There are plenty of animal-based nicknames in the Football League, from the Eagles to the Swans to the Magpies.
But why are Leicester City called the Foxes?
If you have ever been to Leicester you will know you can expect to be welcomed into the county by a road sign featuring a fox.
You will also know that the creature features in the names of many restaurants, pubs and shops.
There is even a large village called Foxton in the county.
So what is it with Leicester and Foxes?
Let’s find out…
Why Are Leicester City Called The Foxes?
Leicester City are known as the Foxes because the county of Leicestershire is generally recognised as the birthplace of fox hunting. In fact, when the club designed its first-ever badge in 1948 they decided to use a fox’s head as the centre-point due to the link with the sport and the fact one of their directors was associated with the Atherstone Hunt.
The Year of the Fox
Whilst Leicester Fosse FC was formed in 1884 (they were renamed to Leicester City in 1919), there is no documented record of them being associated with the fox until 1948.
For it was that year Leicester City designed their first-ever club crest.
The minutes in the Directors’ Book from July 1948, state: “The design for the new jersey crest was approved.”
That first crest was simply a fox’s head in the centre with LCFC around it.
But of course, this still begs the question, why a fox?
Well, club historian John Hutchison alludes to the reason:
“One of the directors at the time was Sid Needham and he was associated with the Atherstone Hunt,” he says.
“In the minutes it says they’d decided to have a crest and because of the links with the Atherstone Hunt, they would have a fox’s head with riding crops underneath on the badge. The first badge was based on a drawing of a head, or ‘mask’, of a fox killed by the Atherstone Hunt in 1922.”
In short, Leicestershire is considered to be the birthplace of fox hunting, and that is why a fox is such an integral part of the history of both the club and the county itself.
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Enter Hugo Meynell
So how did Leicester come to be the centre of the fox-hunting world?!
Well a lot of it can be put down to one man, Hugo Meynell, an English county landowner and politician who lived in Quorn in Leicestershire.
He is generally perceived to be the father of modern fox hunting, pioneering extended chases through open grassland.
He also bred a new form of hound that was faster, more compact and full of stamina.
Some of the most famous fox hunts in the UK have taken place in Leicester.
There is the Atherstone Hunt, which was inadvertently depicted on the first Leicester badge as described by John Hutchison above and was the hunt with which Leicester director Sid Needham was associated.
Probably the most well-known of all is the Quorn Hunt, which was established in 1696 and still runs today, making it one of the oldest hunts in the country.
The village of Foxton, north-west of Market Harborough, is so named due to the large number of foxes that inhabit the area.
Such is the link between the animal and the county that a fox appears on the Leicestershire County Council logo, the Leicestershire Coat of Arms and on the badge of the cricket club as well as the football club.
From Fossils to Foxes
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Although it has been tweaked a number of times over the decades the fox has been the centre-point of every club badge since that first one back in 1948.
The original crest was slightly changed in 1950, and from 1950 to 1983 the head of a fox was surrounded by riding crops.
There was a slight departure from the norm from 1983 to 1992, with the fox pictured side on and running.
But in 1992 the badge was changed to focus solely on the fox’s head and it has stayed that way ever since.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that Leicester City became commonly known as the Foxes however.
The club was actually formed in 1884 as Leicester Fosse and were known as The Fossils in their early years.
In 1919, they changed their name to Leicester City. It was at this time matchday programmes and the local press began referring to them broadly as “The City”, which is still the name used by many fans today.
The club has also been known at various times as the Knuts (from Filbert Nuts) and the Citizens.
Today the club is firmly known as the Foxes, and the animal appears on the club badge, is the club mascot (in the form of Filbert the Fox) and is the club’s motto – ‘Foxes Never Quit’.
Hopefully this explains why Leicester City are called the Foxes, it is simply because of the historic link between the animal and the county.
The county is known as the birthplace of fox hunting and that is why the animal is so well represented if you are ever to visit the area.
It appears on road signs, the county’s crest of arms and the badges of both the football and cricket clubs.
It took a little while for Leicester City to become widely known as the Foxes, but they will most definitely be known as the Foxes forever more now!