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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 10:25 EDT

Short-eared Dog, Atelocynus microtis

The short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis) is a species of canid that is native to the Amazonian basin. This species is the only one in its genus and is also known as the short-eared zorro and the short-eared fox. Its range includes Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. It prefers a habitat in many areas of the rainforests in its range, mainly where there is little human disturbance. These areas include lowland forests, swamp forests, and terra firme forests. This species has many local names including the Spanish names zorro ojizarco and zorro sabanero and the Portuguese name cachorro-do-mato-de-orelha-curta. Although the short-eared dog resembles the bush dog in appearance, it is not closely related to any wolf like or fox like canids. It is thought to be most closely related to the crab-eating Fox, and holds two subspecies.

The short-eared dog resembles a fox, with an elongated nose and legs and a bushy tail. It reaches an average height of up to eleven inches at the shoulder, with a weight between 19.8 and 22 pounds.  It reaches an average body length of 39.3 inches, with a tail length between 11.8 and 13.7 inches. Females are typically larger than males. Its short fur can range from reddish brown to dark brown in color, with hues of dark blue, light brown, and grey.  The tail commonly bares a white streak of fur. Although this species is a canid, it moves with the grace of a cat. As is typical with canid species, it has forty-two teeth, which stick out from its mouth even when closed.

Unlike most other species of canids, the short-eared dog prefers to live alone. When breeding season arrives, males will use a scent gland located on the tail to scent the area around him. When males become agitated, they will raise the fur on their neck and back. The reproduction habits of this species are unknown, but it is thought that young reach sexual maturity at one year of age. The diet of the short-eared dog consists of small mammals, fish, and insects.

The short-eared dog competes with many species for food including the ocelot, cougar, jaguar, giant otter, and margay. Its range is shared with that of the bush dog, and it competes with that species for territory. Although the short-eared dog is not often hunted, it is threatened by diseases that feral dogs can carry such as rabies and distemper. Other major threats include habitat destruction. Although there is not much information regarding the short-eared dog, it does appear on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Near Threatened.”

Image Caption: Photo of a rare Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis) taken at Refugio Amazonas in Peru. Credit: Wink Gross/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Short-eared Dog Atelocynus microtis