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What is a Dingo?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A dingo is a wild dog of the species canis lupus dingo thought to be related to the wolf. Dingoes share some traits with wolves and others with domestic dogs. The animal is widely associated with Australia, but is not indigenous to the country. It can also be found in Southeast Asia.

This species often has a golden tone to its coat, although some may be more reddish. White areas on the tip of the tail, feet, and chest are common. Some Southeast Asian dingoes may be black, and dogs of this color are far more common in Asia than Australia. The dingo has a larger head and teeth and a thinner muzzle than the domestic dog.

Dingoes usually live in packs of up to 15 dogs, but may also live by themselves. They are said to be less social than domestic dogs. Dingoes mostly eat small prey such as mice, birds, rabbits, and lizards, but may also eat larger animals including sheep, deer, and kangaroos. Most animals are quite flexible, and can often climb trees. Unlike domestic dogs, dingoes mate only yearly. The average litter is five pups.

Also unlike a domestic dog, dingoes don't bark, but they do howl like wolves. Hybrid dingoes, which are those that were crossed with domestic dogs, are fairly common in Australia. Many experts say that purebreds can only be domesticated when they are puppies, and some Australian states have laws that ban keeping dingoes as pets.

Dingoes are wild animals, so people who come face-to-face with one should not make eye contact at all, according to experts, but look down at the ground. It's also important for the person to stop moving. The dingo may leave if it feels no threat, but could approach and sniff the trespasser. In many cases, they will be scared off by a loud noise.

The Eora people of early Australia kept dingoes as companion animals to help them in hunting. European settlers began killing these wild dogs when they interfered with sheepherding. The Dingo Fence was built in the 1880s to protect Queensland sheep from the animals, but it did not wipe out the species. So many Australian dingoes breed with domestic dogs that purebreds are becoming increasingly rare, however.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By momothree — On Nov 08, 2010

@boathugger: Yes, unfortunately, that is true. On August 17, 1980, Lindy Chamberlain, her husband Michael, and their t 3 children were camping in Australia’s Northern Territory. Lindy’s 10 week old daughter was asleep in their tent. Lindy heard a cry and went to check on the baby and a dingo was leaving the area with something in its mouth. The baby was gone.

In 1982, Lindy was found guilty of killing her daughter. She started her life sentence in prison. In 1986, a piece of the missing baby’s clothing was found near a dingo den in Ayers Rock. Lindy was released from prison and it was determined that a dingo, did indeed, eat her baby.

The 1988 film “A Cry in the Dark” was based on the true events of the family’s tragedy.

By BoatHugger — On Nov 08, 2010

Didn't a dingo eat a human baby many years ago?

By medicchristy — On Nov 08, 2010

@alex94: People have tried to domesticate dingoes as they are very intelligent animals. However, because of their longing for independence, they are more difficult to train. Dingoes also have larger canine teeth than domestic dogs.

By CarrotIsland — On Nov 08, 2010

@alex94: Dingoes have very unique wrists. They are capable of rotation. This allows dingoes to use their paws like hands meaning they can turn door knobs. Their ability to go where other canines can’t go means that they create more problems for humans.

A dingo can turn its head almost 180 degrees in each direction. They also have permanently erect ears. The males are larger than the females. Males weigh between 26 to 43 pounds and the females weigh between 21 to 35 pounds.

By alex94 — On Nov 08, 2010

Great article on dingoes. I need a little more information because I am doing a report on dingoes. Can anyone help me out?

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