Habits: Dingoes live in family groups within a primary territory. Their home range, however, is much larger, often overlapping other groups. Young male dingoes forage alone over a wide area, often covering as much as 40 miles in a night. They may join local family groups when food is abundant; when it is scarce, they will be driven away.
Breeding: In fall or early winter, the female dingo comes into heat. She selects a mate, often the father of her previous litter of pups, from the pack of males that follow her. The pack then breaks up, leaving the pair alone to breed. Pups are born 9 weeks later. The female gives birth in the same hidden, sheltered location each year unless it is disturbed by humans or predators. Although the pups are weaned after 8 weeks, they remain with their parents for up to a year. The female suckles her pups and also feeds them with small pieces of regurgitated meat. The pups grow quickly, and both parents must hunt food for them. They travel long distances in search of prey, but prey close to their own territory is left untouched, so that the pups may learn to hunt it themselves.
Food and Hunting: Since most of their prey is nocturnal, dingoes hunt at night. They hunt alone or in packs. When a pack kills more than it can eat, the remains are buried and dug up later. When dingoes hunt a large animal, such as the gray kangaroo, they give chase and charge their prey. After biting it, they back off to avoid being kicked, as this can be fatal. As sheep farming has become widespread across Australia, dingoes have found the flocks to be easy prey. The dingoes usually kill only as much as they can eat, although pups can become overly excited, killing and injuring many sheep. When food is scarce, dingoes will eat birds’ eggs, grubs, and wildfowl.
Key Facts: Sizes, Breeding, Lifestyle, and Related
Length: Body, 5 ft. Tail, 14 in.
Weight: 45 lb.
Sexual maturity: 2 years
Mating: June to August
Gestation: 63 days
No. of young: Up to 8 pups
Habit: Males territorial. Family groups may include young of previous litter
Diet: Rabbits, small marsupials, kangaroos, and farm animals
Lifespan: Up to 14 years
Related Species: Canis familiaris, the domestic
dog, is the same species. The New Guinea Dog, Canis familiaris hallstromi,
is a closely related subspecies.
Distribution: Throughout Australia, except Tasmania
Conservation: In spite of constant persecution by man, dingoes are still found in many parts of Australia. Only a few are purebred, as most interbreed with domestic dogs, especially in Queensland. In agricultural areas, dingoes are considered pest.
Features of the Dingo:
The dingo is a member of the domestic dog family, Canis familiaris. However, it has lived in the wild for thousands of years. The dingo is occasionally kept as a pet by aborigines, but it is generally regarded as a pest because it preys on livestock.
Measuring 20 in. high at the shoulder, the dingo is considerably smaller than a dog such as a German shepherd, which has a shoulder height of up to 25 in. Other distinguishing features of the dingo, in comparison to those of domestic dogs, are its longer muzzle, larger molars, and longer canine teeth.
Because of the dingo’s readiness to mate with wild domestic dogs, an estimated 75 percent of dingoes today are hybrids, that is, they are offspring of dogs of different varieties.
Did You Know:
Dingoes are descended from a family of Asian wild dogs which cannot bark.
When the first European settlers arrived in Australia, they found aborigine women suckling dingo pups.
The earliest known dingo skeleton is 3,000 years old, but the first dingoes are thought to have reached Australia 4,000 years earlier.
One mother moved a litter of six pups individually over 5 miles in one night, a total journey of 60 miles.
Some varieties of dingo are born without tails.
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