Dingo - Australian Wild Dog

Dingo - Australian Wild Dog

Being a member of the Canidae family, Dingo - AKA the Australian Wild Dog or Warrigal, looks quite similar to a dog or a wolf, but has some fascinating traits which makes it stand out in the crowd. Continue reading....
Dingo Canis Lupus Dingo is a carnivorous animal native to Australia and Southeast Asia; typically characterized by its striking resemblance to the common dogs and wolves. This resemblance to dogs and wolves is attributed to the fact that dingoes belong to the Canidae family of kingdom Animalia. It is also referred to as the Australian Wild Dog, Warrigal, Decker Dog or Australian Native Dog.

Facts about Dingoes

Although found in the wild now, it is believed that dingoes were initially a domesticated species which eventually returned to the wilderness. A study by researchers at the University of New South Wales along with their colleagues in Sweden and Britain, revealed that dingoes descended from domestic dogs from East Asia. There is a consensus among researchers that they were transported from Asia to Australia, mostly by seafarers who traveled between both continents. Given below are more of such facts about this Australian mammal which will give you an insight into its life.

Appearance
Dingoes do look like common dogs, but most of their features are sharper as compared to their domesticated counterparts. On an average, they go on to attain a height of 19 to 23 inches, and weigh anywhere between 50 to 55 pounds. It is also observed that the Australian dingoes are larger than their Asian counterparts. This beautiful animal sports a fur coat that is yellowish orange in color, a bushy tail, and has a patch of white fur on each of its legs. But unlike other breeds of the canine family, they do not have claws.

Reproduction
Breeding takes place once in a year during the autumn season. Dingoes are known to choose a mate for a lifetime, and often mourn to death in case of loss of their partner. Male species become sexually mature between the age of 1 to 3 years, while females become sexually active around the age of 2 years. The gestation period for this mammal is about 60 to 69 days; on completion of which a litter of 5 to 6 puppies is produced. These puppies leave the pack at a very early age i.e. 3 to 6 months, and lead an independent life, hunting small animals and gradually growing on to become to full-fledged hunters.

Diet
Being a carnivorous animal, dingoes mostly hunt and feed on animals of smaller size. Dingoes from the Northern Wetlands of Australia are mainly seen hunting Magpie geese and Dusky rats, while in Central Australia, Red kangaroo, European rabbit and lizards are favorites. Similarly, dingoes native to Southeast Asia are known to feed on rats and lizards. Lately, it has been observed that the distance between wild and human habitation is slowly decreasing, and this in turn has prompted the animal to attack human livestock.

Hunting
The technique of hunting used by Australian wild dogs is simple - chase to exhaustion. Dingoes can hunt alone, but this restricts their opportunities to hunt down animals bigger in size, and hence they resort to hunting in groups, which helps them take down animals much bigger in size such as the kangaroo or a water buffalo. A study by biomechanics at the University of New South Wales revealed that, although dingoes have weaker bites, their skull is designed to resist great stress, and this helps them pull down larger preys with relative ease. They cannot swim; but instead wade through water and this acts as a drawback for them when it comes to hunting.

Dingoes occupy the position of an apex predator in the food chain, and therefore have a crucial role to play in maintaining the ecological balance in their native habitat. A study at James Cook University revealed that re-introducing dingoes can help curb the growth of pests such as Cane toads and Rufous rats, and lessen the pressure on the native biodiversity.

Predators
Dingoes are no doubt efficient predators; but they also end up finding themselves on the other side of the food chain as the prey at times. Wedge-tailed eagles and saltwater crocodiles are main predators for a dingo. The young pups also have a potential threat to their lives from snakes, as they stay mainly in burrows of trees. They don't bark; but instead resort to 'howling' like other species of wolves as an effective way to attract other members of the group or to warn intruders.

Dingoes and Humans
Although it was a domesticated species earlier, their relationship with humans has strained over the period. This can be mainly attributed to the difficult situation people face while inculcating discipline into these creatures, who are basically independent in nature. Lately, there have been cases where dingoes have attacked human beings, and this has just added to the woes of the already strained relationship between the two. The first such case came to light in August 1980, when a 10 week old girl, Azaria Chamberlain was attacked by a wild dog on Ayers Rocks. Such attacks continued and by 2001 more than 200 cases of dingoes biting people were recorded throughout Australia.

In the conservation status list compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), dingoes are currently enlisted as vulnerable to extinction. Strangely the biggest threat to the survival of pure dingoes is cross-breeding with common dogs. Around 80 percent of the species found along the eastern seaboards of Australia are supposed to be dog-dingo crossbreeds. This increasing number has forced the Australian authorities to adopt the idea of culling these crossbreeds, and protecting purebreds; as an attempt to ensure that we don't end up losing this wonderful species with time.