I'm writing a lab on sexual dimorphism in Arctic foxes. As such, I use the words 'dog' and 'vixen' fairly often. In the discussion section, I compare the results from the lab with the results from research on other animals. The most relevant research I consider pertains to dimorphism among dogs (Canis lupus: the kind we keep as pets and their immediate relatives).

The term 'dog' denotes a subspecies of Canis lupus, males of that subspecies, and male foxes.

There are ways to disambiguate what I'm writing, but none of them are elegant.

I'm considering using 'tod' or 'reynard' instead. Are either preferred in biological writing? If not, is there an alternative?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ could just say males and females... this is how I write when referring to flies in my writing. e.g. "...body size for males and females was measured from..." $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Feb 10 '16 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ Female foxes are called vixen. But there is no specific term for a male fox. In fact, it would be much better to say "male" or "female" fox in a scientific context in which "fox" would mean the species, as rg255 suggested. $\endgroup$
    Feb 10 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @rg255 WYSIWYG I was doing that initially. The problem was that males and females is ambiguous when comparing two or more sets of sexes (e.g. Arctic fox males and Arctic fox females with dog males and dog females). Specifying the species disambiguates things at the cost of brevity and doesn't solve the problem of repetitiveness (i.e. after some number of occurrences of 'males' by itself and in 'females', its repetitiveness becomes obnoxious.). I might just have to make do, but it would be better if there were an acceptable substitute. $\endgroup$
    – Hal
    Feb 10 '16 at 18:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Another thing you could try is using abbreviations like mF, fD, etc. These need to be defined of course... $\endgroup$
    – Gerhard
    Feb 10 '16 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ It seems that we agree that there are no other terms within the realm ob biology. Would Academia.SE or English.SE be a better for this question then? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Feb 11 '16 at 0:09

In the scientific arena, stick to male and female.

The word reynard can apparently describe a male fox or foxes in general (either gender).

It is presumably derived from the French word for fox, renard.

I don't know French, but a little research suggests that la renarde describes a female fox (vixen), while le renard can refer to a male fox, or it can describe foxes in general.

I did a little work with foxes in Alaska years ago and never heard them described with any terms other than fox, male and female.

  • $\begingroup$ Some clarification on the French (my partner is a first-language French speaker): 'la renarde' refers to a singular female fox. 'le renard' refers to a singular male fox. 'les renards' refers to foxes, in general, of either sex or unknown sex, but if you knew that all foxes in a group were female, they would be 'les renardes'. If you knew there were one or more male foxes in the group, the group becomes (male) 'les renards'. $\endgroup$
    – bshane
    Sep 5 '17 at 11:13

I have seen both 'renard' and 'reynard' used as men's names, mainly in Europe. I've seen the word 'tod' used to indicate a male fox, though I've seen it spelled as 'todd', also a man's name. But for my preference, I'll stick with 'tod'.


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