The Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is a domestic dog breeds which has reverted to a wild state for thousands of years and today lives largely independent from humans in the majority of its distribution.

The name "dingo" mostly refers to populations occurring in Australia, though dingoes have been proven to exist in Thailand through genetic analyses, where they mostly live close to humans. Also, there are dog-populations (e.g. the New Guinea Singing Dog), which bear similarities to the dingo, but have yet to be proven if they are indeed the same animal.

Build Dingo Appearance

The dingo shares many characteristics with South-East Asian domestic dogs and Indian pariah dogs. Eye colour varies from yellow over orange to brown.

Dingoes have a relatively broad head, a pointed muzzle, and erect ears. Compared to other similarly sized domestic dogs, dingoes have longer muzzles, larger carnassials, longer canine teeth, and a flatter skull with larger nuchal lines.

The average dingo is 52–60 cm tall at the shoulders and measures 117 to 124 cm from nose to tag. The average weight is 13 to 20 kg, however there was a report of a wild dingo weighing 27 kg. Males are typically larger and heavier than females of the same age. Dingoes from the North and the North-West of Australia are larger than Central and South-Australian 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 saber-formed tails (typically carried erect with a curve towards the back) or tails which are carried directly on the back.

The fur of adult dingoes is short, bushy on the tail, and varies in thickness and length, depending on the climate. The fur color is mostly sandy to reddish brown, but can include tan patterns and be occasionally black, light brown, or white. Completely black dingoes probably were prevalent in Australia in the past, but have been sighted only rarely in recent times and are now more common in Asia than in Australia.

Most dingoes are at least bicolored, with small white markings on the chest, muzzle, tag, legs, and paws being the most common feature. In the case of reddish individuals, there can be small, distinctive, and dark stripes on the shoulders. All other color and color-patterns on adult dingoes are regarded as evidence for interbreeding with other domestic dogs.

Dingo Barking

It is often wrongly asserted that dingoes do not bark. Compared to most other domestic dogs, the bark of a dingo is short and monosyllabic. During observations, the barking of Australian dingoes revealed itself to have a relatively small variability and sub-groups of barking, like among other domestic dogs, could not be found. Furthermore, only 5% of the observed vocalisations were made up of barking. Australian dingoes bark only in swooshing noises or in a mixture atonal/tonal. Also, barking is almost exclusively used for giving warnings. Warn-barking in a homotypical sequence and a kind of "warn-howling" in a heterotypical sequence has also been observed. The bark-howling starts with several barks and then fades into a rising and ebbing howl and is probably, similarly to coughing, used to warn the puppies and members of the pack. Additionally, dingoes emit a sort of "wailing" sound, which they mostly use when approaching a water hole, probably to warn already present dingoes.

According to the present state of knowledge, it is not possible to get Australian dingoes to bark more frequently by having them in contact with other domestic dogs. However Alfred Brehm reported a dingo that completely learned the more "typical" form of barking and knew how to use it, while its brother did not. Whether dingoes bark or bark-howl less frequently in general is not sure.

Dingo Howling

Australian dingoes have three basic forms of howling (moans, bark-howl, snuffs) with at least 10 variations. Usually there are three kinds of howls distinguished: long and persistent, rising and ebbing, and short and abrupt.

Observations have shown that every kind of howling has several variations, though their meanings are unknown. The frequency of howling varies depending on season and time of day, and is also influenced by breeding, migration, lactation, social stability, and dispersal behaviour. Also, howling can be more frequent in times of food shortage, because the dogs become more widely distributed within their home range. Additionally howling seems to have a group-function and is sometimes an expression of elatedness. Overall howling was observed less frequently than among grey wolves. It can happen, that one dog starts to howl and several or all other dogs howl back and bark from time to time. In the wilderness, dingoes howl over long distances to attract other members of the pack, to find other dogs, and to keep intruders at bay. Dingoes howl in chorus with significant pitches and with increasing number of pack-members the variability of pitches also increases. Therefore it is suspected that dingoes can measure the size of a pack without visual contact.

Dingo Mortality and Health

Dingoes are susceptible to the same diseases like all domestic dogs. Up to now, 38 species of parasites and pathogens have been detected in Australian dingoes. The bulk of these diseases have a low influence on the survival of adult wild dogs. The exceptions include canine distemper, hookworms, and heart worms in North-Australia and southeastern Queensland. 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 seldom debilitating. Wild dogs are the primary host of Echinococcosis-tapeworms and have an infection rate of 70 to 90%, but do not die from it.

Statistics on the average age of dingoes living in the wild range between five to ten years. In captivity, dingoes have a lifespan of 13 to 15 years, and in exceptional cases even up to 24 years have been recorded. The main mortality factors for dingoes are killings by humans, crocodiles, and other domestic dogs (including other dingoes). Other causes for dingo-mortality are starvation and/or dehydration during times of drought or after strong bush fires, infanticide, snake bites, killing of pups by Wedge-tailed Eagles, as well as injuries caused by cattle and buffalos.

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