Wikipedia attributes the name to Harry Fox.
.............. a vaudeville dancer and comedian, most famous for giving his name to the Fox Trot dance. His steps were recorded by dance instructor F. L. Clendenen in his 1914 book Dance Mad as “The Fox Trot, as danced by Mr. Fox”.
Confusingly enough though, the wiki on the dance itself, while repeating the Fox attribution, adds:
“Get Together; Fox trot”, however, had been published in 1905
Turning to OED for guidance I find no mention of Mr Fox at all.
1. A pace with short steps, as in changing from trotting to walking.
1872 F. M. A. ROE Army Lett. (1909) 70 He has a fox trot, which is wonderfully easy. 1888 Century Mag. Oct. XXXVI. 897 She heard a horse approaching at a *fox-trot. 1894 R. KIPLING Day’s Work (1898) 58 Would you consider a fox-trot, an’ single-foot, an’ rack, an’ pace, an’ amble, distinctions not worth distinguishin’? 1946 M. C. SELF Horseman’s Encycl. 134 Fox trot, a slow, shuffling trot, the fox-trot is one of the gaits permitted in a five-gaited saddler as a ‘slow-gait’.
2. A modern dance, of American origin, consisting chiefly of alternating measures of long and short steps; also, a piece of music suitable as an accompaniment for the fox-trot.
1915 Truth 17 Mar. 1/5 A new dance, the ‘Fox-trot’, a relation of..‘Ragtime’. 1915 Victor Record Catal. May, Dance records… Fox trots. 1917 S. B. LEACOCK Frenzied Fiction (1919) v. 70 The others were dancing the fox-trot to the victrola on the piazza. 1919 G. D’EGVILLE How & what to Dance (1922) 55 The Fox-Trot is a dance of many steps, and to the casual observer everybody seems to have different ones. 1919 E. SCOTT All about Latest Dances 68 The true basis of the American Fox-Trot is an alternation of four slow and four or eight quick movements, depending on the step chosen. 1923 A.B.C. of Dancing 84 The foxtrot is not a dance in the sense that the waltz and polka are dances because it has no distinctive rhythm and no characteristic step or figure. 1928 Melody Maker Feb. 127/1 You have just heard a fox-trot, ‘I call her honey because she sticks to me’. 1946 R. CAPELL Simiomata II. 48 Kirou remembers Macaskie singing foxtrots.
No etymology is given, the implication being (or so I assume) that the dance’s name is simply a development of meaning 1, which had reference to the animal. The 1905 cite in Wikipedia would seem to support this, although OED’s 1915 cite ("A new dance ...") fits well with the Harry Fox story.
Are we then talking of two dances here, both called The Foxtrot, an earlier one evidenced by the 1905 quote and referring to a fox, and a later one, which Harry Fox introduced and to which he pinned his name? Are there any solid cites for foxtrot meaning a dance prior to 1914? (That 1905 wiki quote is unattributed and as such of little worth.)
Confused, Tunbridge Wells *
* From Encyclopedia of Britain:
Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells (was the) hypothetical signature for any indignant anonymous letter to a newspaper, suggesting blimpish outrage. It is not known when or where the joke began, but it is not popular in Tunbridge Wells.