Is A Red Panda A Bear Or A Fox?


Did you know that a red panda is also known as a fox bear? Well, if you look at its round and cute face, you can say that it looks like a bear, but if you consider its size, it is closer to the fox. Now, is a red panda a bear or a fox?

The quick answer is red panda is neither a bear nor a fox. They came from the species Ailuridae, which are not related to the family of the bears or the foxes. If we refer to Taxonomy, they are the only existing species in their animal family; no bears nor foxes.

Now that you know that they are neither bear nor fox, you may also want to know if they are half-breed animals like half foxes or half bears physically and taxonomically. Well, there is so much to learn in this article about the cute red pandas.

Let’s get the ball rolling.

Is A Red Panda Half Fox?

red panda the fox bear

No, a red panda is not a half fox animal; they are who they are. As mentioned earlier, they are the only existing species in their animal family. Perhaps, what makes people think they are half foxes is because of their looks and size.

If you will take a closer look at the physical appearance of the red pandas, you can think that they quite resemble raccoons. However, the color of their fur is way closer to those of the foxes. Another thing is the close similarity in their body sizes and ecology.

Here is a table that shows a comparison of their physical and ecological aspects.

red panda fox and raccoon comparison
Photo Source: Shutterstock
CategoriesRed PandaFoxRaccoon
Length30-46 inches36-42 inches24-38 inches
Weight10-20 lbs.10-31 lbs.14-23 lbs.
Colorreddish-brownreddish-orangegrayish-brown
Type of Eatersherbivoresomnivoresomnivores
Natural Habitatrainforest areasforested areaswoodland areas

What Animal Category Is A Red Panda?

The red pandas are from the family of Ailuridae. As mentioned earlier, they are the only living species of their family. So, if they become extinct, the Ailuridae family will forever be gone. Thus, no more traces of this animal will be seen by the future generation.

Take a look at this table to fully understand the classification of the red pandas in the Taxonomy (study of classification).

Kingdom Animalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
SuperfamilyMusteloidea
FamilyAiluridae
Scientific NameAilurus fulgens

Take Note: In 1825, 48 years before the black-and-white bear (giant panda) was categorized, a French zoologist Frédéric Cuvier first described the western red panda and proposed the scientific name Ailurus fulgens, which means fire-colored or shining cat.

The Classification History Of The Red Pandas

Here is a brief history from Wikipedia about the classification of the red pandas.

At first, they were referred to as part of the raccoon family in 1825. The basis of this classification is due to their similar physical characteristics (head, colored ringed-tail, and some other features).

However, this was not agreed upon by many scientists and researchers. Therefore, many studies were conducted to know the true origin of the red pandas. Let’s look at some of the known studies about red pandas.

Some molecular phylogenetic studies showed that raccoons and red pandas were part of the same ancient species. These studies showed that red pandas are relatively closer to the American raccoon.

On the other hand, in deeper studies, researchers found out that red pandas evolved separately from their common ancestors with bears way back 40 million years ago. Therefore, there is an extreme difference between the red pandas and raccoons.

The Classification Of The Red Panda Now

The most recent genetic research has classified the red pandas accordingly; placing them into an independent family, which is the Ailuridae. 

The trichotomy (a division into three categories) within the superfamily of the red pandas (Musteloidea) includes the following:

ProcyonidaeMephitidaeMustelidae
raccoonsskunksweasels

Take note that they are not related to Ursidae (bears) nor Vulpes (foxes).

Referring to the most recent studies, red pandas do not have existing relatives. However, if we refer to the fossils of the ancestor animals, we can say that they are related to the Parailurus (lived about 3-4 million years ago).

This only shows how much we should care about these animals, so the future generation will witness the beauty of these animals.

What Are Red Pandas Called?

other names to call a red panda
Photo Source: Greenpeace

There are several names that refer to the cute red pandas. Scientifically speaking, they are called Ailurus fulgens (meaning fire-colored cat or shining cat). There are also several nicknames associated with red pandas.

Here are some of the nicknames associated with these popular and adorable animals.

fox bearcat-bearfirefox
lesser pandaHimalayan raccoonbear-cat

Final Thoughts

In this article, you learned that red pandas are not related to bears nor foxes. You also have found out that they have their own classification although they have some resemblance with the other animals like the raccoons.

Moreover, you also learned that they are the last living species of their kind because all of their relatives were extinct millions of years ago. Thus, we shouldn’t let them become extinct so that the future generation can still see their beauty.

What are your thoughts about this article? Did it answer all your questions in mind? Don’t forget to share it with your friends!