The dingo (plural dingoes or dingos), Canis lupus dingo, is a type of wild dog, probably descended from the Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). It is commonly described as an Australian wild dog, but is not restricted to Australia, nor did it originate there. It originated in Africa. Modern dingoes are found throughout Southeast Asia, mostly in small pockets of remaining natural forest. They are found on the mainland Australia, particularly in the north. They have features in common with both wolves and modern dogs, and are regarded as more or less unchanged descendants of an early ancestor of modern dogs.
At between 22.05 and 52.91 lb (10 and 24 kg), dingoes are a little smaller than wolves of the northern hemisphere and have a lean, athletic build. They stand between 17.32 and 24.8 in (44 and 63 cm) high at the shoulder, and the head-body length varies between 33.86 and 48.03 in (86 and 122 cm). Color varies but is usually ginger. Some have a reddish tinge, others are more sandy yellow, and some are even black. The underside is lighter. Alpine dingoes are found in high elevation areas of the Australian Alps, and grow a second thicker coat during late autumn for warmth that usually sheds by mid to late spring. Most dingoes have white markings on the chest, feet, and the tip of the tail. Some have a blackish muzzle. They can live for up to 14 years in captivity, but have a more usual lifespan of 3 to 7 years.
Unlike the domestic dog, dingoes breed only once a year. They generally do not bark, and have erect ears. They have a more independent temperament than domestic dogs. Their skull is distinctive, with a narrower muzzle, larger auditory bullae, larger canine teeth, and a domed head. They are extremely agile and are known to climb trees.
Wild dingoes prey on a variety of animals, mostly small or medium-sized, but also larger herbivores at need. They are opportunistic carnivores, taking prey ranging in size from lizards and small rodents up to sheep and kangaroos.
Dingoes do not generally form packs. They more often travel in pairs or small family groups. However, they are capable of forming larger packs to hunt cooperatively. While dingo groups use defined home territories, these territories can overlap with those of other groups.
Domestication is possible only if the dingoes are taken into captivity as young pups.
Relationship with humans
Aboriginal people across the continent adopted the dingo as a companion animal, using it to assist with hunting and for warmth on cold nights. When European settlers first arrived in Australia, dingoes were tolerated, even welcomed at times. That changed rapidly when sheep became an important part of the white economy. Dingoes were trapped, shot on sight, and poisoned.
As a result of interbreeding with dogs introduced by European settlers, the purebred dingo gene pool is being swamped. By the early 1990s, about a third of all wild dingoes in the southeast of the continent were dingo/domestic dog crosses.
Although protection within Federal National Parks, World Heritage areas, Aboriginal reserves, and the Australian Capital Territory is available for dingoes, they are at the same time classified as a pest in other areas.