dingoScientific Name– Canis lupus dingo

Conservation Status– Vulnerable

Appearance

Dingos are similar in shape to domestic dogs though they are not a dog subspecies. They are more closely related to wolves.

This species is normally depicted with a tawny coat. Black, light brown and white dingoes also exist though. Their chest is coloured white and the paws and muzzle feature white as well. This species has bushy tail. A dingo’s ear will sit upright at all times and their eyes are narrow and sloped. Dingo’s eyes can be brown or yellow over orange.

At the shoulder dingos stand 48-58cm (19-23in) tall. From the nose to the tip of the tail this species measures 117-154cm (46-61in) long. An average dingo measures between 13 and 20kg (29-44lb). The male of this species is normally larger than the females. Those from the North of Australia are generally greater in size than those from the South.

Lifespan                                                                                  

Dingos live for between 7 and 15 years in most instances. In some documented cases though they were able to reach ages up to 24 years.

Diet

The dingo is an omnivore. In a study it was found that 80% of their diet is formed by 10 species nationwide. These species are the swamp wallaby, cattle, dusky rat, magpie goose, red kangaroo, long-haired rat, European rabbit, agile wallaby, common wombat and the common brush tail possum. They are opportunistic feeders though and take almost any prey item they can.

Other food items include fish, bandicoots, echidnas, crabs, skinks, insects, fruits, buffalo and other plant material. Some carrion is also taken including washed up penguins and seals.

Dingo hunting strategies and diets suit their conditions. In an area with dense vegetation they will not hunt as many kangaroos as they will in open areas. They will sometimes co-ordinate attacks with each other to take down large prey.

Some dingoes live entirely on human food which they obtains by stealing, begging or scavenging.

Habitat

It is difficult to say which countries the dingo calls home due to interbreeding with the domestic dog. Pure dingoes are confirmed to still exist across Australia (excluding Tasmania) and Thailand. There is also evidence that pure dingoes may still exist in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao people’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Viet Nam.

In Australia dingoes were once spread across most of the continent. The sheep industry being established lead to dingoes being persecuted led to them being expelled from some areas. The building of a dingo fence to keep them out of sheep country did not help this. Farmers were paid to shoot the dogs. This fence keeps them out of most of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. They are still holding on in some of these areas though.

It is believed that dingoes came to Australia in the past 1,000 to 5,000 years from Asia. There is a belief that at one point dingoes were domestic and then they went wild again.

Dingoes can be found throughout many habitat types. These include deserts, alpine forests, tropical wetlands & forests, forested snow clad peaks and costal scrub. Different varieties of habitat are better suited to the different colours of dingoes. Examples of this include more black dingoes in darker rainforests and more tan dingoes in the sandy deserts.

Habitat loss is one of the threats dingoes are facing.

Reproduction

Dingo breeding is regulated by when the female is on heat. This occurs once a year in most cases though some females go on heat twice with the second time being while they are pregnant. Males can breed at any time of the year but their fertility decreases over the summer.

dingoMating occurs between March and May throughout Australia. In Asia they breed between August and September. Throughout the breeding season the dingos defend their territory using vocalisations, growling and dominance behaviour.

The alpha pair are the only ones that breed in most cases. Other females go into heat after this pair and the alpha female will stop them from breeding with the males. If another female has a litter the alpha kills the pups so only her genes will be passed on.

Following a 61-69 day gestation period a litter of 1-10 pups is born. Females will move to a cave or burrow to have the pups. These pups are born blind.

Three weeks after being born the pups first venture from the den. At eight weeks of age they will leave the den for the final time. The transition from milk to solids begins at 9 weeks and is generally complete at 12 weeks old. After 3-6 months the pups are independent and by 10 months they leave the pack as the next breeding season is beginning.

Sexual maturity is achieved between 1 and 3 years for males while for females it occurs at 2 years of age.

Behaviour

Young male dingos will live as nomads on their own. The older dingos normally form a pack which settles into one territory. An average pack will number from 3-12 dingos. The size is dependent upon the size of the prey items most common in their territory.

In the warmer areas of their range dingos establish a nocturnal activity pattern. This is less evident throughout the cooler areas where they live.

Dingos communicate using barks, howls, and growls. They will also use scent marking from their scent gland, urine and faeces.

The only predators of dingos are crocodiles and humans who will kill them to stop them from killing livestock.

Quick facts

Dingos can react to cues and gestures from humans something wolves are not able to do.

Some people in Australia keep dingos as pets.

One of the biggest threats to dingos is their ability to inbreed with domestic dogs meaning they become impure.

It is believed that dingos were descended from Indian wolves or Arabian wolves the species which domestic dogs were also descended from.