Dingo

April 12, 2012

The dingo is commonly known as the legendary wild dog of Australia although there are evidences that these wild dogs also exist in other Southeast Asian countries. Dingoes are believed to have crossed to the Australian continent during the last stage of the Ice Age before Australia was separated from the mainland. The Dingo is the reason why the longest fence in the planet was constructed. The famous dingo fence was erected in the 1880s to protect herds of sheep from the dingoes which are considered as pests in Australia.

Dingoes typically have reddish brown or yellow-ginger coat color. The massive skull, the heavy strong jaws with its powerful masticating muscles, the large carnassials and the razor sharp canine teeth distinguish this wild dog from the domesticated breeds of dogs. These physical features of the dingo shows that this animal has to hunt, to kill and to be predator in order to live. Domesticated dogs have a six month breeding cycle. Dingoes breed once a year. A female dingo will usually produce six to eight pups. Dingoes are pack oriented. A pack usually consists of 3 to 12 individuals. Dingoes are known to eat fruits and plants but about 170 species of insects and animals form part of a dingo’s diet. Livestock is only a small portion of this wild dog’s diet however because it has flourished and spread throughout the continent in large numbers, the dingoes were considered as dominant predators. These wild dogs are presumed to be vicious pests. Irate farmers have always wanted to eliminate these wild animals. These dogs are considered to be vermin. Purebred dingoes are on the verge of extinction. The wild dogs that were hated are now being protected by the Federal Government. Breeding programs were established for the conservation of Australia’s legendary wild dog.

Information

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Appearance

One theory regarding the origin of the dingo speculates that it has descended from wolves. This is probably due to the fact that a dingo’s appearance is very similar to that of the pale footed Asian wolf although the dingo is somewhat smaller in size and noted to have longer legs. An average sized dingo is about 24 inches in height and weighs from 50 to 70 lbs. A dingo has a broad and massive head, a rather flat skull and a long muzzle. The bigger carnassials and the longer and razor sharp canine teeth works like shears when tearing and cutting flesh and bones. The teeth and the powerful jaws are indications that dingoes needed to hunt and to be a predator in order to survive. A dingo’s ears are small, rounded at the tips, naturally erect, set well forward and very mobile. Dingoes have low brows and well marked stop. Triangular shaped face has a fierce forward look. Yellow or orange eyes have an intense expression. Well furred tail that appears to be bushy is of good length. Relaxed tail is usually carried between the legs and used either to disguise or let the scent to be released. This allows the dingo to hide from its enemies or to allow other dingoes to know its whereabouts.

Dingoes have soft coats. The texture, length and density of the hair vary according to the climate. The most common color is sandy, reddish brown and yellow ginger. Some specimens have black, white and brindled coats. Bi-colored dingoes are also seen. They would have white markings on the muzzle, chest and paws.

Personality

Dingoes are believed to be domesticated dogs that have reverted to its wild form. This theory was supported by the knowledge that dingoes were kept as companions by Australian aborigines. Aborigines have stolen and reared dingo pups and trained them to be excellent hunters of rabbits and other small game. These wild dogs have hunted during the Paleolithic Age. A dingo that is given proper socialization and obedience training can be a good home companion. Domesticating a dingo is best done when the dog is still a puppy. Training must be started when the pup is about six weeks old. An untrained dingo must never be kept as a home companion especially in a family with kids. Properly cared for and trained, the dingo would be a suitable and quiet pet. Dingoes are wild dogs. Even if they are domesticated they would still be unsuitable for apartment life. These dogs need plenty of exercise. A well fenced yard will be necessary as the dog should not be allowed to roam freely lest they revert to their wild nature. These dogs are not aggressive. Having been prosecuted by man, these dogs have developed a flight rather than attack personality. However, it would still be necessary to keep the dog leashed when taken to public places.

Care

A Dingo’s short coat is weather resistant. The thick fur protects the dog from both hot and cold weather. The coat would not need an extensive grooming routine as a dingo is a clean dog, one that has no doggie smell. A dingo is water shy. Bathing should be done only when very necessary.

History

A dingo is commonly known as the wild dog most prevalent in Australia and Southeast Asia. How the dog originated is still perplexing up to this very day. Has the dingo directly descended from the wolf just like the majority of dog breeds? Or is it possible that the dingo was once a domesticated dog and has reverted to its wild form again?

In 1792 the dingo was officially given the name Canis Antarcticus. This scientific name though was changed several times. Canis familiaris dingo was given when the dingo was treated as a subspecies of the domestic dog. Canis lupus familiaris dingo and canis dingo were also used when the dingo was classed as a distinct species different from both dogs and wolves. The term dingo is the most common name for this dog. The word was likely derived from “tingo”, the name used by the aboriginal people in Port Jackson to refer to their camp dogs.

When the word dingo is mentioned, what would come to mind is a wild dog in Australia. However, basing on anthropogenic fossils and molecular evidences, it was speculated that this dog has had a wide spread distribution. It was further speculated that ancestors of today’s dingoes had a long association with the nomadic hunter-gatherer societies. When agricultural centers were developed, the tamed dingoes were taken to various locations in the world. This theory was supported by dingo findings in Thailand that were dated to be as old as 5,000 years, Dingo findings in Vietnam was estimated to be about 5,500 years old. Findings in Indonesian highlands have been dated to be about 2500 to 3000 years old.

Dingoes are believed to have originated from Asia and were brought by Austronesian seafaring traders to Australia some 4000 years ago. Fossils of dingoes estimated to be about 3,500 years old were found in different places in Australia. Another theory believes that dingoes in a semi-domesticated state trekked with the nomadic aborigines to Australia before it was cut off from the mainland during the last Ice Age. The dingoes were originally kept by Australian aborigines but later on reverted to its wild savage form. Dingoes have spread widely all over the Australian continent. These dogs live in the wild… in the snow covered terrain of Eastern Australia, in the wetlands and tropical forest of Northern Australia and in Central Australia’s dry hot desert. The dogs were tolerated and at times kept as pets by the aborigines and the European settlers. Humans provided the dingoes with food, artesian bores and wells made water available for the dogs. These dogs eat plant and fruits as well as small game. However, when sheep was introduced by the Europeans and pastoral economy was established, dingo population tremendously increased. Female dingoes only have one estrus cycle annually producing one to ten pups but the population remained high. Dingoes have become dominant predators in Australia and measures were taken to prevent them from encroaching on human property. From 1930s, the dingoes were considered as pests causing the erection of the famous dingo fence to protect grazing herds of sheep.

Although considered as vermin, dingoes are classified as wildlife by the Federal Government thus exportation is prohibited except to registered zoos and wild life parks. This makes the dingo very rare outside Australia.

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