Fennec, an African canine animal, resembling a diminutive fox, belonging to the genus megalotis (Illiger). So vulpine is its look, that Mr. Gray, in his catalogue of the British museum, calls it vulpes Zaarensis (Skiold.). When first described by Bruce the traveller, its zoological position was so ill determined that Buffon, who gives a good figure of the animal, called it Vanonyme; it was referred to rodents and quadrumana by others; Zimmermann, from the examination of the teeth, seems first to have detected its dog-like affinities, and placed it in the genus canis; but whoever discovered its true position, there can be no doubt that it belongs at the end of the canine family of digitigrade carnivora. From the enormous comparative size of the ears Illiger established the genus megalotis, which does not appear to differ much from vulpes; taking this well selected name of the genus, and the name of its first scientific describer for the species, it may properly be called M. Brucei (Griff.). According to Bruce, the animal is 9 or 10 in. long, with a foxy snout, ears half as long as the body and broad in proportion; the color white, mixed with gray and fawn color; the tail yellow, dark at the end, long, with soft and bushy hair like that of a fox; the ears thin, and margined with white hairs.
The dentition, general appearance, and habits are canine; the feet are four-toed, with the rudiment of a fifth, and the nails are not retractile as Desmarest at first supposed. It inhabits northern Africa, particularly Abyssinia, Nubia, and Egypt. There seems to be a second species, nearly allied to but different from Bruce's fennec, the M. Lalandii (H. Smith); this is gray, with the hairs of the dorsal line longer and blacker than the rest, and the tufted tail black with a gray base. Ruppell gives the discovery of the first species to Skioldebrand, a Swede, whom Bruce accuses of supplanting him by an unworthy artifice; he calls the fennec canis zerda (Zimm.), and makes it 23 in. long, including the tail, which is 8 in. It lives in holes which it digs in the sands of the desert, and not in trees as is supposed by Bruce; it is shy, very quick in its motions, and solitary; its food consists mainly of insects, especially locusts, eggs, dates, and other sweet fruits, and probably small animals; its bark resembles that of a dog, but is more shrill; the internal orifice of the ear is said to be very small.
It is sometimes called zerda.
Fennec (Megalotis Brucei).