had some e mails asking for some more info, hope this will help, taken from http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/ a good site
O ye'll tak' the high fox and I'll tak' the low fox
In his 1816 A History of the Earth and Animated Nature, poet-turned-naturalist Oliver Goldsmith wrote of how there were three ‘types’ of fox in Britain: the largest, tallest and boldest Greyhound fox (pictured left in an engraving in Colonel Talbot's 1906 Foxes at Home) that would “attack a full grown sheep”; the small, but strongly build Mastiff fox; and the smaller still and least common Cur fox, which “lurks about hedges and out houses”. Goldsmith’s view was popular among later writers, although not all agreed on the names. John Sherer in his book Rural Life, published in 1860, for example, reckoned Britain was home to the Greyhound, Commonand Little Red foxes. In 1950, Oliver Pike went one further and described four races of fox from Britain:Lowland foxes; the smaller Welsh mountain foxes; small Terriers in northern England and southern Scotland; and Mountain foxes in Scotland. Pike alluded to these types having evolved in response to the harshness of the environment in which they lived and, in his Wild Animals of Britain, he wrote:
“If a fox from an English county was transferred to the wild mountains of Scotland, I doubt very much if he would survive. The Scottish mountain fox is a larger and more powerful animal, and able to attack prey as large and even larger than himself. The long and arduous distances he must travel to find food provides him with powerful and well-formed muscles.”
Many naturalists were slightly more reserved, considering there to be only two types: the Highland (or Greyhound) and Lowland (Common or Terrier) fox. The nineteenth century Scottish naturalist and ornithologist William MacGillivray described the differences between the two types of fox in 1838:
“The largest kind, or that which occurs in the Highland districts, has the fur of a stronger texture and of a greyer tint, there being a greater proportion of whitish hairs on the back and hind-quarters, while two or more inches of the end of the tail are white. The fox of the lower districts is considerably smaller, more slender, of a lighter red, with the tail also white at the end. … The skull of the Highland fox appears remarkably large and strong beside that of the ordinary kind, and the breadth is much greater in proportion.”
In his 1904 Mammals of Great Britain and Ireland, John Guille Millais agreed with the separation of lowland and highland foxes, although he placed a greater emphasis on colouration, writing:
“It may, however, be taken as a broad rule that the large dark and grey forms are found inhabiting the mountains, whilst the smaller red and pale types frequent the valleys and plains.”
In 1941, the late Bristol Museum zoologist H. Tetley published a short paper to the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in which he looked at museum collections of Red foxes and compared those from Scotland with those from central Europe, based on skull dimensions, skeleton size, teeth arrangement, coat colour etc. Tetley concluded that Scottish foxes were considerably larger than those from central Europe; their measurements more closely matched animals from Scandinavia. Tetley explained:
“On the whole, therefore, I cannot see that there is any distinction between the Scandinavian and the Scottish Fox as represented by specimens from the Scottish Highlands, and I consider that both are Vulpes v. vulpes.”
L. Harrison Matthews, in his 1952 British Mammals, agreed with Tetley in separating the highland and lowland foxes, and a study comparing 87 English and Scottish foxes that was published in 1956 by Ivan Hattingh also supported Tetley’s findings, concluding that the Scottish fox was a distinct race, although he failed to find any significant differences between highland (Westmorland) and lowland foxes in England. In his 1968 book Wild Fox, Roger Burrows also agreed, arguing that -- based on body and skull measurements -- the Scottish fox is conspecific with (the same species as) the Scandinavian fox. Thus, these authors considered the Scottish fox to be Vulpes vulpes vulpes, while the English fox was Vulpes vulpes crucigera. These studies haven’t, unfortunately, laid the matter to rest for many naturalists, because there are many early hunting reports from highland areas of England (e.g. the Cumbrian Fells) that clearly describe ‘long legged’ Greyhound foxes leading hounds on exceptionally long runs, seeming to have almost endless stamina compared with their smaller, shorter legged lowland cousins. Of course, many examples of very long chases (three days being the longest I’ve come across!) probably involve several foxes; a weary fox running into undergrowth and ‘putting up’ one resting there. In his Town Fox, Country Fox, Brian Vezey-Fitzgerald points out that:
“Hounds will always follow the fresher line. And you can always tell when they change to a fresher line by the change in their cry.”
Vezey-Fitzgerald suggests that the hunted fox may ‘know’ where neighbouring foxes tend to lie up and may head for that location in order to shake its pursuers. There is, to my knowledge, no proof of this, but it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable and (deliberate or not) it would certainly explain some of the exceptional runs described by hunters. This doesn’t, however, explain the morphological differences the hunters describe. My friend and native ‘Lakelander’ Ron Black has researched (indeed, continues to research) highland fell foxes in some detail and has suggested to me that, if one unites Scottish and English highland foxes, the Greyhound fox may have been the ‘original British fox’, until animals from the continent were imported during the mid-19th Century for sport. Foxes were certainly imported to Britain from Europe (and translocated within Britain) as numbers declined following heavy persecution and severe outbreaks of sarcoptic mange. Indeed, Vezey-Fitzgerald notes that foxes were imported from continental Europe during the mid-1800s and released into the countryside at a rate of more than one thousand per year and animals were translocated from other parts of Britain to Somerset and Devon as late as the 1920s following a serious mange epidemic. Similarly, in his excellent book Running with the Fox, Oxford University zoologist David Macdonald wrote:
“Where [fox] numbers ran short foxes were bought and released (such ‘bagged’ foxes sold for 10 shillings at the Leadenhall Market [in London] in 1845) and included a brisk trade in imports from the Continent.”
Based on the descriptions of early Cumbrian hunters it seems almost without doubt that the foxes they hunted were larger and faster than those we see across most of Britain today. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that these animals still survive in the Fells. In my experience (personal, photographic and video recordings), I have seen foxes that were large, slim, greyish in colour and with proportionally long legs and pelts in several lowland destinations; these seem to meet the basic criteria for ‘highlanders’. It is not, however, difficult to see how such a separation could occur. Nonetheless, I remain to be convinced that there is now any real distinction between highland and lowland foxes and there are certainly no empirical data supporting any groupings other than Scottish Highland animals as a distinct race.
To my mind, it seems possible that the foxes which originally recolonised Britain following the retreat of the ice sheets at the end of the last Ice Age probably spread widely throughout the country. Those inhabiting highland regions could subsequently have evolved to suit the terrain, with a larger body size and longer legs offering advantages (reduced heat loss, lower metabolic rate, ability to take larger prey etc.) in cold, wet and snowy environments. Those in lowland regions, however, probably remained close in appearance to their European ancestors. Any unique traits evolved by British lowland foxes could easily be diluted by interbreeding with imported animals. Adaptation of highland and lowland forms could have reached the point where the lowlanders were simply unable to compete effectively with the highlanders for high altitude habitats, while the highlanders were easily out-competed at lower altitudes by the lowlanders – the result being a separation, ultimately genetic isolation, of the populations. This is, of course, speculative and, while it works in theory, it remains to be supported by any genetic evidence. (For a detailed summary of the hill hunting literature pertaining to Greyhound foxes, the reader is directed to Ron Black’s article The Lost Foxes of Lakeland– and other places besides).
I suspect that the argument will never be fully resolved, and most recent authors have adopted the view of Gordon Corbet who, in his 1978 book The Mammals of the Palaearctic Region, concluded that the continuity of the Red fox’s range is so great that it’s doubtful any discrete subspecies can be recognised. There are some genetic data from foxes in the Mediterranean that suggest distinct groups can be made and that there may be a case for assigning some subspecies, but the data simply don’t exist for a sufficiently large geographical area to be certain whether similar groupings can be applied to other Eurasian populations. Consequently, the majority of biologists now consider that Vulpes vulpes is just a highly variable species that ranges throughout Europe and Asia and do not attempt to categorize it further.