The dingo is a type of feral dog native to Australia.
It is found throughout Western and Central Australia in forests, plains, mountainous rural areas and some desert regions.
The oldest known dingo fossil in Australia dates from about 3,500 years ago, studies of the diversity of DNA in the mitochondria of living individuals have suggested that the first dingoes were introduced to Australia sometime between 4,600 and 18,300 years ago. (By contrast, humans arrived in Australia at least 30,000 years ago).
The name “dingo” comes from the Dharug language used by the Indigenous Australians of the Sydney area.
The first British colonists to arrive in Australia in 1788 established a settlement at Port Jackson and noted “dingoes” living with indigenous Australians.
The lifespan of a dingo is up to 10 years in the wild, but can reach 15 to 20 years in captivity.
The dingo possesses a lean, hardy body designed for speed, agility and stamina.
Similar to the domestic dog in structure and habits, the dingo has short, soft fur, a bushy tail, and erect, pointed ears.
Australian adult males of dingo are generally larger than females, weigh between 15.5 and 19.5 kg, and have an average body length of 125 centimeters (49 inches). Females weigh between 14 and 16 kg and average 122 centimeters (48 inches) in body length. Shoulder heights range from 53 (21 inches) to 59 centimeters (23 inches).
Southeast Asian dingoes are smaller than dingoes found in Australia.
The dingo’s three main coat colors are described as being either light ginger, black and tan, or creamy white. The ginger color ranges from a deep rust to a pale cream and can be found in 74% of dingoes. There is often small white markings on the tip of the tail, the feet, and the chest but there are no large white patches.
Dingoes tend to be nocturnal in warmer regions, but less so in cooler areas. Their main period of activity is around dusk and dawn. The periods of activity are short (often less than one hour) with short times of resting.
Dingoes are the largest land predator in Australia.
The diet of Australian dingoes is comprised of 72% mammalian prey, with birds and reptiles comprising theremainder. On occasion dingoes may eat kangaroos, wallabies, sheep, and calves, but the majority of their dietis composed of small animals, especially the introduced European rabbit.
A dingo can run at speeds up to 48 km/h (30 mph)
Although dingoes are often seen alone, many of these individuals belong to a socially integrated pack of up to 12 animals. These packs generally comprise of an extended family, which includes a mating pair, the offspring of the year and sometimes offspring of previous years. Dingoes display a dominance hierarchy between and within both males and females. Dominant pairs are usually the only successful breeders, however the other pack members often assist with the rearing of the pups.
Dingoes breed once annually; after a gestation period of 63 days, females give birth to 4–5 pups (occasionally up to 10).
Like all domestic dogs, dingoes tend towards phonetic communication. However, in contrast to domestic dogs, dingoes howl and whimper more, and bark less. Eight sound classes with 19 sound types have been identified.
The dingo’s social behavior is about as flexible as that of a coyote or gray wolf, which is perhaps one of the reasons it was initially believed that the dingo was descended from the Indian wolf.
Although dingoes are large enough to be dangerous, they generally avoid conflict with humans. Apart from the well-known case in which an infant was taken from a campsite, there have been numerous confirmed dingo attacks, often involving people feeding wild dingoes.
Until 2004, the dingo was categorized as of “least concern” on the Red List of Threatened Species. However, it has since been recategorised as “vulnerable,” following the decline in numbers to around 30% of “pure” dingoes, due to crossbreeding with domestic dogs.
In the 1920s, the Dingo Fence was erected on the basis of the Wild Dog Act (1921) and, until 1931, thousands of miles of Dingo Fences had been erected in several areas of South Australia. It is generally considered the longest fence in the world.