Canus lupus dingo is common throughout Australia and in scattered groups across Southeast Asia. The primary wild populations are found in Australia and Thailand, though groups have been located in Myanmar, Southeast China, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines and New Guinea (Nowak 1999; Corbett 1995).
Canis lupus dingo is found throughout Western and Central Australia in forests, plains and mountainous rural areas. They may also be found in the desert regions of Central Australia where cattle waterholes are available. Natal dens are made in caves, rabbit holes or hollow logs, all in close proximity to water. Most Asian populations are found near villages, where humans provide food and shelter in exchange for protection of their homes (Corbett 1995).
Australian adult males of C. l. dingo are generally larger than females, weigh between 11.8 and 19.4 kg, and have an average body length of 920 mm. Females weigh between 9.6 and 16.0 kg and average 885 mm in body length. Shoulder heights range from 470 to 670 mm. Southeast Asian dingos of both sexes are smaller than dingos found in Australia, likely due to an essentially carbohydrate diet as compared to the high protein diet of Australian dingos.
Dingos are typically ginger-colored with white points in Australia, but black and tan, or black and white pelage patterns of purebred individuals may be found. Southeast Asian dingos are also commonly ginger-colored, though higher numbers of pure black individuals are found in Southeast Asia than in Australian (Straham 1983; Corbett 1995).
A single, dominant pair breeds in a dingo group. Dominant females will kill the young of other females in the pack. Dominant pairs tend to mate for life. Other pack members help in caring for the young of the dominant pair.
Dingos produce one litter of pups per year. Mating seasons in dingos varies depending on latitude and seasonal conditions. In Australia dingos mate from March to April, in southeast Asia they mate from August to September. The gestation period is 63 days, with common litter size of 1 to 10 individuals, averaging 5.4 young per litter. Males and females pair during their third year and often mate for life (Riddle 1979; Corbett 1995)
Dingos and domestic dogs interbreed freely and wild populations are largely hybridized throughout their range, except in Austalian national parks and other protected areas (Straham 1983).
Pups of C. l. dingo first venture from the natal den at three weeks of age. By eight weeks, the natal den is abandoned, and pups occupy various rendezvous dens until fully weaned at 8 weeks. Pups usually roam by themselves within 3 km of these dens, but are accompanied by adults on longer treks. Both male and female pack members help the mother introduce the pups to whole food (9 to 12 weeks), usually by gorging on a kill then returning to the den to regurgitate food to the pups. The mother waters the pups by regurgitation, as well. Pups become independent at 3-4 months, but often assist in the rearing of younger pups until they reach sexual maturity around 22 months (Corbett 1995; Nowak 1999).
Dingos live up to ten years in the wild and up to 13 years in captivity (Corbett 1995).
Dingo behavioral traits are like those of most primitive dogs. Young adults often have a solitary existence during non-mating seasons, though they may form close associations to hunt large prey. Stable packs of 3 to 12 individuals form with various levels of social interaction. There is little interaction between rival packs. Packs typically remain in the territory of their birth, travelling 10-20 km from that area per day. They defend their territory against other packs. There is typically an alpha male and female pair to which other pack members submit. Males are dominant over females. Lower ranking individuals express aggression toward each other as they fight for the various lower ranking positions. Breeding is restricted to one litter annually per pack, born to the alpha female. When lower ranking females become pregnant, her pups are killed by the dominant female (Straham 1983; Corbett 1995; Nowak 1999).
The diet of Australian dingos is comprised of 60% mammalian prey, with birds and reptiles comprising the remainder. On occasion dingos may eat kangaroos, wallabies, sheep, and calves, but the majority of their diet is composed of small animals, especially the introduced European rabbit Oryctolagus (Straham 1983; Nowak 1999).
Asian populations all live in close association with humans, so much of their diet is composed of household refuse including cooked rice, raw fruits, and minor amounts chicken, fish, or crab meat. Some individuals in Thailand have been observed hunting lizards and rats, but also lived in close proximity to villages (Corbett 1995).
Dingos are opportunistic predators and hunt small prey alone. They will hunt in pairs or family groups when pursuing large prey (kangaroos, sheep, and cattle) where they hassle the prey from several directions until they can knock it off balance and attack it (Riddle 1979; Staham 1983).
Foods commonly eaten include: rabbits, rats, possums, wallabies, kangaroos, sheep, calves (cows), birds, reptiles, carrion and human refuse.
Dingos are primarily killed by humans, crocodiles, and sometimes by other canid species, such as jackals and domestic dogs. Dingos are also killed by dingos from other packs. Pups may be taken by large birds of prey. They are secretive and will aggressively defend themselves as a group.
Dingos are the primary mammalian carnivore in Australia. They compete with foxes and feral cats for small animal food sources, but have greater success with catching large prey during times of drought than do foxes and cats. For this reason, dingo populations remain high, and are thought be responsible for the loss of numerous medium-sized Australian mammals, including species of bandicoots, macropodids, and rat-kangaroos. However, some researchers suggest that dingos actually help to maintain populations of small Australian mammals. Dingos are also appreciated for their help in controlling European rabbit populations, which are pests throughout Australia (Corbett 1995, Riddle 1979).
Dingos pose little economic importance in Asia, athough some regions consume dingos as their primary protein source and sell cuts of their meat at market for edible and medicinal purposes (Corbett 1995).
In Australia, millions of dollars have been spent to build and maintain a 3,307 mile long fence to keep dingos out of Southeastern Australia - sheep industry territory. Within the fence boundaries, dingos are considered vermin and are regularly killed for bounty (up to $500). Farmers allege that dingos seek out the sheep for food, though research has shown that dingos prefer natural food sources and only seek out domestic ones when natural food sources are scarce. Sheep and cattle are estimated to compose only four percent of their diet (O’Neill 1997; Corbett 1995).
The Australian government protects dingos in national parks and reserves only. In many public areas, dingos are considered pests and are subject to control measures. Although the dingo is not considered threatened or endangered, pure populations in Australia and Asia are at risk of complete hybridization due to interbreeding with domestic dogs. Interbreeding often results in offspring that pose a greater threat to the sheep industry (since they breed twice as often as pure dingos) and are more dangerous as pets because of innate aggressive behavior. Australian preservation societies have formed to protect, educate and breed purebred dingo lines. The general public is banned from owning dingos as pets (Corbett 1995).
Fossil and archeological evidence dates dingos arriving in Australia about 3500 years ago. It is hypothesized that they were brought over with Asian seafarers as the dingo is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia (Corbett 1995).
Because its history is not clearly understood, the taxonomy of the dingo has not been consistent. It has been given various species names over the last several hundred years. Corbett notes that in 1982, the designation Canis lupus was recommended over Canis familiaris as species name due to universal usage, though Canis familiaris dingo continues to persist as the subspecies classification in some scientific literature. As of Corbett’s writing in 1995, the current scientific name of dingos was Canis lupus dingo (Corbett 1995; Nowak 1999).
Mary Hintze (author), California State University, Sacramento, James Biardi (editor), California State University, Sacramento.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Corbett, L. 1995. The Dingo in Australia and Asia.. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th Ed.. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press.
O'Neill, T. April 1997. Traveling the Australian Dog Fence. National Geographic, 191(4): 18-38.
Oakman, B. "The Australian Dingo Conservation Association Inc." (On-line). Accessed December 01, 2004 at http://www.dingoconservation.org/.
Riddle, M. 1979. The Wild Dogs in Life and Legend. New York, NY: Howell Book House, Inc..
Straham, R. 1983. The Australian Museum's Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson Publishers.