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Dingo

Canis dingo

Photo: Dingo in the desert

Photo: Dingo in the desert (View larger version)

Photograph by Jason Edwards

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The dingo is legendary as Australia's wild dog, though it also occurs in Southeast Asia. The Australian animals may be descendents of Asian dingoes that were introduced to the continent some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.

These golden or reddish-colored canids may live alone (especially young males) or in packs of up to ten animals. They roam great distances and communicate with wolf-like howls.

Dingo hunting is opportunistic. Animals hunt alone or in cooperative packs. They pursue small game such as rabbits, rodents, birds, and lizards. These dogs will eat fruits and plants as well. They also scavenge from humans, particularly in their Asian range.

Dingoes breed only once a year. Females typically give birth to about five pups, which are not independent until six to eight months of age. In packs, a dominant breeding female will kill the offspring of other females.

Australia is home to so many of these animals that they are generally considered pests. A famous "dingo fence" has been erected to protect grazing lands for the continent's herds of sheep. It is likely that more dingoes live in Australia today than when Europeans first arrived.

Though dingoes are numerous, their pure genetic strain is gradually being compromised. They can and do interbreed with domestic dogs to produce hybrid animals. Studies suggest that more than a third of southeastern Australia's dingoes are hybrids.

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