black backed jackalScientific Name– Canis mesomelas

Conservation Status– Least concern


The black backed jackal has a reddish-brown coat. The flanks and legs are redder than the rest of the body. Their underpants are white. Throughout the coat are a mix of silver and black hairs. At the end of the tail is a black tip. On the backs of the ears there is a thick patch of yellowish brown fur. Across the majority of the back is the black stripe from which their name is derived. Coming from the sides of the black nose is a white line that runs to halfway round the face. On the front feet there are 5 toes which the hind feet only have 4.

From the head to the end of the body the black backed jackal measures 96-110cm (38-43in). At the shoulders jackals stand 30-48cm (12-19in) tall. The tail is 26-40cm (10-16in) long). In East Africa jackals weigh 7-13.8kg (15-30lb). Those in Zimbabwe though are smaller with males weighing 6.8-9.5lg (15-21lb) and the females weighing 5.4-10kg (12-22lb).


Black backed jackals live for 8 years in the wild. In captivity they may manage to almost double this reaching 14 years of age.


The black backed jackal is an omnivore. During a study the primary component of their diet was found to be insects. They also feed on rodents, hares, young antelope, carrion, lizards, marine animals, mussels, and snakes. Some black backed jackals have been seen taking down a rhinoceros that was wounded at the time. Frequently they eat small bits of grass.


black backed jackalAfrica is the home of the black backed jackal. Two populations exist one is the East African population in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. The other population lives in the South throughout South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. In between these areas lie the Great Rift Valley which is believed to be too arid for this species to inhabit showing why there is such a large distance between their ranges.

This species can be found throughout arid costal deserts, woodland savannahs and lightly wooded forests. They are mostly found in open habitats. They have also been sighted at the edges of built up areas.


A pair of black backed jackals will mate for life living in a pack with their offspring. Throughout May to August mating will take place. During this time they become vocal and territorial making sure that no other jackals invade their territory.

To give birth the female finds a den. She may dig a tunnel of her own 1 to 2 metres deep. Otherwise she will find an abandoned aardvark burrow which has many entrances allowing for easy escape.

60 days after mating she gives birth to up to 4 pups. Most of the time only 1 to 3 of the pups are raised. The pups are dark brown in colour and blind. The eyes will open at 10 days old. For the first 3 weeks while the pups suckle mum stays in the den the entire time. The dad as well as the older siblings will go out hunting and keep the burrow safe.

After this 3 weeks they can begin to make forays out of the den to explore. At 3 months old they begin to join the parents on hunting trips and at 6 months old they will conduct their first hunt. By 6-8 months old they begin to find their own territory. By 11 months old they can have their own pups. The pups which will one day become dominant males and females are the first to mature.


black backed jackalDiurnal and nocturnal activity patterns have been observed for the black backed jackals. When they live near cities they are almost always nocturnal.

Leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and humans prey upon the black backed jackal. Bateleur eagles and other jackals have been seen killing the pups.

Black backed jackals maintain a territory which is marked with faeces and urine. The pair that lives there will make sure that no other jackals enter that space.

Quick facts

Two subspecies of black backed jackal are recognised the cape jackal and the East African jackal

This species is also known as the silver or red backed jackal.

Photo Credits:

Top        – Public Domain

Middle – By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Sumeet Madhukar Moghe (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons