This section is from the book "Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain", by Alfred W. Rees. Also available from Amazon: Creatures Of The Night: A Book Of Wild Life In Western Britain.
One starlit night, when in early winter the snow lay thick on the ground, Vulp heard the hunting call of a vixen prowling through the pines. A similar call had often reached his ears. Not long after his dam deserted him, the cry had come from a furze-brake on a neighbouring hilltop, and, hastening thither, he had wandered long and wearily, recognising, though with misgiving, his mother's voice. But the exact meaning of the call, not being a matter for his mother's teaching, was unknown to him at the time. Now, however, he was a strong, well fed, fully developed fox, able to hold his own against all rivals, and the cry possessed for him a strange, new significance: " The night is white; man is asleep; I hunt alone!" Almost like a big brown leaf he seemed to drift across the moonlit snow, nearer and nearer to the pines. He paused for a moment to sniff the trail; then, with a joyous " yap" of greeting, he bounded over the hedge, reached the aisles of the wood, and gambolled— again like a big, wind-blown leaf—about the sleek, handsome creature whose call he had heard. The happy pair trotted off to hunt the thickets, till, just before dawn, Vulp, eager to show his skill and training, surprised two young rabbits sitting beneath a snow-laden tangle of briar and gorse, and gallantly shared the spoil with his woodland bride. They feasted long and heartily, afterwards journeying to the banks of a rill, that, like a black ribbon, flowed through the glen; and there, crouching together at the margin, they lapped the water with eager, thirsty tongues.
Presently, happening to glance behind along the line of the trail, Vulp caught sight of another fox, a rival for the vixen's affections, crouching in some bracken scarcely a dozen yards away. With a low grunt of rage, he dashed into the fern, but the watchful p stranger simply moved aside, and frisked towards the vixen as she still crouched at the edge of the stream. In response to this insulting defiance, Vulp hurled himself on the intruder, and bowled him over into the snow. The fight was fast and furious; now one gained the advantage, then the other. The grass beneath them became gradually bared of snow by their frantic struggles, and marked here and there by a bunch of fur or a spot of blood. At last the rival fox, his cheek torn badly beneath the eye, showed signs of exhaustion; his breath came in quick, loud gasps; and Vulp, pressing the attack, forced him to flee for life to a thicket on the brow of the slope. There he dwelt and nursed his wounds, till, when the snow melted, the huntsman's " In-hoick, in-hoick, loo-loo-in-hoick!" resounded in the coverts, and he was routed from his lair for a last, halfhearted chase, that ended as Melody pulled him down at a ford of the river below the woods.
During the period of their comradeship— a period of privation for most of Nature's wildlings—Vulp taught the vixen much of the lore he had learned from his mother, while the vixen imparted to him the knowledge she herself had gained when a cub. He taught her how to steal away from the covert along the rough, rarely trodden paths between the farm-labourers' cottages—where the scent lay so badly that the hounds were unable to follow—directly the first faint notes of a horn, or the dull thud of galloping hoofs, or the excited whimper of a " rioting " puppy, indicated the approach of enemies. She taught him to baffle his foes by chasing sheep across the stubbles, and then passing through a line of strong scent where his own trail could not readily be distinguished; also that to cross the river by leaping from stone to stone in the ford was as sure a means of eluding pursuit as to swim the pools and the shallows. He taught her, when hard pressed, to leap suddenly aside from her path, run along the top rail of a fence, return sharply on her line of scent, and follow, with a wide cast, a loop-shaped trail, which, with a tangent through a ploughed field or dry fallow, was usually sufficient to check pursuit till the scent became faint and cold. And gradually each of these woodland rovers grew acquainted with the peculiar whims and habits of the other. Vulp loved to follow stealthily the trail of the rabbit, and then to lie in wait till some imagined cause of alarm sent Bunny back through the " creep " and almost straight into her enemy's open jaws. The vixen preferred to hide in the brambles to leeward of a burrow till an unsuspecting rabbit crept out into the open. Vulp, since his adventure with the polecat, bristled with rage whenever he crossed the track of a weasel, but never dreamed of following; polecat and weasel were the same animal for aught he knew to the contrary. The vixen, however, was not daunted by the unpleasant memory of any such adventure; having chanced to see a weasel in the act of killing a vole, she had recognised a rival and acted accordingly. And so Vulp's repeated warnings to his mate on this matter produced no effect beyond making her slightly more careful than she had hitherto been to obtain a proper grip when she pounced on her savage little quarry. The vixen was exceedingly fond of snails, and would eagerly thrust a fore-paw into the crannies of any old wall or bank where they hibernated; but Vulp much preferred to scratch up the moss in a deserted gravel-pit, and grub in the loosened soil for the drowsy blow-flies and beetles that had chosen the spot for their winter abode. This was the reason for such different tastes: the vixen, when a cub, had often basked in the sun near a snails' favourite resort, and had there acquired a liking for the snails; while the fox, on the other hand, had times out of number amused himself, in the first summer of his life, by leaping and snapping at the flies as they buzzed among the leaves when the mid-day sun was hot, and at the beetles as they boomed along the narrow paths in the thicket near the " earth" when the moon rolled up above the hedge, and the dark, mysterious shadows of intersecting boughs foreshortened on the grass. But Vulp knew well, from an unpleasant experience, the difference between a fly and a wasp.