It is believed that the dingo is descended from the Asian wolf, Canis lupus pallipes. The earliest dingo skeleton found is 3500 years old and it is thought dingoes arrived in Australia between 4600 –18, 300 years ago.
iStock: John Carnemolla
Amazing Facts About the Dingo
- Originally a domestic dog thought to have been brought to Australia by the Aborigines’.
- Though studies show it was more feasible that dingoes arrived over land bridges that existed than by being introduced by humans over the sea.
- The dingo is a tireless hunter and will cross large expanses of desert and open bush in search of its prey. Similar to the domestic dog, in particular the German Shepherd, their coat is usually reddish-brown with irregular white markings, although the colouring varies across its range. The colour of a dingo can determine where it is from, for example, dark brown coats derive from forested area and a more typical tan colour is associated with arid land. It has a long pointed muzzle and a mouth containing large molars and long canine teeth. Their ears are quite large, pointed and permanently erect. Their tails are bushy and have a distinctive white tip.
- The female obtains some of the moisture she needs to produce milk for her puppies by eating their droppings.
- A young male dingo can forage over as wide an area as 60km in a night and may join a local pack when food is abundant, but when it is scarce the pack drives any newcomer away.
- Dingoes hunt mainly at night and when in a pack they will target and kill large animals, such as a kangaroo. When a pack kills more than its members can eat, they bury the remaining food, digging it up to eat later. They will also eat eggs, grubs and wildfowl when other prey is scarce.
- Similar to the fox, the dingo has traditionally been accused of preying on sheep. However, analysis of the stomach contents of dingoes from Western Australia has shown that sheep are not a significant part of its diet.
- When the first European settlers arrived in Australia, they claimed to have found Aborigine women suckling dingo pups.
- The early Aboriginals used tamed dingoes as living hot water bottles to keep them warm at night.
What is Dingo family life like?
- It was known that a female moved a litter of six pups individually over 9km in a single night, a total journey of 180km.
- The loose family group in which the dingo lives is kept within a core territory which it protects. Its total range, however, is far larger and often overlaps with that of other groups.
- Healthy adults take responsibility to keep old and weak animals away from food and water so that they quickly die.
- Both male and female dingoes take responsibility for rearing their young. The females will chose the same hidden, sheltered place each year to raise their young, provided it remains undisturbed. After the pups are born, the parents move downwind of their burrow so that they can watch for predators without drawing attention to the pups’ hiding place. Both parents will collect food for their pups, travelling long distances from the burrow and leaving potential prey nearby and untouched, so the pups can later learn to hunt it for themselves. Although fully weaned, a pup may still approach its mother for regurgitated food
- Young dingoes will fight aggressively in a bid to establish their place in the pecking order of the pack. However, their teamwork and stamina are the keys to hunting successfully as a pack.