September 8, 2022

The arctic fox came to Iceland at the end of the ice age, or 10.000 years ago. We just call it refur, no need for the arctic. There are two types: the white fox and the peat red one, with many colour variations within both types. We looked at the variations and the colours (adjectives) are so curious and specific that we‘ve included them in the vocabulary below. The two types of foxes are able to interbreed, and do so “irrespective of colour“, as phrased by Vísindavefurinn (the Icelandic Science Web).

There were (are?) also two other types, imported for the fur industry. In 2007 there was one fox breeder left in Iceland; we‘re really not sure about the status of the industry at this moment, but we do know that plenty of people are opposed to it.

The foxes are spread all over the country, but are hard to spot. They often wreak havoc and are not popular with many folks as they kill many bird species and raid their nests, and attack and/or eat vulnerable sheep when opportunity strikes. But they also eat berries, which probably looks rather cute, if you were to catch one sampling some!

Foxes have many names, and we‘ve included some below. Many of them denote the Icelanders' feelings towards them as the havoc wreaking creatures that they are.  


Foxrefur (m. noun), tófa (f. noun)


Arctic fox heimskautarefur

Pole (as in North Pole) – heimskaut

We actually just call the animal refur, but the arctic foxs‘ official name is heimskautarefur, or pole fox. As you can see, the word arctic is in Icelandic replaced by pole, in reference to the North Pole of course.


Vixen – læða

Dog fox – steggur (though most probably use the generic refur)

Kit or cubyrðlingur


Colour litur (m. noun)

Bird fugl (m. noun)

Nest hreiður (m. noun)


Sheep kind (f. noun)

Ewekind (f. noun)

Ramhrútur (m.noun), sauður (m. noun); sauður can also be a reference to a, well, stupid person!

Lamblamb (n. noun)


Berry ber (n. noun)


ADJECTIVES (or in this case: some very weird colours)

Colours are adjectives, and adjectives either take the masculine, feminine or neuter form, depending on the noun. We've included all forms below, even though some are never really used except when describing refur specifically.


White fox coats

White – hvítur, hvít, hvítt (winter)

Dark peat grey dökk-mó-grár, dökk-mó-grá,dökk-móg-rátt (backs, during summer)

Light grey – ljós-grár, ljós-grá, ljós-grátt (belly and pendages during summer)


Peat red fox coats

Peat red mó-rauður, mó-rauð, mó-rautt

Dark browndökk-brúnn, dökk-brún, dökk-brúnt (all year, lighter during winters)

Grey silvery  - grá-silfraður, grá-silfruð, grá-silfrað (the colour they mostly seem like to the human eye)


Fox names - there are so many!

Below are some of the many names of the fox. They are mostly compound words that express their nature, their appearance, or have negative connotations, to say the least.

Djanki, Dratthali, Gráfóta (grey footed), Holtaþór, Lágfóta (low footed), Melrakki, Skaufhali (penis tail? not quite sure... but if so, it's definitely an insult!), Skolli (also means devil), Tófa, Tæfa (bitch!), Vargur, Vembla.

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