Dingo - Australian Wild Dog What is a Dingo?
The dingo is a medium-sized wild dog introduced to Australia, by humans, about 5,000 years ago. It is the only top order predator in Australia today. It is believed to have originated from a semi-domesticated dog from south Asia that was brought to Australia by ancient seafarers. It has, from time to time, been domesticated by the local Aboriginal people of Australia. The dingo may look like your pet dog at home, but it is a wild animal and many dingo attacks on humans have been reported.
Dingo — Native or Introduced Australian Animal? Is the Dingo Native to Australia?
There is some controversy as to whether the dingo is an Australian native animal or not. The reason for this is because, unlike other native Australian animals that have been here millions of years and are therefore indigenous to Australia, the dingo was brought to Australia only about 5,000 years ago.
The general rule of thumb is that any animal that has been in Australia before the arrival of humans is considered a native animal. Animals such as the kangaroo have been in Australia for millions of years and are unquestionably native. The dingo, on the other hand, which considered native by some, was only brought to Australia by humans about 5,000 years ago. It was definitely not native or indigenous to Australia.
How the Dingo Came to Australia Where Did the Dingo Come From?
How the dingo arrived in Australia is not certain. Fossil and other evidence suggests that it first arrived in Australia between 4,600 and 5,400 years ago. The most widely accepted theory is that it was brought to Australia by ancient seafarers from Asia.
While it is commonly referred to as a wild dog, it is believed that its origin is from a semi-domesticated dog from south Asia, a subspecies of the grey-wolf. It is also suggested that, given the lack of much genetic variation amongst the dingo population today, the entire population may well have sprung up from a single pregnant animal brought on an ancient vessel. Its close resemblance to the Asian wolf and native dogs found in many parts of Asia suggest that its origin was in Asia, possibly Thailand.
The dingo did not make it to Tasmania or other outlying islands off the coast of mainland Australia further confirming that it arrived after these islands were separated by rising sea waters which occurred between 8-12,000 years ago.
Description of the Dingo What Does the Dingo Look Like?
How the Dingo Got Its Name
"Dingo" is a word from the Dharug language of the Aboriginal people living around the Sydney area. Its first recorded used in English was in 1789 by Watkin Tench in his Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay.
The dingo is a lean medium-sized canine with a body designed for speed, stamina and agility. It is about 60cm tall, 150cm from nose to tail and can weigh up to 25kg. The male is usually larger than the female. Its head is the broadest part of its body. This means that it can squeeze through any tight spot through which it can get its head past. It has a stronger broader skull with bigger canine teeth than domesticated dogs. Its sense of smell and sight is acute. The dingo holds its ears erect and can move them independently of each other. It can also rotate its ears backwards.
It has short soft fur; the colour and length of its fur is determined by its environment. Desert dingoes have a red/yellow coat. Those in forests have dark fur with tan markings. Those living in the alpine regions are almost white. It has a bushy tail. It is quite common for dingoes to have white fur on their paws, tips of their tails and on the undersides of their bodies. They are lean and taut animals. Male dingoes are larger than the females.
Dingoes don't like immersing themselves in water. Most will only wade water but will not swim. Dingoes can run in short bursts of speed at up to 60 km/h and can leap over obstacles 2 meters high? They can travel as far as 40km a day. Dingoes are highly flexible. They can rotate their wrists and turn their necks up to 180 degrees in any direction. The life expectancy for a dingo in the wild is 5-6 years and about 15 year in captivity.
Dingo Took My Baby The Sad Story of Azaria Chamberlain
The most famous case of a dingo attack was that of 2 month old Azaria Chamberlain who, her mother claimed was snatched by a dingo from their camp-site at Uluru in central Australia on 17 August 1980. This case was sensationalised by the media and Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was demonised by the press which propagated the myth that she had killed her baby in some bizarre ritual. Lindy was tried, convicted of murder and jailed. Three years later Azaria’s blood stained clothing was discovered near a dingo’s lair with distinct tears most likely caused by a dingo’s claws, fangs and teeth. A subsequent retrial found Lindy innocent of the murder but by then her life and that of her family had been irreparably ruined – A clear case of the miscarriage of justice.
Humans frequently forget that dingoes, while they may look like your pet dogs at home, are wild animals. Wild means just that — they are unpredictable and behave like the opportunistic and aggressive animals they are. Luckily dingo attacks on humans are very rare.
What Do Dingoes Attack?
Dingo usually hunt other wild animals. However when food is scarce or the opportunity arises they will also hunt and kill livestock such as calves, sheep, lambs, goats and chickens. This makes them unpopular with farmers and pastoralist. (Contrary to popular folklore, domestic animals such as sheep account for only 1-7% of a dingo's diet). In areas populated by humans, dingoes have been known to kill domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
Why do Dingoes Attack Humans?
Dingoes are wild animals that usually keep away from humans. Attacks on humans are very rare but gain much publicity in the media. Where attacks do occur they are usually a result of human stupidity or carelessness. Dingoes have attacked people who have come too close to them, fed them, or have foolishly tried to pet them. On rare occasion they have been reported to have attacked young children; seeing them as a food source. Most of the reported dingo attacks in Australia take place on Fraser Island in Queensland. This island is a popular tourist attraction — its main attractions are the dingoes there. Unfortunately, despite all the warning signs, people still do silly, careless things that result in serious injuries to themselves. A German tourist, in 2012 wandered away from his camp-site, got disorientated and fell asleep on a track. He was attacked by dingoes and suffered serious injuries to his head, legs and arms. In the same year another man was walking alone on the beach at 10PM when he too was attacked by four dingoes. A three year old toddler was attacked when she wandered away from her parents and into the bushes close by.
Dingoes can live in any environment provided there is drinking water. Their preference is for woodland and grassland areas that extend to the edge of forests where prey are more abundant. Dingoes normally make their dens in hollow logs, wombat and rabbit burrows or under large rocks or crevices.
Before the arrival of European settlers dingoes inhabited almost the entire mainland of Australia except the most arid desserts where there was no drinking water. They never occupied the outlying coastal islands giving credence to the view that they arrived in Australia after rising sea levels isolated these islands from the mainland.
Since the introduction of pastoralisation by these European settlers and a concerted effort to remove dingoes from farming areas, because they were believed to attack livestock, they are mostly absent from many parts of New South Wales, Victoria, south-eastern parts of South Australia and from the southern tip of Western Australia.
Dingo Diet What do Dingoes Eat?
The dingo is an opportunistic apex predator that hunts mostly at dawn or dusk when its prey are most active. It generally hunts alone but will sometimes form packs to attack and bring down large prey. A dingo prefers warm-blooded animals but will eat almost anything it can find from kangaroos, wallabies, possums, rats, rabbits, birds, frogs, lizards, fish, eggs and even insects and fruit. The dingo will also scavenge for carrion.
When its natural foods sources are scarce it may resort to hunting domestic animals and farm livestock bringing it into conflict with humans.
Dingo Howling Video
Dingo Sounds What Sound Does A Dingo Make?
A dingo communicates through a series of howls, growls, chortles, yelps, whines, chatters, snorts, purrs and barks. It rarely barks. Its bark, which is used primarily as a warning, is very short and monosyllabic. A mother may use this sound to call its cubs back to the den if she suspects danger is near. A dingo’s howls consist of moans, bark-howls and snuffs. Their exact purpose is not fully understood but seem to occur more frequently during times of stress brought about by food shortages and animal dispersion as a means of advertising their location. Dingoes growl as a means of asserting dominance or when threatened.
Mating & Reproduction Dingo Babies & Family Life
Male dingoes become sexual active at about one year of age and female become sexual mature by 2 years of age. Dingoes breed once a year between March and June. Usually it is only the alpha male and alpha female of the pack that breed. All other members of the pack help to raise the pups. During the mating period members of the pack become more territorial using growling, barking and other dominance behaviour to defend their territory.
Dingoes are placental mammals and unlike marsupial mammals they produce fully viable babies. The gestation period is approximately 63 days (similar to dogs) resulting in a litter of four to six pups. More male pups are born than females. Pups are weaned at about two months by which time juveniles start to hunt for small prey. Pups reach adulthood by the time they are seven months old by which time they may strike out on their own or remain with their parents for a period of time.
Dingoes can interbreed with domestic dogs and produce viable offspring.
Dingo Behaviour Behavioural Traits of the Dingo
Dingoes are predominately solitary nomadic predators (up to 73%). A small percentage may also travel in small groups of between 2-4 individuals (24%) and the rest may form small family packs of up to 12 or so animals. These packs normally comprise an extended family with a dominant mating pair and their offspring from previous years. There is a dominance hierarchy (pecking order) amongst both the male and female members of the pack.
These packs occupy territories which vary in size depending on the availability of prey. They mark their territory by urinating or defecating on the borders of their territories.
Dingoes Contribution to Extinction Did the Dingo Contribute to Extinction?
The dingo, the first large placental carnivore, arrived on the Australian continent about 5,000 years ago. From about this time there is clear evidence that two of the biggest native marsupial predators slowly became extinct. These are the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) and Tasmanian devil. These animals are referred to as ‘Tasmanian” because it was only on the island of Tasmania that they thrived in recent time. This extinction on the mainland took place because the dingo was a far more efficient hunter/scavenger than the local counterparts and were quickly out-competed to extinction by the new arrival. Many other species of Australian animals also became extinct after the arrival of the dingo.
Dingo's Impact on the Environment Dingoes Play an Important Ecological Role
Dingoes is not a serious threat to the Australian habitat. Some scientists have suggested that it fills an important ecological niche. Being the only large carnivore left on mainland Australia it helps in keep the native kangaroo and wallaby populations in balance. This function was once fulfilled by the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) and Tasmanian devil, both of which became extinct on the mainland. Ironically their extinction may have been due to competition from the dingo. More importantly, it also eats other introduced feral animals such as the destructive rabbit, goat and wild pig.
Dingo — An Endangered Species Are Dingoes Endangered?
Truly "pure" dingoes are extremely rare. Because of interbreeding with domestic dogs and the subsequent dilution of its gene pool there is a high probability that the "pure" dingo subspecies may become extinct. For this reason the conservation status of the dingo is listed as vulnerable.
Archaeological evidence points to a close relationships between Aboriginal people and dingoes soon after the initial arrival of these animals on the Australian mainland. They were an important new technology for the Aboriginals and where rapidly incorporated into their societies and culture. Dingoes were used as companions, protectors and as hunting dogs. Many dogs were even named as the “good kangaroo dog” or the “good goanna dog”. They were also used to provide warmth at night being used like hot water bottles while sleeping next to people. The coldness of a night was sometimes described as a two, three or even four dog night. When European first arrived in 1778 they observed tamed dingoes living in Aboriginal communities. Some have suggested that dingoes became truly wild (feral if you like) as a consequence of the collapse of Aboriginal societies in Australia after European settlement.
Dingoes as Pets Can you Keep A dingo as a Pet?
Dingoes are very rarely kept as pets. Given unpredictable nature and the animal's roaming nature these animals need a lot of space and vigilance to be kept satisfactorily in captivity.
The rules for owning a dingo vary from state to state. Victoria and the Northern Territory require a permit to own a dingo. New South Wales and Western Australia do not require a permit to do so. It is illegal to own a dingo in Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia.
Dingo Proof Fence Longest Fence in the World
The longest fence in the world is a dingo fence that stretches from Darling Downs in Queensland to Nundroo in South Australia; a distance of 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi). It is also one of the longest man-made structures in the world. It was built between 1880 and 1885 to protect pastoral animals such and sheep and cattle from dingo attacks. The fence is believed to have been successful because there are hardly any dingoes to the south of this fence where most of the productive grazing land is.
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