs come with either long-haired or short-haired coats, and although both have a narrow, fox-like face and upright ears, the long-haired coat is distinctly vulpine in nature. They weigh just a bit more than foxes at up to 30 pounds and stand up to 18 inches tall at the shoulder, as well.
Icelandic sheepdogs are friendly, energetic, and devoted by nature. They love to play and love to learn.
One of the most popular dog breeds for herding, Pembroke Welsh corgis stand at just about a foot tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 30 pounds. These loving, clever dogs are as hard-working as they are friendly, making up for their short stature.
First introduced to Wales by Flemish master weavers, the Pembroke Welsh corgis have been prized pets of Queen Elizabeth II. These herding dogs trace back as far as 1107 AD and are a separate, distinct breed from the Cardigan Welsh corgi despite similarities in appearance.
Of all the dogs that look like foxes, the Shiba may be one of the most well-known. Made famous by “doge” meme, the Shiba Inu is the most popular companion dog breed in Japan. Despite their diminutive size (up to 23 pounds in weight and just shy of 16 inches at the tallest), Shiba Inus are an ancient breed of hunting dog who originally brought down large game. They’ve been around since roughly 300 BC but faced near-extinction after WWII.
Shiba Inus continue to rise in popularity in modern times, however. Their sense of humor, confidence, and good nature have made them perfect companions in any type of home—whether that may be an apartment in a bustling city or a house with land in the countryside. That said, they’re notoriously stubborn and often aloof—so they’re not the best dog for first-time owners.
Although no one knows just how old the Canaan dog breed is, drawings resembling the breed decorate tombs nearly 4000 years old. Originally, they helped the Israelites to herd and guard livestock. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and dispersed the Israelites in 70 AD, the homeless Canaan dogs fled to the Negev Desert where they survived, wild, until the 20th century.
Centuries later, when the State of Israel was founded, guards were needed for the settlements and K-9s were needed for the army. A nearby Austrian cynologist, Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, suggested training the half-wild Canaan dogs. She claimed that their ability to survive in the unforgiving desert proved that they were fit for the job at hand.
To everyone’s surprise, the Canaan dogs were clever and easy to train, despite their wild roots. They became service dogs, messengers, and landmine detectors and—after World War II—they became guide dogs for the blind, too. Canaan dogs to this day are smart, confident, and vigilant, and they continue to make excellent guardians and service dogs.
Canaan dogs stand at up to 24 inches tall and weigh in at up to 55 pounds. Their lean build, bushy tails, almond-shaped eyes, and alert, pointed ears give them a distinctly fox-like appearance.
Known as the “barkless dog,” Basenjis are an ancient breed depicted in many Egyptian artifacts, Babylonian art, and Mesopotamian art. After the collapse of these mighty civilizations, the Basenji survived, wild, along the Nile and Congo rivers until their skills as a hunter were discovered by African tribesmen. These catlike hounds weren’t introduced in America until the mid-1900s—still much the same genetically as when they were first presented to the pharaohs as gifts.
Basenjis are independent and aloof, but they can be loving toward family and children. They’re incredibly clean by nature, but their high energy and keen intelligence get them into trouble often. Because of this, they need plenty of activity and stimulation. These graceful dogs stand at 16 to 17 inches tall and weigh in at up to 24 pounds. They’re not very common in the United States, and they’re one of the least common of the dogs that look like foxes.
Named after the island near Korea where the breed originates, Jindo dogs are considered a national treasure in their homeland. They’ve lived alongside island-dwellers as hunters and companions for thousands of years, and they even had a spot in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Weighing in at up to 50 pounds and standing at up to 22 inches tall, Jindos are extremely clever. Because of this they’re quick to learn new tricks, but can also get into trouble. They’re infamous escape artists, but they’re also extremely loyal. They carry a distinct dignity and confidence and have strong hunting instincts. Like other dogs that look like foxes, they sport a thick double coat that helps them stay warm during cold winters.
The petite schipperke stands at only 13 inches or less at the shoulder and weighs up to 16 pounds, but don’t let their size fool you. These small dogs began as hard-working ship dogs in Belgium, bred to catch rats and watch over precious cargo. They hunt with a distinct cat-like style and were beloved among ship crews, earning them the Flemish name “schipperke” or “little captain.”
In modern times, these beautiful dogs are just as happy in an apartment or home as they are at work. They can be independent and mischievous, though, so plenty of activity and training is necessary to meet their needs.
While many dogs on this list resemble foxes, Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers were bred specifically to look like foxes. Their flowing tail, red fur, and white markings are decoys—meant to mimic foxes. This puts birds at ease and even fascinates them during hunts. Thanks to this, tollers are talented at luring prey out. Despite standing at only 19 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 50 pounds, these dogs are efficient retrievers.
Tollers are tireless and clever, loving and confident, and do everything with enthusiasm. They need plenty of activity every day to be satisfied. Because of this, they make wonderful working dogs and excel at canine sports.
Any records of the history of the Japanese spitz were destroyed in WWII, but the breed likely descended from a mixture of white German spitz and white Keeshonds from Canada, which were imported around the time of the first exhibited Japanese spitz. These handsome dogs bear a striking resemblance to Arctic foxes and are just as much at home in a small apartment as they are in the sprawling countryside.
At up to 15 inches tall and 25 pounds in weight, Japanese spitz are funny, friendly companions who love adventures. They’re loyal, smart, and cheerful dogs who learn quickly and smile often.
If you admire dogs that look like foxes, you may well be wondering if you can adopt a real-life fox.
Foxes of all kinds are beautiful, but they don’t make good domestic pets. It’s true that in recent years, some animal lovers have begun to look after foxes in their homes. Yet for most of us, a fox would be a difficult pet at best. They lack generations of domestication, so they may bite if stressed, for example, and they’re very hard to train. Their wild needs are unlikely to be met in a traditional house or apartment. Plus, they have strong smell—all the time.
So, if you admire the mysterious elegance of foxes or their love of friendly mischief, consider adopting one of these ten dog breeds instead.
And further reading on the relationship between genus vulpes (foxes) and their canine cousins.