Dingo Dingo Dog

Australian dingo dog

Photo: Dingo face

The dingo is a lean and agile Australian wild dog about half a meter tall and weighs up to 25 kg. It is the largest land-dwelling carnivore in Australia. The dingo originated from semi-domesticated Asian dogs introduced to Australia about 5,000 years ago by ancient Asian seafarers.

Dingoes are social animals that typically live in packs, with the alpha male leading the way. They may look like your pet dog, but they are wild animals. Many dingo attacks on humans have been reported, mostly on children.

How the Dingo Came to Australia

Dingo Description What Does a Dingo Look Like?

Photo: Desert dingo

Photo: Alpine dingo

The dingo is about 60cm tall, 150cm from nose to tail and can weigh up to 25kg. The male is usually larger than the female. The dingo has short soft fur; the colour and length of its coat are determined by its environment. Desert dingoes have a red/yellow coat. Those in forests have dark fur with tan markings. Those living in the alpine regions are almost white and have a bushy tail. It is quite common for dingoes to have white fur on their paws, tips of their tails and on the undersides of their bodies.

Its head is the broadest part of its body and can rotate it 180 degrees in any direction. It has a stronger, broader skull with bigger canine teeth than domesticated dogs. Its sense of smell and sight is acute. The dingo holds its ears erect and can move them independently of each other. It can also rotate its ears backwards.

Unlike other dogs, the dingo has highly flexible wrists, similar to humans. This enables it to use its paws like hands to grasp its prey and climb trees.

Dingoes can run in short bursts of speed at up to 60 km/h and can leap over obstacles 2 meters high? They can travel up to 40km a day.

The lifespan of a dingo in the wild is about 10 years and about 13 years for those in captivity.

Dingo Attacks on Humans

Dingo Behaviour Behavioural Traits of the Dingo

Dingoes are predominately solitary nomadic predators (up to 73%). A small percentage may also travel in small groups of between 2-4 individuals (24%), and the rest may form small family packs of up to 12 or so animals. These packs usually comprise an extended family with a dominant mating pair and their offspring from previous years. There is a dominance hierarchy (pecking order) amongst both the male and female members of the pack. These packs occupy territories which vary in size depending on the availability of prey. They mark their territory by urinating or defecating on the borders of their territories.

Dingo Sounds What Noises Does A Dingo Make?

A dingo communicates through a series of howls, growls, chortles, yelps, whines, chatters, snorts, purrs and barks. It rarely barks. Its bark, which is used primarily as a warning, is very short and monosyllabic. A mother may use this sound to call its cubs back to the den if she suspects danger is near. A dingo’s howls consist of moans, bark-howls, and snuffs. Their exact purpose is not fully understood but seems to occur more frequently during times of stress brought about by food shortages and animal dispersion as a means of advertising their location. Dingoes growl as a means of asserting dominance or when threatened.

Dingo Habitat Where do Dingoes Live?

Photo: Dingo habitat map

Dingoes live in woodland and grassland areas that extend to the edge of forests where prey are more abundant.

Before the arrival of European settlers, dingoes lived throughout the entire mainland of Australia except for the aridest deserts where there was no drinking water.

They never occupied the outlying coastal islands giving credence to the view that they arrived in Australia after rising sea levels isolated these islands from the mainland.

Since the introduction of pastoralisation by these European settlers and the eradication of dingoes from farming areas, they are mostly absent from many parts of New South Wales, Victoria, south-eastern parts of South Australia and from the southern tip of Western Australia.

Dingoes make their dens in hollow logs, wombat and rabbit burrows, or under large rocks or crevices.

Dingo Diet What do Dingoes Eat?

Photo: Dingo scavenging a fish

A dingo will eat almost anything from kangaroos, wallabies, possums, rats, rabbits, birds, frogs, lizards, fish, eggs, and even insects and fruit. It will also scavenge for carrion– the decaying flesh of dead animals.

The dingo is an opportunistic apex predator that hunts mostly at dawn or dusk when its prey is most active. It generally hunts alone but will sometimes form packs to attack and bring down large prey.

When its natural foods sources are scarce, it may resort to hunting domestic animals and farm livestock, bringing it into conflict with humans.

Dingoes Attacking Water Buffaloes

Dingo Reproduction & Life Cycle Dingo Puppies & Family Life

Photo: Baby dingo pup

How the Dingo Got Its Name

"Dingo" is a word from the Dharug language of the Aboriginal people living around the Sydney area. It's first recorded use in English was in 1789 by Watkin Tench in his Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay.

Dingoes are placental mammals, and unlike marsupial mammals, they produce fully viable babies. The gestation period is approximately 63 days (similar to dogs) resulting in a litter of four to six pups. More male pups are born than females. Pups are weaned at about two months by which time juveniles start to hunt for small prey. Pups reach adulthood by the time they are seven months old by which time they may strike out on their own or remain with their parents for some of the time.

Male dingoes become sexually active at about one year of age, and females become sexually mature by two years of age. Dingoes breed once a year between March and June. Usually, it is only the alpha male and alpha female of the pack that breed. All other members of the pack help to raise the pups. During the mating period members of the pack become more territorial using growling, barking and other dominance behaviour to defend their territory.

The life expectancy for a dingo in the wild is 5-6 years and about 15 years in captivity.

Dingoes can interbreed with domestic dogs and produce viable offspring.

Difference Between Marsupial, Placental and Other Mammals

Dingo's Contribution to Extinction Did the Dingo Contribute to Extinction?

The dingo was the first large placental carnivore to arrive on the Australian continent about 5,000 years ago. Since this time, there is clear evidence that two of the biggest native marsupial predators slowly became extinct. These are the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) and Tasmanian devil. These animals are referred to as ‘Tasmanian” because it was only on the island of Tasmania that they survived in recent times. This extinction on the mainland took place because the dingo was a far more efficient hunter/scavenger.  As a result, it quickly out-competed its native counterparts and drove them to extinction. Many other species of Australian animals also became extinct after the arrival of the dingo.

Photo: Dingo pack in Australian grasslands

Dingo's Impact on the Environment Dingoes Play an Important Ecological Role

Dingoes is not a serious threat to the Australian habitat. Some scientists have suggested that it fills an important ecological niche. Being the only large carnivore left on mainland Australia, it helps in keeping the native kangaroo and wallaby populations in balance. This function was once fulfilled by the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) and Tasmanian devil, both of which became extinct on the mainland. Ironically their extinction may have been due to competition from the dingo. More importantly, it also kills other introduced feral animals such as the destructive rabbit, goat, and wild pig.

Dingo Predators & Threats What are Dingo Predators?

An adult dingo has few nature predators. To a lesser extent dingoes, especially young dingoes, are killed by crocodiles and birds of prey.

Humans are the biggest threat to their safety. Considered pests by farmers and pastoralists because they kill domestic livestock, they are frequently poisoned and shot when they venture near these properties.

Dingo Conservation Status Are Dingoes Endangered?

Truly "pure" dingoes are extremely rare. It is estimated that there are between 10,000-50,000 left. Because of interbreeding with domestic dogs and the subsequent dilution of its gene pool, there is a high probability that the "pure" dingo subspecies may become extinct. For this reason, the conservation status of the dingo is listed as vulnerable.

Dingo Attack How Dangerous is a Dingo?

Dingo walking

Photo: Dingo walking in Australian Outback

Humans frequently forget that dingoes are wild animals. Wild means just that — they are unpredictable and behave like the opportunistic, aggressive carnivorous they are. Luckily dingo attacks on humans are very rare.

Dingoes usually hunt other wild animals. However, when food is scarce, or the opportunity arises, they will also hunt and kill livestock such as calves, sheep, lambs, goats, and chickens. This makes them unpopular with farmers and pastoralist. (Contrary to popular folklore, domestic animals such as sheep account for only 1-7% of a dingo's diet). In areas populated by humans, dingoes have been known to kill domestic pets such as cats and dogs.

Dingoes are wild animals that usually keep away from humans. Attacks on humans are very rare but gain much publicity in the media. Where attacks do occur, they are usually a result of human stupidity or carelessness. Dingoes have attacked people who have come too close to them, fed them, or have foolishly tried to pet them. On rare occasions, they have been reported to have attacked young children; seeing them as a food source. Most of the reported dingo attacks in Australia take place on Fraser Island in Queensland. This island is a popular tourist attraction — its main attractions are the dingoes there. Unfortunately, despite all the warning signs, people still do silly, careless things that result in serious injuries to themselves. A German tourist, in 2012 wandered away from his camp-site, got disorientated and fell asleep on a track. He was attacked by dingoes and suffered serious injuries to his head, legs, and arms. In the same year, another man was walking alone on the beach at 10 PM when he too was attacked by four dingoes. A three-year-old toddler was attacked when she wandered away from her parents and into the bushes close by.

Dingo Ate My Baby The Sad Story of Azaria Chamberlain

The most famous case of a dingo attack was that of two-month-old Azaria Chamberlain who, her mother claimed was snatched by a dingo from their camp-site at Uluru in central Australia on 17 August 1980. This case was sensationalised by the media and Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was demonised by the press which propagated the myth that she had killed her baby in some bizarre ritual. Lindy was tried, convicted of murder and jailed. Three years later, Azaria’s blood-stained clothing was discovered near a dingo’s lair with distinct tears most likely caused by a dingo’s claws, fangs, and teeth. A subsequent retrial found Lindy innocent of the murder, but by then her life and that of her family had been irreparably ruined – A clear case of the miscarriage of justice.

How the Dingo Came to Australia Where Did the Dingo Come From?

Photo: Possible route of dingoes to Australia

How the dingo arrived in Australia is not certain. Fossil and other evidence suggest that it first arrived in Australia between 4,600 and 5,400 years ago. The most widely accepted theory is that it was brought to Australia by ancient seafarers from Asia.

Photo: Rock painting of ancient seafarers

While it is commonly referred to as a wild dog, it is believed that its origin is from a semi-domesticated dog from south Asia, a subspecies of the grey-wolf. It is also suggested that, given the lack of much genetic variation amongst the dingo population today, the entire population may well have sprung up from a single pregnant animal brought on an ancient vessel. Its close resemblance to the Asian wolf and native dogs found in many parts of Asia suggest that its origin was in Asia, possibly Thailand.

The dingo did not make it to Tasmania or other outlying islands off the coast of mainland Australia further confirming that it arrived after these islands were separated by rising sea waters which occurred between 8-12,000 years ago.

Is the Dingo a Native or Introduced Australian Animal? Are Dingoes Native to Australia?

There is some controversy as to whether the dingo is an Australian native animal or not. The reason for this is because, unlike other native Australian animals that have been here millions of years and are therefore indigenous to Australia, the dingo was brought to Australia only about 5,000 years ago.

The general rule of thumb is that any animal that has been in Australia before the arrival of humans is considered a native animal. Animals such as the kangaroo have been in Australia for millions of years and are unquestionably native. The dingo, on the other hand, which considered native by some, was only brought to Australia by humans about 5,000 years ago. It was certainly not native or indigenous to Australia.

Introduced Animals of Australia

Dingoes and the Aborigines A Dog – Man's Best Friend?

Photo: Aborigines with their dingo pets

Archaeological evidence suggests that a close relationship existed between Aboriginal people and dingoes soon after the initial arrival of these animals on the Australian mainland. They were an important new technology for the Aboriginals and were rapidly incorporated into their societies and culture. Dingoes were used as companions, protectors and as hunting dogs. Many dogs were even named as the “good kangaroo dog” or the “good goanna dog”. They were also used to provide warmth at night being used as hot water bottles while sleeping next to people. The coldness of a night was sometimes described as a two, three or even four dog night. When European first arrived in 1778, they observed tamed dingoes living in Aboriginal communities. Some have suggested that dingoes became truly wild (feral if you like) as a consequence of the collapse of Aboriginal societies in Australia after European settlement.

Dingoes as Pets Can You Have a Pet Dingo?

Dingoes are very rarely kept as pets because they are hard to train. Also, given the animal's unpredictable and roaming nature, these animals need a lot of space and vigilance to be kept satisfactorily in captivity. The rules for owning a dingo vary from state to state. Victoria and the Northern Territory require a permit to own a dingo. New South Wales and Western Australia do not require a license to do so. It is illegal to own a dingo in Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia.

Dingo Fence Longest Fence in the World

The dingo proof fence stretches 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi) from Darling Downs in Queensland to Nundroo in South Australia. It is one of the longest man-made structures in the world. It was built between 1880 and 1885 to protect pastoral animals such and sheep and cattle from dingo attacks. The fence is believed to have been successful because there are hardly any dingoes to the south of this fence where most of the productive grazing land is.

However, recent research using satellite imagery has shown that where dingoes have been excluded from an environment, kangaroo numbers increase, which can lead to overgrazing. An increase in the number of feral foxes has also been observed.

25 Dingo Facts

  1. Dingoes are wild dogs of Australia.
  2. They look like domestic dogs, but they are wild and can be dangerous.
  3. Dingoes are about half a meter tall and weigh up to 25kgs.
  4. They are lean, smart and agile animals.
  5. They can run short distances at up to 60kph, leaping 2m and can travel up to 40km in a day.
  6. The male is larger than the female.
  7. Dingoes living in hotter climates have short soft red/yellow fur.
  8. Those living in colder regions have more fur and are almost white.
  9. Dingoes rarely attack humans, but it does happen from time to time.
  10. There have been over 300 dingo attacks on humans since 1996. A few have been fatal.
  11. Dingoes are Australia's apex predator.
  12. Native apex predators, such as the Tasmanian tiger and Tasmanian Devil, become extinct because of the dingo.
  13. Dingoes are placental mammals, unlike most other Australian mammals.
  14. This is because they were brought from Asia sailors about 5000 years ago.
  15. The word "dingo" is a native Aboriginal name for this animal.
  16. The dingo's head is the broadest part of its body.
  17. It have pointy ears that it can rotate backwards.
  18. They hardly bark at all.
  19. The dingo has flexible wrists, like humans. It can also turn its head 180 degrees, twice as much as a human.
  20. Dingoes usual travel and hunt in packs.
  21. They don't like immersing themselves in water.
  22. Most dingoes will only wade water.
  23. They will not swim.
  24. You can own a dingo as a pet in some states in Australia. But it is not the smartest idea.
  25. The 5,600km dingo-proof fence is longer than the Great Wall of China.