Ninetales is a fox-like, quadrupedal Pokémon covered in thick, luxurious golden-white fur. It has a small mane of thicker fur around its neck and a long, fluffy crest atop its head. It has slender legs with three-toed paws and nine, long tails with pale orange tips. It has red eyes, pointed ears, and a triangular black nose.
While intelligent enough to easily understand human speech, Ninetales is a very vengeful Pokémon that has been known to curse those who mistreat it. It can live for 1,000 years due to the energy within its nine tails, each of which is said to have a different mystical power. Flames spewed from its mouth can hypnotize an opponent and its gleaming red eyes that are said to give it the ability to control minds. The anime has shown that it can swim. Being the result of an evolution via Evolution stone, Ninetales is rarely found in the wild, though they can be found in grasslands.
In the Alola region, Ninetales has a different appearance. Its coat is pale blue, and its fur is more flowing and wispier. The tips of its tails and crest, as well as the lower halves of its legs, are white. The crest on its head is longer and its nine tails are less distinct from each other. Finally, it has larger eyes, which are blue, and small tufts of fur in front of its ears.
Alolan Ninetales lives on Alola's snow-capped Mount Lanakila, which is considered by some to be holy ground. As such, it is revered as a sacred messenger or deity. Alolan Ninetales has a gentle temperament and is known to aid lost humans in distress, though this is primarily done to keep them out of its territory. It will punish any threat to its pack of Vulpix. It can produce ice crystals from its fur, which it can use for both offense and defense. The ice crystals can act as a shield or form balls that can be fired like bullets with enough force to shatter rock.
In Just Waiting On A Friend, a very old Ninetales befriended Brock, who bore a resemblance to her long-lost master. This Ninetales created all sorts of illusions, including one of a woman through which it spoke.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Ninetales cast a curse on a human that would turn it into a Pokémon, bringing on many natural disasters. The player is blamed for this and travels to the home of Ninetales at the top of Mt. Freeze to learn the truth. Ninetales appears again when Gengar wishes to make right what he did to Gardevoir. He gives Gengar the 9-Tail Crest and sends him and the player to Murky Cave.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon: Ninetales returns, asking the player to visit its hideout at the Forest of Fairies. Upon arrival, the player will connect with both Ninetales and Absol.
Ninetales may be based on a red fox and the 狐 kitsune of Japanese legend, which are said to have many tails, extremely long lifespans, and supernatural powers such as the ability to breath fire. After reaching an advanced age, kitsune take on spirit forms, which may explain why Ninetales can learn various Ghost-type and Psychic-type moves. Specifically, it may be based on the kyūbi no kitsune, whose fur turns white-gold after it has lived for 1,000 years and gains its ninth tail.
Alolan Ninetales may be based on an Arctic fox, which grows a white coat of fur in the winter to camouflage in the snow. Its mountain habitat and lore as a deity incarnation may be a reference to Poliʻahu, the Hawaiian goddess of snow who is said to reside on Mauna Kea. It could also be inspired by tulikettu, a mythical fox creature of Finnish lore whose radiant fur is said to be responsible for the creation of the northern lights. The Finnish word for aurora, revontulet, also literally translates to "fox fires" which could be intentional as Ninetales' original form is Fire Type.
Ninetales may be a combination of nine and tales, which itself may combine tails and fairy tales (alluding to it being based on a mythical creature). It may also reference the cat o' nine tails whip (due to its tendency to punish anyone who grabs its tails).
Kyukon may be a combination of 九 kyū (nine) and 恨 kon (grudge; from the curse it may cast on its foes), こんこん kon kon (the sound foxes make), コンロ konro (gas stove; relating to its Fire type), or 狐 ko (an alternate reading of kitsune; Japanese for fox). Alternatively, it can be read as 旧恨 kyūkon (old grudge).
In other languages
Possibly from 九 kyū and 恨 kon, こんこん kon kon, コンロ konro, or 狐 ko.