Dingo

 Canis lupus dingo

The Dingo is Australia’s largest carnivorous mammal; it is descended from south Asian wolves and introduced to Australia about 4000 years ago, probably by Asian seafarers.  However, the Queensland Museum notes that recent DNA studies suggest Dingoes may have been in Australia even longer (between 4,640 and 18,100 years). The earliest undisputed archaeological finding of the Dingo in Australia has been dated to 3,250 years ago (Balme et al. 2018).

While dingoes Canis lupus dingo look similar to some domestic dogs Canis lupus familiaris, they are actually a different subspecies of wolf. According to the Queensland Museum, the origins of Dingoes can be traced back to a south Asian variety of grey wolf Canis lupus lupus.

The colour of the Dingo is usually ginger with white feet. However, in the desert areas, the fur is more golden yellow while in forested areas the fur can be a darker tan to black. With canine teeth longer than those of a domestic dog, the dingo’s muzzle is also longer and tapered.. Dingoes are naturally lean, with large ears permanently pricked and tails marked with a white tip they are approximately 60cm high and weigh between 13–18kg depending on its geographic location. Dingoes live for about 10 years in the wild and can start breeding once they reach the age of one or two. Unlike the domestic dog, the Dingo breeds only once a year. Litters of around four to six pups are born in areas such as a hollow log or under a rock ledge.

Dingoes rarely bark like our domestic dogs, Dingoes tend to howl particularly at night in an effort to attract pack members or to ward off intruders. Other forms of communication include scent-rubbing, defecating and urinating on objects such as grass tussocks to mark territorial boundaries..

Dingoes are opportunistic carnivores that feed mainly on mammals such as wallabies, kangaroos, and wombats. When food is scarce they will also reptiles, birds and insects. Scavenging at night, the Dingo is a solitary hunter but will form larger packs when hunting bigger game.

Before European colonisation in Australia, Dingoes were found on most of the Australian mainland in forested, and grassland areas with good access to water.

After European colonisation and with introduction of agriculture by early European settlers, there was a concerted effort to remove Dingoes from farming areas due to fear of predation of livestock. When native species are scarce they are known to hunt domestic animals and farm livestock.

As a result, Dingoes are mostly absent from many parts of New South Wales, Victoria, the south-eastern third of South Australia and from the southern-most tip of Western Australia. They are regarded as common throughout the remainder of Australia except in the arid eastern half of Western Australia, nearby parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The Dingo has a role as an apex predator in Australia and is also believed to play a role in keeping natural systems in balance. In addition, Dingoes also prey on some feral animals, and in this way can aid the survival of native species. While Dingoes have been instrumental in keeping down the populations of rabbits, feral pigs and other farming pests, there have been continued attempts to eradicate Dingos because of threat to domestic animals.

 

Dingoes and domestic dogs interbreed freely with each other and therefore the term “wild dog” is often used for describing all Dingoes. The term ‘wild dog’ collectively refers to Dingoes, domestic dogs gone wild and hybrids between the two. All of these are classified as the same species, Canis familiaris.

Unfortunately, interbreeding threatens the ability of the Dingo to survive as a separate subspecies. Along the more populated mainland coastal areas and in certain inland areas, interbreeding has become a serious problem and has weakened the distinct nature of this native animal. For the Dingo to survive as a separate subspecies, it is important to control the number of feral dogs.

Naturally curious, the dingo will occasionally approach humans but should be treated with absolute caution. Despite looking like a domestic dog, the dingo is a wild animal and can be dangerous.

Feeding Dingoes can also threaten their survival as they learn to associate humans with food through handouts or poorly disposed rubbish scraps. As a consequence, Dingoes may lose their natural fear of humans. In some situations, defending or fighting for this food may lead to dangerous behaviour being exhibited by the Dingo towards people.

Reference: Australian Museum

Queensland Department of Environment and Science