The Actual Silver Foxes Of The Animal Kingdom Aren’t Foxes

Celebrities like George Clooney, Richard Gere, Anderson Cooper and even Barack Obama are aging well. Not too long ago, the gray hair of a high-profile, A-Lister was often covered up by dye to retain one’s youthful appearance. However today, this is not so much the case anymore as grey locks appear to have made a comeback. In some circles, it's actually become a status symbol. In fact, for many, it’s ironically, a right of passage for a man approaching his golden years — to go hi-ho-silver.

But what about the animal kingdom?

Color has rank for some . . .

In some species, color denotes an animal's rank within his group. For instance, male mandrills who sport brilliantly colored faces and hindquarters are the ones who more than often attract the most ladies. And when lionesses are on the hunt for mates, they seek out counterparts with the darker manes. Somehow, they seem to know that manes with less grey have higher testosterone levels — equating to — more bang for the buck, I guess

As far as the actual silver foxes found in the wild — differing from those Hollywood types — they are fairly monogamous creatures who do not stray from their seasonal mates and who help take care of their young after birth. In fact, males invest a lot of time and effort into both feeding and protecting their den until their silver fox pups are ready to do their own mating.

Silver Status

According to National Geographic, only in one known mammal does silver hair seem to confer status — and that auspicious distinction goes to the mountain gorilla.

The older gorillas of these species [aka the ’silverbacks’] are the ones who can rise to the position of ‘most dominant’ within their family troops. “Male gorillas are 'blackbacks' until they reach the ripe old age of 12 years old (at which time), they develop that distinctive 'silver saddle' on their backs,” says Don Moore, director of the Oregon Zoo.

But important to note, that while all males become silverbacks, not all become dominant. Progression to a leadership role “depends on genetics, which female is raising the young male, and if that male survives to be a dominant male of the group," Moore explains.

Also, unlike the peppery gray we humans grow, a silverback's silver comes in as a very strong, uniform color, Moore says.

Silver Mating

The silverback is the only male in a troop who gets to mate with the troop’s females. The females choose him for his size and strength. Sometimes the leader will allow other mature males in his line to mate with one of the other females in the troop  — but that decision is his to make.

As far as the other males, they tend to leave the troop when they reach sexual maturity. It’s at that time, they will travel alone until they eventually grow their own silverbacks and start attracting a coterie of ladies for themselves. And they do it without any Hollywood lights or red carpet hoopla! Now, that's a silver fox for you!