AppearanceDomestic and pariah dogs in southern Asia share so many characteristics with Australian dingoes that they are also now considered to be members of the same taxon ''Canis lupus dingo'', a particular subspecies of ''Canis lupus''. While the relationship with humans varies widely among these animals, they are all quite similar in terms of physical features.
A dingo has a relatively broad head, a pointed muzzle, and erect ears. Eye colour varies from yellow over orange to brown. Compared to other similarly sized ''familiaris'' dogs, dingoes have longer muzzles, larger carnassials, longer canine teeth, and flatter skulls with larger nuchal lines.
The average Australian dingo is 52 to 60 cm tall at the shoulders and measures 117 to 154 cm from nose to tail tip. The average weight is 13 to 20 kg; however, there are a few records of outsized dingoes weighing up to 27 to 35 kg.
Males are typically larger and heavier than females of the same age. Dingoes from northern and northwestern Australia are larger than central and southern populations. Australian dingoes are invariably heavier than Asian ones. The legs are about half the length of the body and the head put together. The hind feet make up a third of the hind legs and have no dewclaws. Dingoes can have sabre-form tails or tails carried directly on the back.
DistributionIt is only possible to give a crude description of the dingo's distribution area and the accordant population density. It is difficult to give an exact assessment of the distribution of dingoes and other domestic dogs, since the exact extent of interbreeding between the two is not known.
StatusThe dingo is the largest terrestrial predator in Australia, and plays an important role as an apex predator. However, the dingo is seen as a pest by sheep farmers due to frequent attacks on livestock. Conversely, their predation on rabbits, kangaroos, and rats is of benefit to cattle ranchers.
BehaviorLike all domestic dogs, dingoes tend towards phonetic communication, the difference being that they howl and whimper more and bark less. Eight sound classes with 19 sound types have been identified. Growling is seen to make up 65% of the vocalisations, and is used in an agonistic context for dominance and as a defensive sound. Similar to many domestic dogs, a reactive usage of defensive growling could only be rarely observed. Growling very often occurs in combination with other sounds, and was observed almost exclusively in swooshing noises .
Aside from vocal communication, dingoes communicate like all domestic dogs via scent marking specific objects or places using chemical signals from their urine, feces, and scent glands. Males scent-mark more frequently than females, especially during the mating season. They also scent-rub, whereby a dog rolls on its neck, shoulders, or back on something that is usually associated with food or the scent markings of other dogs.
Unlike wolves, dingoes can react to social cues and gestures from humans. Dingoes tend to be nocturnal in warmer regions, but less so in cooler areas. Their main time of activity is around dusk and dawn. The periods of activity are short with short times of resting. They have two kinds of movement: a searching movement, apparently associated with hunting, and an exploratory movement, probably for contact and communication with other dogs.
HabitatA dingo's habitat ranges from deserts to grasslands and the edges of forests. Dingoes will normally make their dens in deserted rabbit holes and hollow logs not too far from an essential supply of water.
ReproductionDingoes breed once annually, depending on the estrus cycle of the females, which according to most sources, only come in heat once per year. Dingo females can come in heat twice per year, but can only be pregnant once a year, with the second time only seeming to be pregnant.
FoodAbout 170 species have been identified as being part of the dingo diet. In general, livestock seems to make up only a small proportion of their diets. In continent-wide examinations, 80% of the diet of wild dogs consisted of 10 species: red kangaroo, swamp wallaby, cattle, dusky rat, magpie goose, common brushtail possum, long-haired rat, agile wallaby, European rabbit and the common wombat.
PredatorsIt is documented that dingoes in captivity have survived for up to 24 years.
The main cause of death for dingoes is being killed by humans, crocodiles, and dogs, including other dingoes. Other causes of death include starvation and dehydration during times of drought or after strong bush fires, infanticide, snake bites, killing of cubs by wedge-tailed eagles, and injuries caused by cattle and buffalo.
Dingoes are susceptible to the same diseases as domestic dogs. At present, 38 species of parasites and pathogens have been detected in Australian dingoes. The bulk of these diseases have a minimal influence on their survival. The exceptions include canine distemper, hookworms, and heart worms in North Australia and southeastern Queensland. Dingo pups can also be killed by lungworms, whipworms, hepatitis, coccidiosis, lice, and ticks.
Sarcoptic mange is a widespread parasitic disease among the dingoes of Australia, but is seldom debilitating. Free-roaming dogs are the primary host of Echinococcosis and have an infection rate of 70 to 90%.
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