D is for Dingo
About a year ago I posted about the Dingo, the Australian Native Wild Dog, and would like to mention it again, as a lot of my newer readers would have missed it -
but this time with an addition about our own pet dingo.
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 rain forests, 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.
Dingoes 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.
They can be domesticated but nowadays (in some states), a special licence is required by law.
Personal Story of Our Dingo
As a point of interest, we had a Dingo x German Shepherd dog years ago (before that law was in force), and he was an exceptional dog, different from any we have ever had or probably will ever have again.
We got him when he was eight weeks old, and were told that he was a German Shepherd; however, as as he grew, it was obvious he had Dingo in him – he had the white tipped tail and the characteristic four white socks. But we had already grown to love him, so it didn’t matter to us what he was. We called him Toby and he became a member of our “pack”.
Toby was intelligent, obedient, very protective, and an excellent guard dog. He was a very striking looking dog with his beautiful markings, and people would often stop us in the park to pet him; he was always friendly with people and other dogs.
However, one day when my son was playing on his skateboard in the driveway with his friend, a little boy was walking past with his mother and the child ran up our driveway towards my son. I don’t know if it was because the child was running and Toby felt he was a threat, but sadly, in his efforts to “protect” my son, Toby got hold of the little boy’s leg and drew blood. He let go as soon as we shouted at him to ‘leave’, but the damage was done.
An ambulance was called, the matter was reported to the Police and Toby was taken away from us until he could be assessed, which tool almost a week. He passed his assessment with flying colours, and they found no aggression in him – except to say that his instincts to protect those he loved could put someone else at risk. The consequences were unbearable to think about.
We were advised to have him put down, because they said he would mostly likely do it again if he felt there was a threat to anyone in his “pack”.
So it was, with very heavy hearts that we had to say goodbye to Toby; we were heartbroken, but felt we couldn’t take the risk of him doing anything like that again.
- Island dingoes in healthy numbers (news.theage.com.au)
- Death by dingo: The 32-year old saga that has to end (thepunch.com.au)