The optimum pattern and limiting order of some essential amino acids for growing-furring blue foxes were assessed from nitrogen (N) retention responses. Total tract digestibility and N balance trials were carried out on 24 weaned blue fox males in an 8 ✕ 5 cyclic change-over experiment. Eight experimental diets were prepared by removing proportionately about 0·4 of each of the amino acids studied – methionine + cystine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan and histidine – successively from the amino acid control diet. The main source of protein in the amino acid control diet was casein and an amino acid mixture was added to bring the calculated crude protein (CP) content up to the level of 170 g/kg dry matter (DM). Low-protein (CP 95·7 g/kg DM) and high-protein (CP 166·6 g/kg DM) diets, the protein proportion of which was casein protein, served as negative and positive control diets, respectively. The reduction in N retention when one amino acid in turn was deleted from the amino acid control diet was calculated, and a regression analysis was made between N retention and relative amino acid intake. Data on the animals’ intake of each limiting amino acid and those on the amino acid control diet were used. The optimum amino acid pattern, expressed relative to lysine = 100, proved to be: methionine + cystine 77, threonine 64, histidine 55 and tryptophan 22. The first-limiting amino acids were methionine + cystine. Blue fox responses (N retention, weight gain) to deletion of methionine + cystine from the diet were very severe and exceeded those to deletion of any other amino acid. Moreover, removing methionine + cystine from the diet significantly impaired the apparent digestibility of organic matter, reducing it to a level even lower than that of the low-protein diet. After methionine + cystine, the next-limiting amino acid in casein-based diets was threonine, followed by histidine and tryptophan. The results show the importance of verifying the sufficiency of dietary methionine + cystine in the practical feeding of blue foxes.