“Delicately formed, exceedingly fleet” the Swift fox was one of 134 new species first noted by the Lewis and Clark expedition during their 2 ½ year journey through the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest.
There is a remarkable small fox which associate in large communities and burrow in the prairies something like the small wolf but we have not as yet been able to obtain one of them; they are extremely watchful and take refuge in their burrows which are very deep.
On 6 July, 1805, famed American explorer Meriwether Lewis recorded a species new to science in his journal:
The Swift fox was one of 134 new species first noted by the Lewis and Clark expedition during their 2 ½ year journey through the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. The “Corps of Discovery” was living up to its name. Lewis recognized that the Swift fox (Vulpes velox) was unknown and he thoroughly described the animal in several journal entries....they are very delicately formed, exceedingly fleet, and not as large as the common domestic cat. Their tallons appear longer than any species of fox I ever saw and seem therefore prepared more amply by nature for the purpose of burrowing. there is sufficient difference for discrimination between it and the kit fox, and to satisfy me perfectly that it is a distinct species.
The Swift fox was indeed well adapted to life on the North American prairies. The fastest of all North American canids, they have been documented running at speeds approaching 60 kilometers-per-hour.
American Zoologist Thomas Say, on an expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1819-20, wrote:It runs with extraordinary swiftness, so much so, that when at full speed its course has been, by the hunters, compared to the flight of a bird skimming the surface of the earth....