Cape foxes are small foxes with somewhat slender bodies, the female typically being a little smaller than the male. Thick wavy hair makes up the underfur, and on top is a dense coat of guard hairs, black with light, silver-banded ends, and the coat is scattered with long, black sensory hairs. The fur on the face, neck, chest, and limbs is somewhat lighter, with a range from a pale reddish-brown color to tawny-brown or nearly white. On the backs of the thighs are distinctive dark patches, as well as a narrow dark strip at the muzzle's tip, and triangular marks between eyes and nose. On the face are freckles of white hairs, highly concentrated in patches on the cheeks. The fox's long, bushy tail looks completely black from a distance, much darker in comparison to the rest of the body, but on close inspection, the hairs have a darker tip and a buffy-white base. The reddish brown ears are particularly large and have fine white hairs on the edge.
Cape foxes inhabit the sub-Saharan African desert. They range from the southern point of South Africa and Cape Province, northwards through Namibia, Botswana, Natal, Transvaal and into Albany, and also in the high mountainous area of Lesotho. They like open habitat such as dry savannas and semi-desert scrub, avoiding forests.
The Cape fox is a nocturnal creature and is most active during early morning and early evening. It typically shelters during the day in burrows underground, hollows, holes or dense thickets. It will excavate a burrow for itself, being an active digger, although it usually adapts to its specific requirements a burrow abandoned by another species, the springhare being one example. They are solitary animals, and although they pair up with a mate, they are often on their own, as they usually forage separately. These foxes are not especially territorial creatures but do mark their territories with strong scent. Although normally silent, the Cape fox can communicate with soft calls, chirps or whines. However, it will make a loud bark when it is alarmed.
Cape foxes are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals, particularly invertebrates, rodents and other small mammals, but as opportunists will also eat reptiles, rabbits, birds, young hares spiders, beetle larvae, eggs and carrion, fruits and most insects.
Cape foxes are monogamous animals and a pair mates for life. They breed at any time of the year, although they generally give birth from October to January. The gestation period is 51 to 53 days and one to six cubs are born. The litter is reared underground in burrows, and the cubs will remain close by the den until about four months old. At about six to eight weeks they are weaned, but they do not start to forage until the age of four months. Cubs are usually independent by five months when they will leave the den, generally around June or July. Both parents rear the young, and during the first two weeks after birth, the male will also provide for the female. Sexual maturity is reached at nine months old.
Cape foxes often die from diseases such as canine distemper and rabies, and more recently have died in traps intended for problem animals. Many of these foxes are killed by vehicles on the road. Many are hunted as vermin and may mistakenly thought to be jackals and blamed for livestock losses.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Cape fox total population size. According to the IUCN Red List specific populations of this species have been estimated in South Africa's Free State province with a size of 31,000 individuals. Currently Cape foxes are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today remain stable.
Through its predatory behavior, the Cape fox helps keep down the number of small mammals within their ecosystem.