Jackals are native to Southeastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.
There are three species of jackals: Golden jackal, Side-striped jackal and Black-backed jackal.
The golden jackal lives in open savannas, deserts, and arid grasslands. Side-striped jackals are found in moist savannas, marshes, bushlands, and mountains. The black-backed—also called sliver-backed—jackal lives primarily in savannas and woodlands.
Jackals have a lifespan of between 8 and 10 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity.
Jackals vary in size and color depending on species, however, they generally measure 38 – 51 centimeters (15 – 20 inches) high at the shoulder, have a body length of 70 – 86 centimeters (27 – 34 inches) and weigh between 7 – 16 kilograms (15 – 35 pounds).
Body of jackal is covered with golden, rust or silver-colored black fur. Jackals have bushy tail.
With their long legs and curved canine teeth, they are well adapted for hunting, and their large feet and fused leg bones give them a physique well-suited for long-distance running, capable of maintaining speeds of 16 km/h (9.9 mph) for extended periods of time.
They are mostly nocturnal animals that usually conceal themselves by day in brush or thickets and sally forth at dusk to hunt.
Jackals can best be described as opportunistic omnivores. They hunt small mammals, bird, reptiles and amphibians, scavenge from kills made by larger animals, and will eat insects, fruit and plants.
Jackals live singly or in pairs, and are sometimes found in small packs. Life in pack ensures protection against predators and ensures cooperative hunt which results in killing of the larger prey. But their most common social unit is a monogamous pair.
Jackals are very territorial and monogamous pairs will fiercely defend their territory from intruders.
Jackals are very vocal and communicate with each other using a loud yell or yap, growls and high pitched howls, particularly when prey is located.
Jackals are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. The female Jackal has a gestation period of 8 to 9 weeks (2 months) after which a litter of usually 2 to 4 pups is born. Cubs are born in a hidden underground den, rock crevices or caves. Mother changes location of the den every two weeks to prevent large predators from finding her cubs.
The pups are suckled and fed regurgitated food until they are about 2 months. By 3 months they no longer use the den, but start to follow their parents, slowly learning the territory and observing hunting behavior. By 6 months, they are hunting on their own. Their parents, however, continue to feed, groom and play with them.
Sometimes pups stay with their parents and help raise their younger brothers and sisters. At times they bring back food to their younger siblings or babysit them while the parents hunt for food.
Certain populations of jackals are endangered due to habitat loss and killing.
The intermediate size and shape of the Ethiopian wolf has at times led it to be regarded as a jackal, thus it has been called the “red jackal” or the “Simien jackal”, but it has more often been considered and called a “wolf”.
Jackals can sprint at 65 km/h (40 mph) maximum.
The jackal (likely the golden jackal, given its present range) is mentioned approximately 14 times in the Bible. It is frequently used as a literary device to illustrate desolation, loneliness and abandonment, with reference to its habit of living in the ruins of former cities and other areas abandoned by humans.
This animal has long been the subject of superstition about death and evil spirits.
The ancient Egyptians believed a jackal-headed god, Anubis, guided the dead to those who judged their souls.
Serer religion and creation myth posits the jackal was among the first animals created by Roog, the supreme deity of the Serer people.