South American grey fox (Lycalopex griseus), resting near the Miscanti y Miniques Lakes, Atacama, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dogs were first tamed at least 30,000 years ago, when Stone Age people trained wolves to assist them in hunting. Since then, the dog has been the most valuable companion of Man within the animal kingdom. – This woman is walking her dog on a beach at Mendocino, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A greeting ceremony among adult African hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus) strengthens the bond between the members of the pack. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Samoyed originated among nomadic Samoyed people in Siberia, to pull sledges and to help herding reindeer. Today, it is a very popular family dog in the West. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
There are three species of jackals, distributed in Africa and Eurasia. This picture shows a yawning black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The dog family (Canidae), comprising about 35 species, includes domestic dogs, wolves, jackals, hunting dogs, foxes, and many other dog-like animals. About 50 million years ago, a group of carnivores split into two groups, the cat-like Feliformia and the dog-like Caniformia. The latter evolved into a large number of families, of which the Canidae, about 12 mio. years ago, split into three groups, Canini, which includes wolf-like dogs and South American dogs and foxes; Vulpini, which includes typical foxes, the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), and the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides); and finally two foxes of the genus Urocyon, which seem to have split out at a very early stage (Lindblad-Toh et al. 2005). Modern taxonomists do not include these two species in Canini or Vulpini.
The grey fox (U. cinereoargenteus) and its close relative, the island fox (U. littoralis), seem to form the most ancient clade within the dog family. While the latter is restricted to 6 of the 8 Californian Channel Islands, the grey fox is widely distributed, from southern Canada south through Central America to Columbia and Venezuela.
The grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is common among the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sleeping grey fox, Tucson Desert Zoo, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wolf genus (Canis)
Besides the grey wolf and the domestic dog, the wolf genus (Canis) contains the golden wolf (C. anthus), the Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis), the Himalayan wolf (C. himalayensis), the coyote (C. latrans), and three species of jackal, golden (C. aureus), black-backed (C. mesomelas), and side-striped (C. adustus).
Wall painting in the Death Temple of Queen Hatsepsut, Luxor, showing Anubis, the Egyptian god of embalming, who is often depicted with the head of a jackal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
The grey wolf, or simply wolf, is widespread in Europe, Arabia, the Middle East, and northern parts of Asia, as well as in North America. About 37 subspecies are recognized, some of which may merit specific status. The total number of wolves is estimated at 300,000.
Despite being a subject of hatred throughout the world, the wolf is an iconic animal, which is often depicted. This truck in Cariari, Costa Rica, is decorated with a painting, depicting a wolf, a sun, and – a truck. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In this former wolf trap in Ladakh, north-western India, a goat or a sheep would be tied as bait. Once the wolf jumped inside to kill the animal, it was unable to climb out again, whereupon the villagers would stone it to death. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Mexican wolf (C. lupus ssp. baileyi) is the most endangered North American subspecies of the grey wolf. It was extirpated in the wild in the United States around 1950 due to a combination of hunting, trapping, poisoning, and digging out pups from dens. In 1976, the American and Mexican authorities collaborated to capture all Mexican wolves remaining in the wild. Four males and one pregnant female were captured alive to initiate a captive breeding program. In 1998, captive-bred Mexican wolves were released into suitable areas in Arizona and New Mexico. As it turned out, this program was a success, and in 2017 there were 143 of these endangered wolves living in the wild, and 240 in captivity (Nie 2003, Heffelfinger et al. 2017).
Mexican wolf (Canis lupus ssp. baileyi), photographed in Tucson Desert Zoo, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Domestic dog (Canis lupus ssp. familiaris)
The domestic dog is variously regarded as a subspecies of the wolf, called C. lupus ssp. familiaris, or as a separate species, C. familiaris. The domestication of the dog is dealt with in detail elsewhere on this website, see Animals: Animals as servants of Man. Below, a number of pictures show pictures of various dog breeds, of Man’s usage of dogs, and of dog behaviour.
Neolithic people domesticated the dog to assist them when hunting, and possibly also during warfare. This Bronze Age rock carving at Fossum, Bohuslän, Sweden, may depict men in battle, accompanied by dogs. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Iban hunting dog, Sarawak, Borneo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Up until around the 1990s, Iban hunting dogs were still used by the indigenous Dayak tribes of Borneo as companions during hunting. This picture from 1975 shows Punan tribals, travelling by canoe with their dogs. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Copulating paria dogs, Puri, Odisha (Orissa), India. When mating, the head of the penis begins to swell, making it impossible for the male dog to withdraw his organ. Male and bitch may be attached to each other for up to 30 minutes, which is called the tie phenomenon. This prevents other males from mating with the bitch, and thus greatly enhances the chances that this particular male’s semen will fertilize the eggs. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The gestation period of dogs varies between 58 and 68 days, depending on size. Pups can be weaned after app. 8 weeks, but pups of stray dogs, like this one in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, probably suckle much longer, if their mother allows them. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Paria dog, sleeping with her pups in a basket, Bodhgaya, Bihar, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A boy and his dog, watching rounding-up of sheep, near Akureyri, Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The art of relaxation! – Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Initially, the Labrador retriever was bred as a working dog, helping fishermen from Labrador to haul nets, fetch ropes, and retrieve fish from the chilly North Atlantic. Today, it is a popular family dog.
During a Taiwanese Daoist festival, dedicated to the Mother Goddess Mazu, pilgrims often walk for days, from temple to temple. This Labrador, joining his master, is well equipped for the journey. – Read more about Daoism elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Daoism in Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the wake of the deadly 1998-hurricane ‘Mitch’, huge amounts of rain fell in Central America between October 29 and November 3 – unofficial reports say 1,900 millimetres. This picture from Todos Santos, Guatemala, taken during this hurricane, shows a drenched dog, smeared in mud. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The dachshund comes in three forms: smooth-coated, long-haired, and wire-haired. Initially, this short-legged breed was developed to chase foxes and badgers out of their dens, for the hunter to shoot them. In America, they have also been used to chase prairie dogs out of their dens.
This smooth-coated dachshund, resting on a sidewalk in the city of Taichung, Taiwan, is so lazy that it doesn’t even bother to raise its head when barking at me. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wire-haired dachshund, resting among dandelions (Taraxacum vulgare), Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sleeping wire-haired dachshund pups, 3 weeks old. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This wire-haired dachshund pup goes exploring among dandelions (Taraxacum vulgare). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These long-haired dachshunds are warmly dressed as a protection against the Taiwanese ‘winter cold’. The temperature was around 20 degrees Centigrade! – Taroko National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This dog in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China, may have some Tibetan spaniel genes, and probably also some Pekingese, due to its very prominent lower jaw. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dipávali, or Tihar, popularly called Festival of Lights, is a very important Hindu festival, which lasts five days. The second day, Kukur Puja, is dedicated to the dog, which plays an important role in Hinduism, as it guides the souls of the deceased to the god of death, Yama, for judgement. In the morning, the family places a red tika mark on the forehead of the dog, and a malla (a garland of marigolds) is draped around its neck. The dog is worshipped with incense, whereupon huge amounts of food are presented to it, before the family itself eat breakfast.
This dog in the village of Sauraha, southern Nepal, has been adorned during the Dipávali festival. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dogs have very few sweat glands, primarily on the paw pads, and they get rid of excess heat by panting, as this beagle, encountered in Chingshuian Recreation Area, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This golden retriever obviously enjoys being groomed on its stomach. – Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Well-dressed dog, sleeping on a sidewalk, Bangkok, Thailand. I don’t know what its owner was thinking, because the temperature was around 30o Centigrade! The snout is just protruding to the left. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world, standing only up to 30 centimetres high and weighing between 1.5 and 3 kilograms. This breed first evolved in Mexico, apparently descended from a breed called Techichi, which was a popular dog among the Toltec people.
This wooden Chihuahua is used in a puppet show, performed by Phuket Marionette, a Thai puppet marionette group. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Little dogs, enjoying the evening sun on a bench, Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common stray dogs of Taiwan, called Taiwan dogs, or sometimes Takasago dogs, are a result of the indigenous Formosan hunting dogs interbreeding with imported dog types. Taiwan dogs are usually black or brown, or a mixture of the two.
Taiwan pups, about four weeks old. The colour of the bitch clearly shows that it has a lot of Formosan hunting dog genes. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During Chinese New Year, a red scarf has been tied around the neck of this c. 12-week-old Taiwan dog. A red envelope, on which is written ‘wang-wang’, is fastened to it. The red colour of the envelope, as well as the text, denotes well-wishing. At the same time, ‘wang-wang’ is an imitation of a dog’s barking. – Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wall painting, depicting a hunter with a Formosan hunting dog and a bagged wild boar (Sus scrofa), artwork of the Atayal tribe Tian Gou (‘Heavenly Dog’), Dongshih, Taiwan. – More pictures of Taiwanese indigenous art are found elsewhere on this website, see Culture: Folk art of Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
By September, this herding dog, living near Lake Tso Kar, Ladakh, India, had still not shed its fur from the previous winter, giving it a rather ragged appearance. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These girls, dressed in their finery for a dancing performance at a Hindu temple festival near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, are being thoroughly inspected by a dog. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Taiwan, in late April or early May, the mu oil tree (Vernicia montana), in everyday speech called tong tree, displays an abundance of pretty white flowers. The slightest puff of wind makes tong flowers fall from the trees by the hundreds, gradually covering the ground as a delicate white carpet. – Read more about the mu oil tree elsewhere on this website, see Plants: When the tong tree is flowering.
Dogs, resting on a delicate white carpet of fallen flowers from the mu oil tree (Vernicia montana), Sanyi, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This dog in Upshi, Ladakh, north-western India, has found a peaceful resting place, next to a huge Tibetan prayer wheel. Inside this wheel are sheets of paper with written mantras. When turned, the prayer wheel will disperse these mantras into the Universe, for the benefit of Mankind. – Read more about prayer wheels, and about Buddhism in general, elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Buddhism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Saint Bernard dog, peeping through a gap in a hoarding, Bornholm, Denmark. This famous breed is of enormous size, originating in the western part of the Alps, around the Great and Little St. Bernard Passes, where it was utilized to rescue people buried in snow, or otherwise in need of help. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This house wall in the village of Saint Rhémy, Aosta Valley, northern Italy, has been adorned with a carving, depicting a Saint Bernard dog and an edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum). Despite being rather non-descript, this plant is one of the most beloved flowers of the Alps and the Balkans, and is a national symbol of several countries: Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Chinese pug is known to be a sociable and loving companion dog. As its name implies, it was developed in China, but it arrived in Europe as early as the 16th Century. – This picture is from Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Samoyed, watching its own shadow, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Artsy food: Dog, made from sticky rice, Puli, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Border terrier pup, surrounded by fallen leaves of sweet cherry (Prunus avium). This mall terrier was bred to accompany hunters on horseback. They were big enough to keep up with the horses and small enough to enter burrows of foxes and chase them out for the hunters to shoot. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sculpture, depicting a happy dog with a pup, Wenara Wana Temple (popularly called ‘Monkey Forest’), Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The eye colour of dogs is usually brown, whereas the wolf often has yellow eyes. Occasionally, dogs with blue or whitish eyes are seen, and this one in Kathmandu, Nepal, has a brown and a whitish eye. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young dogs, enjoying life on the crater rim of Gunung Rinjani Volcano, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Paria dog, watching life from a doorway, Varanasi, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Accompanied by her pup, this young Gurung woman supplies her income by selling apples to tourists, passing by her village in the Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This man transports his old – and overweight – golden retriever on his scooter, Fangliao, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Small dog, looking out from a carved wooden window opening, Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Usually, dogs and cats are sworn enemies, but if they grow up together, like this cat and wire-haired dachshund, they can be the best of friends. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A very small watch-dog in the village of Braga, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This miniature pinscher in Taitung, Taiwan, is warmly dressed as a protection against the ‘winter cold’. The temperature was around 17o Centigrade! (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
At dawn, these paria dogs are still asleep at the shore of the Ganges River, Varanasi, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This sign in Bühlertal, Schwarzwald, Germany, reads as follows: “Watch out! Free-running dog. Postman 5, Burglars 3, Cats 6.” (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During a research trip to the Chukotka Peninsula, north-eastern Siberia, my companions and I visited the staff of a light house, situated at the tip of Kosa Ruskaya Koshka (‘Russian Cat’s Sandspit’). – Read more about our trip to Chukotka elsewhere on this website, see Travel episodes: Siberia 2011 – Caterpillar trip in Chukotka.
This English springer spaniel, which belongs to the staff of the lighthouse, goes exploring in the surrounding wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
For a long time, this golden retriever in Reedsport, Oregon, watched a confiding Townsend’s chipmunk (Eutamias townsendii), later sniffing it without harming it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Several dogs stayed outside this bakery shop in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey. This one looks well-fed, so it must have had its share once in a while! (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Paria dog, sleeping with its head sticking out through a hole in a wall, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Despite barking ferociously, this dog in Wushe Fishing Harbour, north-eastern Taiwan, shows a friendly attitude by wagging its tail. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
When playing, pups learn many skills. – Gyantse, Tibet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Many dogs are quite intelligent and can learn many tricks. – Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This poster in the city of Taichung, Taiwan, advertising sugarcane drink, depicts a bulldog, pulling a cart full of sugarcane. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) was sitting peacefully in a wet fallow field near Pokhara, Nepal, next to the remains of a dead cow, when a dog suddenly attacked it. The vulture rolled onto its back to defend itself with its sharp talons. The dog tore a bit at the vulture’s wingtip, but soon withdrew. The vulture suffered no injuries, and a few moments later it was again resting near the carcass. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Stray dogs are ubiquitous in the city of Shigatse, Tibet. These are resting in an alley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Friends. – Zebu calf, sniffing a paria dog, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This woman in the city of Taichung is walking her four small dogs, Taiwanese style. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
I was here! – Imprints of a dog’s pads on drying laundry, Ganges River, Varanasi, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tibetan mastiff, guarding outside a road-side restaurant, Trisuli Valley, central Nepal. This large dog breed was developed by Tibetan herders to protect their sheep and goats from being attacked by various predators, such as snow leopards and wolves. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
I asked the owner of this little terrier in Taichung, Taiwan, why it was wearing sunglasses. She said that it was to prevent the dog from getting cataract. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A huge dog guarantees that nothing evil will happen to this elderly man and his grandchild, living in the village of Lata, Uttarakhand, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Chow-Chow evolved in northern China, or perhaps Central Asia, around 2,000 years ago. In Chinese, it is called 鬆獅犬, which means ‘puffy lion-dog’. This breed is famous for its blue tongue. – Lugang, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This paria dog in Varanasi, India, is almost hairless due to a severe attack of sarcoptic mange. This disease is caused by a certain type of mites of the species Sarcoptes scabiei, which tunnel through the skin, causing intense itching. The hair loss mainly stems from the dog scratching itself to relieve the irritation. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Doberman pinschers, about one year old, Mysore, Karnataka, India. This breed originated in Germany, developed around 1890. If well trained, they can become loving family dogs, but on the other hand, there has been a number of incidents, in which Dobermans were mauling children. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dogs, hoping to get tidbits from pilgrims, who visit the huge Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse, Tibet. – Read more about this great stupa elsewhere on this website, see Travel episodes: Tibet 1987 – Tibetan summer. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Erosion from sea and wind has shaped the soft Daliao Sandstone rocks in Yeliou Geopark, northern Taiwan, creating fantastic formations. – More pictures of these formations are found elsewhere on this website, see Nature: Nature’s art.
This formation in Yeliou Geopark has been eroded into resembling a dog, sniffing another dog. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pup, sniffing about on the Pamukkale Terraces, western Turkey. These fantastic terraces are a natural phenomenon, consisting of deposited calcium bicarbonate. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wood carving, depicting a dog, lying on its back, Fanø, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis)
The Ethiopian wolf, also called Abyssinian wolf or Simien fox, only lives in the highlands of Ethiopia, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 metres. Unlike most other larger canids, which feed on a large number of prey species, this red and white animal is highly specialized, feeding almost entirely on alpine rodents. Due to human encroachment and competition from feral domestic dogs, it has become Africa’s most endangered carnivore. As of 2011, it was restricted to seven montane areas, counting about 400 adult animals, more than half of which were found in Bale Mountains National Park.
Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. This animal is tagged with a radio collar, making it possible to track its movements. The plant to the right is Lobelia rhynchopetalum. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Coyote (Canis latrans)
The coyote is common and widespread in the major part of North America, southwards through Mexico to Panama. Due to its adaptability and its varied diet, which consists of smaller mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and occasionally fruits and vegetables, it has been able to expand into urban areas, despite being persecuted in many places. 19 subspecies have been described.
As my companion Lars Skipper and I were driving along a road in Death Valley National Park, California, this coyote pair (Canis latrans) was standing in the middle of the road, waiting for someone to stop and feed them. This habit is unfortunately only too common in the United States, as many people find these dogs cute. As we didn’t give them anything, the coyotes retreated to the shade under a bush. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sign, discouraging people from feeding coyotes, Tucson Mountain Park, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Golden wolf (Canis anthus)
The golden wolf is found in the northern parts of Africa, from Morocco eastwards to Egypt, and thence south to Senegal and northern Tanzania. It is a highly adaptable species, which thrives in savannas as well as quite dry deserts. In the Atlas Mountains, it has been found up to 1,800 metres altitude.
Previously, this species was regarded as belonging to the golden jackal (C. aureus), and one subspecies, lupaster, was classified as a subspecies of the grey wolf. Recent DNA analyses have revealed that it is quite distinct from both the golden jackal and the grey wolf.
This golden wolf (Canis anthus) in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, has a somewhat ‘woolly’ appearance, as it is shedding its fur. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Golden wolf, marking territory by urinating, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Golden jackal (Canis aureus)
Living in a large variety of habitats, the golden jackal, like the coyote, is a highly adaptable and successful animal. As it often takes domestic fowl and lambs, it is much persecuted, but is nevertheless still expanding its range. Today, seven subspecies are distributed from Southeast Asia (Myanmar and Thailand), westwards through India, Sri Lanka, The Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula, the Balkans, Austria, and parts of Germany, and since 2015, several animals have been reported as far north as Denmark.
In north-western India, the ranges of the nominate race of the golden jackal (Canis aureus ssp. aureus) and the Indian jackal (C. a. indica) meet. – This picture shows a nominate golden jackal in golden evening light, Ranthambhor National Park, Rajasthan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
On an extremely hot April day, this pair of golden jackals enjoy a bath in a waterhole, Sariska National Park, Rajasthan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas)
The black-backed, or silver-backed, jackal is quite common in two widely separated areas in Africa, namely from Sudan and Uganda south to northern Tanzania, and in southern Africa, from Angola and Zimbabwe south to South Africa.
Resting black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The black-backed jackal is also called silver-backed jackal due to the large number of white hairs on the blackish back. This picture is from the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
African hunting dog (Lycaon pictus)
The scientific name of the African hunting dog is from the Greek lykos (‘wolf’) and the Latin pictus (‘painted’), thus ’the painted wolf’. This species, however, is only distantly related to the wolf, but the term painted is a most suitable description of it. Their snout is always black, and the tip of the tail white, but otherwise their pelt varies tremendously, showing patterns of different shades of brown, black, white, and yellowish. Some individuals are almost black, others sand-coloured, and no two animals are alike.
Hunting dogs live in packs, the size of which varies enormously, from 2 to about 25 members – most often between 6 and 10. Most of the year, these animals are nomads, roaming savannas and woodland in search of prey. The hunting area of a pack may exceed 4,000 square kilometres.
As a rule, a bitch gives birth to 8 to 16 pups. She only has 12 or 14 teats, and if the litter is larger the pups must suckle in turn. Under normal circumstances, the other dogs in the pack have no difficulty in supplying enough food for the mother and her pups. During his studies, biologist Hugo van Lawick noticed a peculiar behaviour, when he watched a dominant female suckling a mother dog of a lower status (Lawick & Goodall 1970). The desire for suckling seems to be quite strong.
Formerly, the African hunting dog was distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa but has disappeared from much of its former range. This decline is due to habitat fragmentation, persecution from humans, and a very contagious viral disease, which has killed entire packs all across East Africa. In 2016, the total population was estimated at about 6,600 adults, of which only c. 1,400 were reproducing, in 39 subpopulations (IUCN).
The species is still fairly common in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and it may be able to spread northwards from here. Hopefully, these fascinating nomads will continue to roam the African savannas in the future.
Read more elsewhere on this website, see Animals: Hunting dogs – nomads of the savanna. – The pictures below are all from Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
Hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus) are formidable hunters, with powerful jaws and long legs. They are able to run at 60 km/hour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hunting dogs, gorging themselves on a Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas nasalis). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Nine hunting dog pups, about four weeks old, tottering about on their short legs outside the den. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hunting dog bitch, regurgitating a large portion of meat for her pups. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
South American dogs and foxes (Cerdocyonina)
At an early stage, South American dogs and foxes split out from the other members of Canini. They are a highly diverse group, comprising 10 species, of which 6 rather fox-like animals belong to the genus Lycalopex. The other members are the long-legged maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), the crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous), and the short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis).
South American grey fox (Lycalopex griseus)
The South American grey fox, or chilla, is widespread in plains and montane areas in Chile and Argentina, on both sides of the High Andes. It is most common in southern Argentina and Chile, somewhat scarcer in the north. In Peru, it is only found in a small area, where it is rare.
South American grey fox (Lycalopex griseus), resting near the Miscanti y Miniques Lakes, Atacama, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Foxes include 12 species of the genus Vulpes, besides the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) and the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). As mentioned above, South American foxes are today included in Canini. Most foxes are highly adaptable and successful animals. The major part are much smaller than wolf-like canids.
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The red fox is the most widespread of all canines, found in the entire Eurasia, with the exception of tropical parts, the entire Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and the Nile Valley, and North America, almost south to the Mexican border. It has been introduced to Australia, where it has become a harmful menace to indigenous mammals and birds, and is considered highly invasive.
Red foxes live in pairs or small family groups, in which young from a previous litter assist in bringing up the next litter. They are quite omnivorous, their food consisting of rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, fruit, and sometimes also green plants. In areas with wolves, coyotes, golden jackals, or large cats, the red fox is very vulnerable to attacks from these larger predators.
The red fox has been extensively persecuted by humans for thousands of years. Initially, it was hunted for its rich fur, but when humans settled as farmers and began raising fowl, the fox quickly began killing the fowl. For this reason, it was persecuted as a pest. In later years, it has successfully spread to urban areas, where no hunting takes place. Here they thrive, feeding on rodents and edible garbage. Many people also feed them.
Young red fox (Vulpes vulpes), visiting a farm yard, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Red fox kit, Valnontey, Gran Paradiso National Park, northern Italy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
When people regularly feed young red foxes, they can become very confiding. – Møn, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tracks of red fox in snow, covering a frozen pond, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)
The bat-eared fox is a very small canid, reaching a length of c. 55 centimetres. It is easily identified by its very large ears, which can grow to 13 cm long. The generic and specific names both refer to these ears. Otocyon is derived from the Greek, otus (‘ear’) and cyon (‘dog’), megalotis also from the Greek, mega (‘large’) and otus (‘ear’). Besides giving an acute sense of hearing, the large ears also serve as an aid in thermoregulation.
The preferred habitat of the bat-eared fox is short-grass savannas, in which it hunts for primarily invertebrates. Like the black-backed jackal, it occurs in two widely separated geographical area, from Ethiopia and South Sudan southwards to Tanzania, and from southern Zambia and Angola, south to South Africa.
A family of bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis), resting outside their den, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The preferred habitat of the bat-eared fox is short-grass savannas, here in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
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