While your faithful furry friend loves cuddles, playtime, and even going to doggie daycare, his wild cousins are amongst the world’s most dangerous predators, second only to the big cats of the wild. Wild dog (canid) species are found worldwide, in forests, deserts, and arctic locations, on every continent except Antarctica.
There are, in all, thirty-six species of wild canid worldwide. They are built for endurance as opposed to speed, and kills are most often made by grabbing the prey and shaking it to break the neck. While meat is an intrinsic part of their diet, most are in fact omnivorous and many live and hunt in packs.
Wild dogs are characterised by long legs, long pointed snouts, and padded feet with five toes on each front foot and four on each back foot. Their claws do not retract. They have excellent sight and hearing skills, and communication between pack members takes the form of growls, howls, barks, and yelps.
Some wild dog species include:
Wolf – the Grey Wolf is the largest canid species, native to the wilderness areas of Eurasia and North America. There are thirty-nine sub-species of the wolf which include the Arctic, Red, Eastern, African, Arabian, and Indian wolf, and all domestic dog breeds originate from the common ancestor, the Eurasian Grey Wolf.
Dingo – this medium-sized wild dog is found in Australia’s desert and grasslands, as well as, famously, on Queensland’s Fraser Island. It is also closely related to the New Guinea Singing Dog. A descendant of domestic dogs brought to the Australian continent thousands of years ago, it is Australia’s largest land-dwelling predator and it is currently vulnerable to extinction in the wild due to interbreeding with domestic dogs.
Coyote – closely related to the Grey Wolf, the coyote is a medium-sized wild dog that is renowned throughout North America for its excellent senses of smell and vision. It has evolved as a predator but has adapted better to human civilisation than most wild dogs. They scavenge and are a threat to livestock.
Maned Wolf – this unusual wolf is native to South America and lives in scrub and grasslands.
Dhole – this wild dog is widespread from Russia through the Himalayas to Java. It lives in forests and grasslands and is a pack hunter, existing mostly on a diet of herbivorous mammals. It has fewer teeth and more teats than most dogs and whistles as opposed to howling or barking. Many of these endangered wild dogs live in India.
African Wild Dog – this is a very social hunting dog which lives in the Saharan region of Africa. It lives in packs and is the most efficient hunter of antelope among all animals.
Jackal – otherwise known as an Old World Coyote, the jackal has three sub-species and is both a predator and a scavenger. It is native to Africa.
Fox – unlike canids, foxes are vulpes. They are not pack-animals, but rather are solitary and share a lot of commonalities with cats. There are forty-five recognised subspecies of the red fox, found in the Northern Hemisphere and Australia. Other foxes include the Kit Fox (US and Mexico), the Arctic Fox, the Fennec Fox (Sahara) and the Island Fox.
Raccoon Dog – neither a wolf nor a fox, the raccoon dog has no genetic relationship to a raccoon but does look like one. It is more closely related to your domestic dog than a hyena and is farmed for its fur in its homelands of Eastern Asia.
Short-Eared Dog – this elusive dog is unique to the Amazonian Basin in South America. It is a very mysterious wild dog.
Bush Dog – these rare carnivorous bush dogs live in the lowland forests of Peru, Guyana, and Suriname.
The world of dogs, both wild and domestic, is truly fascinating. Which is your favourite?