Red Pandas & Foxes (Differences & Similarities – Explained!)

If you spot a red panda for the first time, you might mistake it for a fox. Their looks are similar— reddish-brown fur, dark limbs, bushy tails, etc.

Come to think of it – are red pandas related to foxes? 

No, red pandas are not foxes despite how similar they look.  Red pandas belong to the family Ailuridae whereas foxes belong to the Canidae family.

And since red pandas are not canine creatures, they are not related to foxes. 

Aside from this, there are many more reasons why red pandas and foxes aren’t related.

In this article, we’ll be discussing in detail the different reasons why red pandas aren’t related to foxes.

Table of Contents

Let’s get started!

Why are Red Pandas Different From Foxes?

Here’s a summary of all these differences we’ll be discussing below:

DifferencesRed Pandas Canines
Family AiluridaeCanidae
Appearance Reddish-brown fur, ringed tails, stocky bodies. Fur color can be reddish-brown, tan, black, gray, or white.

White-tipped tails. Long slender bodies. 
TeethLarge bamboo-grinding molarsLonger canines with carnivorous molars
Native Home AsiaSix digits (including pseudo thumbs) on the front paws, and four on the back paws. 
Habitat Type Arboreal Terrestrial 
Limb Structure Two arms and two legsFour legs (no arms)
Paw DigitsFive digits (including dew claws) on the front paws, and four digits on the back paws. Five digits (including dew claws) on the front paws, four digits on the back paws. 
Paw PadsNone. Fur covers their paws instead. Yes. Protects all four paws 


A red panda has a family of its own – “Ailuridae.” Every mammal belonging to this family is already extinct except the red panda. 

Classification Red PandaFoxes
KingdomAnimalia Animalia
Phylum Chordata Chordata
OrderCarnivora Carnivora
Family Ailuridae Canidae 
SpeciesAilurus fulgensVulpes vulpes

A fox is a member of the dog family, Canidae. And members of this family include:

  • Domestic dogs
  • African wild dog
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Dingoes
  • Jackals
  • Dholes
  • Etc.

Furthermore, this means foxes are canine, which red pandas are not.

Furthermore, in mammalian classification, red pandas and foxes belong to different general.



Interestingly, the thought of red pandas being related to foxes is all because of their looks. They might look similar but if you look closer, you’ll see the many differences.

Here are some of these physical differences:

Fur Color

Red pandas are normally reddish-brown; they have darker limbs and bellies. In addition, their long bushy tails have ring patterns like that of raccoons.

A Red Fox's Reddish-brown Fur

Foxes’ furs are normally reddish-brown. However, they can also be gray, white, tan, black tan, or mixed. 

What’s more, red foxes in particular have black legs. Additionally, foxes have white-tipped tails, not ring patterns.

Body Shape

Red pandas have round heads with short snouts. Their bodies are stocky and solid like that of bears.  

On the other hand, a fox has a flattened head and triangular face with long snouts. Their bodies are long and slender.

What’s more, foxes have slender limbs compared to the limbs of red pandas. 



Red Panda Eating Bamboo Leaves

Red pandas are bamboo-eaters; it makes up 95% of their diet. 

Meat, which they are meant to eat, falls under the remaining 5% of their diet alongside other plants. Hence, bamboo is important for red pandas to survive. 

Foxes are omnivores; they eat both plants and meat. As natural carnivores, they eat meat the most.

This includes insects, eggs, small animals, and dead animals. Moreover, their plant diet includes fruits and other vegetation.

Teeth/ Dentition

A Red Panda's Small Canine Teeth

Red pandas do not have the canine-like teeth that foxes and other canines have. A red panda’s teeth include short canines since it’s a carnivore.

In addition, they have large and flattened molars and premolars. This is unlike that of other carnivores. 

These sets of teeth are crown-shaped and help red pandas grind tough bamboo.

A Fox's Mouth Wide Open Showing Its Canine Teeth

Foxes have a pair of long, sharp canines up and down their jaws. They have modified premolars and molars called carnassials. 

These sets of teeth have blade-like crown patterns and are different from that of red pandas. 

Native Home

Red pandas only live naturally in Asia. They aren’t native to regions outside Asia. 

Even in Asia, their distribution is around the Eastern Himalayas and Southwest China

Foxes, on the other hand, are native to several parts of the world. This includes North America, Europe, North Africa, and Asia.


A Red Panda on a Tree Branch

As arboreal creatures, red pandas live in trees. This is where they spend almost all their lives. 

Interestingly, they do not only shelter in trees but can also move through them. This tree-to-tree movement is known as arboreal locomotion

A Fox Sitting Outside Its Den

On the contrary, foxes aren’t tree dwellers. They live entirely on land, especially in dens.

And they make their dens in different kinds of habitats. This includes woodlands, forests, grasslands, and wetlands arctic tundra. 

Foxes dig burrows for dens or use abandoned burrows of other animals. Red pandas are not burrowers so they aren’t related to foxes.

Limb Structure

Another difference between a red panda and a fox is its limbs. Unlike foxes, red pandas’ limbs are not all legs! 

That’s right! Red pandas have arms as their forelegs. Let’s see other structures on their limbs such as the digits, claws, and paw pads:


A red panda has six digits in total on each of their front paws. This includes five true fingers and a false thumb

This false thumb is not a real thumb but acts like one. It’s an elongated wrist bone; one of the red pandas’ most notable evolutionary adaptations.

A fox has five digits on their front paws. This includes four toes and a unique digit known as a dewclaw. 

This dewclaw is different from the four toes and it’s not easily spotted. Their back paws have only four toes each (no dewclaw).

Interestingly, foxes walk on their toes, but red pandas walk with their paws fully on the ground.

Paw Pads

There are no paw pads on a red panda’s paws. Their paws are covered with fur instead. This fur protects their paws the same way paw pads do.

Foxes, on the other hand, have paw pads that cover and protect all four feet.

What Do Red Pandas and Foxes Have in Common?

  • Both creatures belong to the order Carnivora (they both eat meat).
  • Red pandas have reddish-brown fur as foxes do.
  • Both creatures have darker-colored limbs.
  • A red panda and a fox have whiskers.
  • These two creatures have semi-retractable claws.
  • Both red pandas and foxes have long bushy tails.

Fun Fact!

Did you know that the animal on the Firefox browser logo isn’t a fox? Funny enough, it’s a red panda!

And this is why red pandas are nicknamed firefoxes. 

A Raccoon - A Mustelid Closely Related to Red Pandas

Red pandas are closely related to raccoons, skunks, and weasels. Studies suggest that red pandas share many physical characteristics with these animals. 

This includes their beautiful fur, long tails, and round bodies. Furthermore, scientists believe that these creatures share a common ancestor with red pandas many years ago.

Red pandas are creatures without any true relatives existing. So these animals are just distant cousins of the red pandas.

A Jackal - A Canine That's Closely Related to Foxes

Foxes are closely related to other Canines or canids. These are members of the Canidae family both domestic and wild.

They include wolves, jackals, coyotes, domestic dogs, etc. As canines, they share a lot in common. 

These common features are having long canines, carnassials, long muzzles, etc. 

Final Thoughts

To sum up, red pandas are not related to foxes. They belong to separate families and have different lifestyles.

Here’s a summary of all the differences discussed in this article:

  • Red pandas belong to the family Ailuridae whereas foxes are members of the Canidae family.
  • Red pandas are native to only Asia, but foxes are native to many continents. 
  • A red panda is a primary herbivore whereas foxes have an omnivorous diet.
  • Red pandas have arms and legs whereas foxes have legs only.
  • Fur covers the red pandas’ feet, but paw pads cover that of foxes.

Despite the difference, red pandas and foxes share a few similarities. But It’s better to think of a red panda as cat-like than like any canine.

These are more similar to cats! It’s easy to mistake a red panda for a cat if you’ve not seen one before. 

Is there a connection? Find out the answer to this and more in our article – Are Red Pandas and Cats Related?