The apex predator of the Australian continent, the dingo is a wild member of the dog family. The indigenous people have many other names for it, including “Warrigal”. It is quite similar in appearance to an ordinary dog but generally eschews human company.
Compared to other dogs of a similar size, dingoes have longer muzzles and larger ears. Similarly, they have bigger molars and sharper (as well as longer) canine teeth.
Adult males are about 60 centimeters tall at the shoulder and are twice as long, counting the 30-centimeter tail. They may weigh as much as 20 kilograms. Females are generally smaller in terms of both height and weight.
Historical Background of Dingo Dog
Dingo dogs are not originally from Australia. It seems that they were introduced to the continent by seafarers, but the exact date of this happening is uncertain. The oldest known fossil is 3500 years old, but it’s quite likely that dingoes came here a long while ago. The studies involving the mitochondrial DNA of living specimens suggest that they first arrived in Australia sometime between 4,600 and 18,300 years ago.
If this is true, then they were brought over before the true domestication of dogs had been achieved. This would explain why dingoes are one of the few examples of feral dogs thriving in the wild. However, it is unclear if they truly are the feral descendants of partially domesticated dogs. The dingoes may have come by crossing over a land bridge connecting Asia and Australia at that time.
Habitat of the Dingo Dog
Dingoes are remarkably adaptable and are found in all kinds of environments. Although they prefer the edges of forests bordering grasslands, they also inhabit wetlands and mountainous regions. As long as it has easy access to water, the dingo dog can thrive in the desert too.
It is found throughout the Australian mainland but has never inhabited Tasmania. This is because it arrived on the continent after the Bass Strait had formed. You can also find this animal in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia.
Types of Dingo
Depending upon the environment they inhabit, dingoes need to make different adaptations to survive. On this basis, they can be divided into different categories, and three of these types are widely recognized.
The first one of them is Desert Dingo that is smaller, and has golden or reddish fur. On the other hand, we have Alpine Dingoes, who have a light cream coat and are the rarest. Northern Dingoes have a more sinewy appearance, and they lack the double coat (other types have). All varieties have pointed ears and a bushy tail.
What Do Dingoes Eat?
Dingo dogs are large carnivores that historically preyed mostly on kangaroos and wallabies by hunting as a pack. The same hunting tactics proved effective against pigs that were introduced by European settlers and established feral populations.
However, dingoes now mostly hunt alone and prey on smaller mammals, birds, or reptiles. The change in diet is attributed to the introduction of Oryctolagus cuniculus (the European rabbit), sometime around the 1850s.
Are Dingo Dogs Dangerous?
Dingoes very rarely act aggressively towards humans. They tend to be quite timid and generally avoid contact. Moreover, they seem to have developed a “flight over fight” temperament, and will generally cower before an aggressive human.
However, Dingo dogs are highly opportunistic, and that can, sometimes, urge them to attack humans. If they are regularly fed by humans or find leftovers in populated areas, they may come at you for stealing food. Likewise, there is a higher probability of an attack if they are fearful. Furthermore, female dingoes are known to act aggressively towards humans who stray too close to their pups.
Interesting Facts about Dingoes
Think you know all there is to know about dingo dogs? Think again. Dingoes are fascinating creatures, and we’ve only just covered the basics so far. We can’t cover everything, but here are a few more dingo-related facts.
Dingo is NOT a Dog Breed
Since dingoes are only semi-domesticated, they’re technically not a breed of dog. In fact, they are as much wolf as a dog. They might have descended from domestic dogs that thrived by falling back on the wolfish instincts of their ancestors. The evidence, however, is inconclusive, and they might not have descended from domestic dogs at all.
Largest Fence in the World
Dingoes are opportunistic hunters who won’t need a second invitation to prey on farmers’ livestock. This is why Australia is home to the longest fence in the world, stretching over an incredible 5614 kilometers. Initially, it was a collection of smaller fences that were built in the 1880s to keep out plague-ridden rabbits.
They were eventually transformed into a barrier against dingoes in the 1900s. Since then, it has been largely successful at keeping the dingo out of southeastern Australia. The annual cost of maintaining this humungous barrier is around 10 million Australian dollars, but it’s well worth the investment.
Dingoes have Owl-like Abilities
Dogs are better known for their incredible sense of smell, but the dingo is also famous for their sharp eyes. What makes it even more owl-like is dingo’s ability to turn its heads 180 degrees in any direction. It’s not quite as impressive as the owl’s 275 degrees, but it sure puts our measly 70-degrees-at-best to shame.
Dingo Dogs have Rotating Wrists
Dingoes’ necks aren’t their only extraordinarily flexible joint. They can also rotate their wrists just like humans, which helps them to capture prey. They can even open doors with this wrist rotation. We take our rotating wrists for granted, but they aren’t very common in the animal world.
Dingoes Live Longer in Captivity
Dingoes live for up to 10 years in the wild. However, captive dingoes can live for more than twice that long. 20 years is an incredible life expectancy even for a domesticated dog. The English Springer Spaniel is of a similar size to the dingo and generally lives for 14 years at most.