Boys with Fox Cubs

vintage

This one is bit different from my usual cards and photos, I think you’ll be able to see why I chose it – it’s charming, don’t you think?

Charming but also rather puzzling, bearing in mind how long it takes to shoot a photo with wildlife and children in it. Did the photographer get the camera ready before the children arrived? Did he or she know that the fox cubs would be coming out of their set?

And the boys… I was wondering whether they are working class or upper (or something in between). At first glance they seem very well dressed – one even has a pocket watch – or at any rate something hidden that’s attached to a chain or rope coming from his waistcoat buttonhole. But then taking a closer look, the lower part of his waistcoat is coming apart at the seams, and his jacket is ripped at the edge, too. Did that happen on this same day? Or was he told “yes, you can go out, but if you’re going to play with the foxes, you’d better put on something old.”

It looks like it’s at the end of autumn, with dry grasses and that rather browny-green look everything seems to have, so I didn’t brighten it as much as I usually do. In fact, the way I’ve done it, it seems to look rather like sepia come to life, don’t you think?

I wonder about the date of it. Any thoughts? My guess is 1910 – 1920, but it could be earlier. The clothes should give a clue, but I’ve not looked into it yet.

One child is wearing a cap, the other what looks like a pith helmet, which made me wonder if it was taken in India rather than in Britain, but I don’t know that India has this sort of fox (Bengal foxes appear to be rather different). I bought it from a UK seller, and the kids do look particularly British. There is also the badge that the boy on the left is wearing – I wonder if it is for a club of some sort, it seems to be a 3-leaf clover, but could be something else.

I didn’t have a clue what fox cubs looked like, colour-wise, so I had a quick look online and assume these are a month or more old as they seem to have some of the white that they’d have as adults, and very young cubs are apparently chocolate brown. I know what adult red foxes look like, as they sometimes visit the garden (yard) where I live and the surrounding fields and pastures. We had a visit from the very handsome one, below, last year. (And yes, that’s the original colour!)

Click a couple of times on each of the photos of the boys and fox cubs to see them larger and more clearly, they should open in a different window or tab.

 

37 thoughts on “Boys with Fox Cubs

  1. Very unusual photo and I sort of have an opinion about the social class of the boys. Looking at them they seem to have a certain type of suaveness or the look of at least middle class. But then I am assuming the kids are British and so I don’t really know how kids in that day and time appeared. I remember a few photos of my mother’ family and comparing her photos to this one is like night and day. None of the kids looked affluent . They were accustomed to very hard work in the cotton fields. These kids seem to have a look of leisure as well.

    Your eye is vey keen and I had to look hard to find the seams coming apart. Of course on the other hand they wearing boots that were not shiny but of these kids were poor, how did they afford a someone with a camera.

    I have not idea if the fox are in GB but since they are native to GB I think this pic was taken in Great Britain. And I could be very wrong.

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    1. Yes, your thoughts about country kids not looking as well-turned-out as these, are similar to mine. I suspect this was a special photo-shoot, it’s certainly unusual, but the kids won’t have paid for the photographer, possibly not even their parents. I wonder if they were just there coincidentally and maybe the photographer thought “instead of those kids messing up my photo, why don’t I include them?” Or not. I suspect this photo is destined to remain a mystery! The Red Fox is from a lot of different countries, apparently, see this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox .

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    1. Oh yes, you might be right. There might have been a drought that could have caused the apparent dryness. (Or it might just be that I misinterpreted what I was seeing! That’s always a possibility! When I work with clients rather than on my own collection of photos, I take clues from what they know about their own photos. My own collection doesn’t have a known history to go on.)

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      1. Fox kits are born in the early spring, as are most wild animals. This gives the creature a nice warm spring and summer to grow before the a cold of winter. The kits are born chocolate brown and turn red as they mature; by mid-to late-summer they are red. This is a delightful picture! I’d say the den is in a fairly populated spot and the foxes are used to humans. These kits probably haven’t learned to be afraid of humans, yet. We have a pair of foxes in the woods behind us, and they will let us come fairly close before they race off. We take out our compost in the early evening and they will rummage through it for scraps. I enjoy taking a cuppa and sitting on the garden bench to watch them tumble and play. One evening a kit sat at the edge of the woods and barked at us because we were late with their dinner!

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        1. Thanks for this info, Anne. So I guess this was taken during a long dry spring or beginning of summer, possibly after a drought by the look of it. I used to live in London, England (I’m now in rural Wales) and one day we had a vixen curl up in our garden (yard) and go to sleep beside some potted plants. So sweet and so unusual in an urban garden. The young foxes are called Kits, in America? Here they’re called Cubs.

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  2. I think the boy on the left is wearing a cloth hat as well. There is a style of cloth hat that has a brim like that which works better in rainy weather to keep the rain from going down the back of your collar, which the cloth cap wouldn’t. I love that the boys are wearing knee britches and long socks, and those wonderful high-topped shoes (the boy on the left is wearing what we in America would call “boots”which is what we call footgear whose tops not only cover the ankle but extend up onto the leg — especially if they don’t have laces.). I believe those kind of pants were in fashion for boys up into the 1920s or so.

    Boys who are active out of doors are notoriously hard on their clothes (boys will be boys. . . ). The rough and tumble of sports, and just outdoor activities in general will “do a number” on a boy’s clothes in fairly short order, and a forested setting would have brambles, hedges and thickets which could snag, rip and tear clothes. The fact that they are wearing shirts and ties, and the one boy is wearing a waistcoat suggests to me Edwardian period, and leans toward upper class, or at least “gentry” (the local squire’s boys). However, one sees in the photographs of Edwardian shooting parties that the gun loaders, game handlers, dog handlers, and other such outdoor staff servants who assist the aristocratic family and their guest during the shoot are dressed in shirts with ties and waist coats as well. So these could be servants’ children from some large country estate — sons of gamekeepers, etc. Or they could be the local squire’s boys.

    I love the way you colorized the fox cubs. They do not seem fearful of the boys. This seems curious to me as foxes have a long reputation as “vermin” even into the present day (because they will kill domestic chickens, ducks, and geese given the opportunity, as well as those wild birds hunted as game like pheasant and grouse) and I can’t imagine cubs this old that were “wild born” not having already been taught by their mother to be fearful of humans. This argues they are tame cubs and that the picture was set up.

    This could have been taken with a box camera (Kodak made them starting in 1888) and thus the “set up” time for the shot would not have needed to be very long.

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    1. The hat – if it’s the cloth type you mention, that could explain the view at the back to the left which looks like a slight turn up (it might also have a buckle or something stuck in it of some sort, but I couldn’t make out whether it was in the hat or part of the background. That’s one of the problems with determining what is there in a monochrome photo.)

      You made me smile… we call them boots here, too. 🙂 Though my husband now wears high-topped leather trainers that once upon a time I’d have called boots!

      Yes, I thought the boy’s jacket was probably torn by brambles, but I think the waistcoat will have come detached from its lining probably over time, so I’m not sure it’s all part of that day’s rough-and-tumble. There was a tendency in Edwardian times and earlier to ‘dress up’ for photos, so it may be that they wouldn’t normally be wearing ties and waistcoats but were told to put them on for the photoshoot. I had wondered (still am) if they are servants’ children.

      The way, as you say, that the cubs don’t seem fearful of the boys, makes me think that this is a set-up… though I can’t imagine that anyone in those days had tame foxes. They were most certainly regarded as vermin then – and still are.

      Not sure that an early Kodak box camera would take a photo as well-focussed as this came out, though that said, the fox cubs are a little blurry presumably from movement. Also, not sure that these cameras were available in Britain that early.

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  3. That does look like a scouts badge, and I’m guessing they would be dressed in lighter clothing in India (though I know the British have a tradition of dressing absurdly for the local conditions!). Wonderful photo again, thank you!

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    1. You make a good point about them probably wearing cooler clothing if it were India, that’s something very obvious that didn’t occur to me!! (The reason for absurd clothing in Britain is because we never know what the day’s going to be like as it changes from hour to hour, I suppose people took that idea with them to hotter climes and didn’t really adapt.) Is it a scout’s badge? I’ll have to look it up. Thanks!

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  4. Once again, this looks so much more “alive” when you’ve done your magic.
    I was thinking these must be orphan kits, maybe due to a fox hunt – – I read somewhere about a Russian scientist, who wondered how many generations it would take, to produce a tame fox. It turned out, not many – they’d select the tamest kits, and eventually breed them, and repeat the process, and have produced foxes that could be pets. (I’m not saying that I agree with doing that.)
    It’s also a great photo of the fox in your garden! I never realized that the foxes here look different than the ones in England – yours seems longer and sleeker. The Wikipedia article indicates the Europeans and North Americans have been separated for 400,000 years, so not surprising I guess.

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    1. You could be right about them being orphaned cubs, but I can’t imagine that that would have been allowed to happen in those days (or even in these) in a rural area as they were/are regarded as vermin. Unless they were saved just for the shoot (which is a horrible idea, but possible). I noticed, later, that there is something one of them is sniffing outside the hole, so I guess someone put food down for them to entice them out.

      Hubby and I were talking about the fox photo just this morning and I think I took it, and he thinks he took it… so the jury’s still out on that one! Suffice to say we were both present in the room when it appeared in the garden. It’s paler in the photo than it was in real life, it was redder from what I recall. But oh yes, it does look much longer than any I’ve seen before and incredibly sleek and healthy. Neither of us had ever seen one like that before, which was why it had its photo taken! So, it might not be that ours and yours are that different, just that this one was.

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  5. Charming photo! You’ve done an excellent job as always :). I can’t add much that hasn’t already been said, except that I agree with the 1910s date, and my first impression was British countryside. The boys may have already spent a lot of time around the cubs, hence their boldness… after all, no electronic wizardry to act as a distraction in those days! It’s an amazing capture!

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          1. I don’t know about the early ones but my 70s guide badge was brass and in the shape of a clover leaf, which is what made me think of it… but the boy is more likely to be wearing a scout badge (unless he has a sister?!). Very curious!

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  6. I’ve been brooding over this photo, too. When I first glanced at it I feared for the future of those cubs, but the point seems to have been to lure them out of the den for a photo. That made me wonder if the two youngsters in it were amateur naturalists. And yes, the elder of the pair does look female – which may explain the choice of a larger hat.

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  7. Everyone has a story about this photo! It’s so unusual in so many ways. Honestly, my thought was that the boys might have discovered the cubs, and returned on a regular basis to the den. If they did, and the cubs developed a sense of security around them, that could explain the cubs’ willingness to hang around for a photo. Perhaps the boys finally told someone about their “find,” and a photographer came with them one day to take the photo. That makes as much sense to me as anything, especially since the boys seem to be showing off their furry friends.

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