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What Is the Egyptian Jackal?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The Egyptian jackal is an animal native to Egypt and was thought to be a little-known subspecies of the golden jackal. In recent times, however, genetic analysis has proved that the jackal is actually a member of the gray wolf family. The species, known as Canis aureus lupaster, is not really a jackal at all but is more closely related to the Himalayan wolf. Now renamed as the African wolf, the Egyptian jackal is Africa's only wolf belonging to the gray wolf family.

The jackal is a well-known character in Egyptian mythology and holds great significance. Anubis, the God connected with mummification and burial rituals, has a head that bears a close resemblance to the jackal. He is often portrayed as having a black head with long ears and a pointed muzzle in many drawings. Though the jackal has had such a powerful influence in Egyptian mythology, in reality, this animal's numbers are quite low. Excessive hunting has reduced its numbers to the extent of it being considered an endangered species.

Looking like a fairly large dog in appearance, the Egyptian jackal has a reclusive nature and travels by itself or in pairs. Its diet consists of various domesticated animals, though some live on fish found in shallow waters. These animals are nocturnal and often take shelter in crevices and caves when on the move. They are larger in size when compared to other jackal species, and their skull shape is very similar to that of the Indian wolf.

Genetic research has shed more light onto the history of the Egyptian jackal, bringing forth more clarity. Previously, scientists were divided as to whether the animal was a wolf or a jackal because of certain physical characteristics. The research has confirmed that the Egyptian jackal, or the African wolf, has origins that are more ancient than wolves found in the northern hemisphere. The jackal is actually a type of wolf that broke off from the gray wolf family before they migrated to different countries.

There is some confusion as to whether this new wolf should be classified as a subspecies of the gray wolf or if it should be given the status of a unique species. Gray wolves are found in the Americas, northern parts of Asia, and Europe. The Egyptian jackal is the only wolf belonging to the gray wolf family to be found in the African continent. The revelation as to its true nature has caught the attention of conservationists because the animal is unprotected by law in Egypt at the time of this article's writing. It is hardly seen in the wild because it is hunted down as a pest that endangers livestock.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Egyptian Jackal?

The Egyptian Jackal, once thought to be a subspecies of the golden jackal, is actually a grey wolf (Canis lupus) and is now known as the African wolf. Genetic studies revealed its true identity, showing that it is more closely related to the Holarctic grey wolf than to the golden jackal.

Where can the Egyptian Jackal be found?

The Egyptian Jackal, or African wolf, is found in North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Its range extends from Egypt in the north, through Libya, Chad, and Tanzania, to Ethiopia and Somalia in the east. It inhabits a variety of habitats, including arid deserts, savannas, and grasslands.

How does the Egyptian Jackal differ from other jackal species?

While initially classified as a jackal, the Egyptian Jackal differs genetically, as it is a lineage of the grey wolf. Morphologically, it resembles other jackals, but genetic analysis has shown that it is more closely related to wolves. This distinction is crucial for understanding its behavior, ecology, and conservation needs.

What does the Egyptian Jackal eat?

The Egyptian Jackal, or African wolf, has a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and carrion. It is an opportunistic feeder, which means it can adapt its diet based on the availability of food sources in its environment, sometimes also consuming fruits and vegetables.

Is the Egyptian Jackal endangered?

The conservation status of the Egyptian Jackal, now recognized as the African wolf, is not well-defined due to its recent reclassification. However, like many wild canids, it faces threats from habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and persecution. Conservation efforts are important to ensure its survival, with ongoing studies to better understand its population status.

How does the reclassification of the Egyptian Jackal impact conservation efforts?

The reclassification of the Egyptian Jackal to the African wolf has significant implications for conservation. It highlights the need for updated conservation strategies that consider the species' wolf-like characteristics and behaviors. Protecting its habitat and mitigating human-wildlife conflict are now priorities to preserve this unique canid's genetic lineage and ecological role.

AllThingsNature 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.

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