The dingo is an Australian, free roaming wild dog, also known as “warrigal” in the Aboriginal language. They were valued highy by the Aborigine people, who used them as guard dogs, hunting companions, and also used them to keep warm at night!
The dingo can be found in all areas of Australia from the harsh deserts to the lush rainforests, and are found in every state except for Tasmania. Access to drinking water determines where they can live. Pure-bred dingo numbers are declining as man encroaches deeper and deeper into wilderness areas.
They are a medium sized, naturally lean dog with a reddish/cream coat with white points, and a bushy tail with a white tip. They do not bark in the same way as a domestic dog does – it sounds like more of a yelp, but they do howl! An adult dingo stands about 60cm high and weighs about 15kg. It’s slightly smaller than a German Shepherd.
They are meat-eaters, but if this is in short supply for whatever reason, they have been known to eat reptiles, and in fact, any other kind of food they can find. When food is scarce due to drought, they will group together to feed on larger animals – kangaroos, wallabies and such like. They usually stick together to hunt as a family group, but are also known to hunt on their own for smaller prey. They mainly hunt at night.
Because dingoes commonly attack livestock, sheep farmers consider them a pest and the resultant control methods usually run counter to conservation efforts.
The dingo is no more dangerous to man than any other feral dog; they are wary of humans and will not attack unless provoked. Anyone camping in the bush can expect a visit from a dingo looking for food or some easy pickings from the campsite.
Dingos start breeding between the age of one or two, but only the dominant members within an established group breed, and they only breed once a year. Gestation is nine weeks, the same as a domestic dog and both parents raise their pups together. The pups are fully grown at seven months.
The dingo is an intelligent creature but is still quite misunderstood, and is now on the verge of extinction. Dingo care groups within different states of Australia are setting up captive breeding programs with stock shown to be DNA pure and by lobbying to have the dingo taken off vermin lists and officially recognized as an endangered species.
To lose this unique animal would indeed be a sad loss to the world.