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Dingo (Canis lupus dingo)

Dingo ( Canis lupus dingo )

Order : Predators (Carnivora)
Subordination : Canine (Caniformia)
Family : Dogs (Canidae)
Genre : Wolf and jackal species ( Canis )
Type : Wolf ( Canis lupus )
Subspecies : dingo
Scientific name
Canis lupus dingo
( Meyer , 1793)

The dingo ( Canis lupus dingo ) is a domestic dog that was feral thousands of years ago and today lives completely independently of humans in many parts of its range.

The term dingo is mostly synonymous with the Australian dingo. However, genetic analyzes have also shown dingo populations in Thailand , where the animals mainly live near humans. There are also other dog populations (e.g. the New Guinea dingoes ) that have an outward resemblance to dingoes, but for which it has not yet been possible to prove whether they are actually such.


The dingo has several names in both scientific and colloquial terms, of which the word "dingo" is one of the most widespread. In addition, is on the Australian continent now often only the term "wild dog" (English in both areas wild dog used), all dingoes, dingo-hybrids and most all other feral dogs includes (in certain cases, all wild dogs as dingoes denotes or only dingoes and their hybrids). However, this term is not used uniformly either and in some cases excludes dingoes and in others only refers to dingoes and dingo hybrids.

Scientific terms

The dingo's scientific name has changed many times since it was first officially named in 1792 ( Canis antarcticus ). Some other early species names for the dingo were C. australasiae (1820), C. australiae (1826), C. dingoides (1915), C. macdonnellensis (1915), C. novaehollandiae (1831), C. papuensis (1879) and C. harappensis (1936).

The name most frequently used for the dingo over the past 50 years is Canis familiaris dingo , which regards the dingo as a subspecies of the domestic dog and the domestic dog as a separate species. The most widely recognized name in taxonomy is Canis lupus dingo , but this name is not used very often in the literature. In addition, the name Canis lupus dingo is used in the current version of Mammal Species of the World , but the dingo is still classified as a domestic dog. In addition, the terms Canis dingo , which designates the dingo as a separate species, as well as Canis lupus familiaris dingo and Canis lupus forma familiaris are in use.

Colloquial terms

In everyday language the most common name for this dog is the word "dingo". Dating back to the early days of European settlement in New South Wales and is probably derived from the word Tingo from which the tame dogs of Aborigines in the area of Port Jackson called.

Depending on the native language, dingoes have different names in Australia. These include Joogong , Mirigung , Noggum , Boolomo , Papa-Inura , Wantibirri , Maliki , Kal , Dwer-da , Kurpany , Aringka , Palangamwari and Warrigal . It is very common to use different names depending on where the dogs live. The Yarralin, for example, have the word walaku for the dogs that live with them, but the term ngurakin for the wild dingoes .

Depending on the area, dingoes are sometimes referred to as mountain dingoes, steppe dingoes, desert dingoes, northern dingoes, Cape York dingoes or tropical dingoes. More recently, it began as a "native Australian dog" (English Australian Dingo Australian native dog ) to designate or "Australian Wolf". They are also referred to as "wild dogs" when they cause problems, but as "dingoes" when the wild dogs or dingoes in question are useful (in an ecological or economic way) or have cult status (as a totem and famous Australian animal) .

External features

A typical wild dingo

The dingo is similar in many characteristics to Southeast Asian domestic dogs and Indian pariah dogs . The eye color varies from yellow to orange to brown.


Dingoes have a relatively broad head, a pointed snout and erect ears. Compared to other domestic dogs of the same size, dingoes have a longer snout, larger and longer teeth, and a flatter skull.

The average dingo has a shoulder height of 52 to 60 cm and is 117 to 124 cm long from the nose to the tip of the tail. It weighs 13 to 20 kg, but a wild dingo weighing 27 kg has also been observed. Males are usually larger and heavier than females of the same age. Dingoes from North and Northwest Australia are larger than those in Central and South Australia, and all Australian dingoes are larger and heavier than their Asian relatives.

The legs are about half the length of the body and head combined. The hind feet make up about a third of the hind legs and do not have a fifth claw. In dingo, both saber rods (usually set up vertically and tilted at the head towards the end) and a tail carried over the back can occur.

A rare white dingo


The fur of adult dingoes is short, bushy on the tail and varies in density and length depending on the climate. The coat color is usually red to sand-colored, but it can also be black with brown-yellowish markings and occasionally completely black, light brown or white. Completely black dingoes may have been common in Australia in the past, but have rarely been seen recently and are now more common in Asia than in Australia.

Most dingoes are at least two-colored, with the most common being small white markings on the chest, mouth, tip of the tail, and paws or legs. In reddish individuals there are fine, distinctive dark shoulder stripes. All other colorations and color patterns in adult dingoes are today considered to be an indication of interbreeding with other domestic dogs. Depending on how historical reports are interpreted, "pure" dingoes are also described as sable, brindle or colored black and white.


Like all domestic dogs, dingoes also have a strong tendency to communicate by sound, only in their case it is mostly howling and squeaking sounds and not barking as with other domestic dogs. For Australian dingoes eight sound classes with 19 different sound types could be specified.


Compared to most other domestic dogs , Australian dingoes bark short and monosyllabic. The barking showed relatively little variability in investigations, and subgroups of barking, as in other domestic dogs, were not found. In addition, the barking made up only five percent of all recorded sounds. Australian dingoes only bark noisily or in an atonal / tonal mixture , and the bark was almost only emitted as a warning sound . Warning barks in a homotyper sequence and a kind of "warning howl" in a heterotyper sequence were also shown. The bark howl begins with several barking tones and turns into increasing and decreasing howling and, like the cough, is probably used to warn youngsters or pack members. In addition, dingoes still have a "plaintive" reputation, which is usually emitted when approaching water holes, presumably to warn dingoes that are already present.

According to the current state of knowledge, dingoes cannot be animated to bark more frequently even when they come into contact with other domestic dogs. Alfred Brehm reported, however, of a dingo who had fully learned the form of barking typical of domestic dogs and also used it, while his brother did not. It is not clear whether dingoes generally bark or howl less often.


Howling dingoes on the Trumlerstation

Australian dingoes have three basic forms of howl (moaning, barking howl and sniffing) with at least 10 variations. Three basic types of howling have been identified:

  • long and persistent,
  • swelling up and down,
  • short and abrupt.

Investigations have shown a number of variations in each species, but the meaning of the individual vocalizations is not known. The frequency of howling varies by time of day and time of year and is influenced by mating, migration, suckling, social stability and dispersal. The howling can also be more frequent in times of food shortages because dingoes then continue to scatter in the area. The howling also seems to have a group function and is sometimes expressed as an expression of joyful excitement (for example, as a greeting howl) and was less common in examinations than among wolves . There may be times when a dog starts howling and some or all of them gradually join in a chorus howl and occasional bells are emitted. In the wild, dingoes howl over long distances to attract other pack members, find other dogs, and keep intruders away. Dingoes howl with recognizable pitches in the choir and as the number of members increases, so does the variability of the pitches. Hence, it is believed that dingoes can estimate the size of another herd without visual contact.

Other forms of communication

During examinations, the growling took up 65% of all recorded utterances. It was always uttered in an agonistic context, both for dominance behavior and reactively as a defense sound. Reactively from the defensive it could (as with many other domestic dogs) only rarely or not at all be registered. The growl often occurs in combination with other sounds and was registered almost exclusively in its noisy form (similar to barking). Mixed sounds are uttered relatively often in the context of agonistics - e.g. in combat - mainly growling sounds.

During investigations in Germany, a sound utterance was found among Australian dingoes, which the researchers called "Schrappen". It occurred exclusively in an agonistic context, often as a defense against intrusive young animals and in the distribution of resources. This is an intention to bite, but the addressee is never touched or even injured, only a soft but clear clapping of the teeth can be heard.

In addition to communicating through sounds, dingoes communicate like other domestic dogs by distributing smells via scrubbing, excrement and urinating on conspicuous objects such as tufts of grass, and at meeting points such as watering holes, paths and hunting grounds. Males mark more often than females here too, and both howling and marking are particularly common during the mating season. Likewise, dingoes wallow in smells associated with prey or acquaintances.

Way of life

Dingoes have been shown to use roads that are not used much.

In warmer areas, dingoes are often nocturnal, in cooler regions more often during the day. Dingoes have their main activity times at sunrise and sunset. The periods of activity are short (often less than an hour) and interspersed with short periods of rest. They have two types of walks: a "search walk", which is apparently connected to the hunt, and an "exploration walk", which is probably used for contact and communication with conspecifics.

In general, dingoes are shy of humans. However, there are a few known cases where they were unimpressed by the sight of people, for example at campsites in national parks, near roads and in suburbs. According to studies in Queensland, the wild dogs there move freely through the properties in urban areas at night, cross streets and get along well.


In dingoes in Australia, 170 animal species (from insects to buffalo) have been identified as part of the diet, but in general the proportion of livestock in the diet appears to be low. In continental-wide investigations were 80% of the food of wild dogs of 10 species: Red Kangaroo , swamp wallaby , beef , dark rat, magpie goose , possum , long-haired rat, Agile Wallaby , wild rabbits and Nacktnasenwombat . This narrow range of main prey suggests that they are specialists rather than opportunists, but in the tropical wet forests of northeast Australia, the dingoes there are believed to be opportunistic hunters of a wide range of mammals. In certain areas, they usually specialize in the most common prey, with preference for medium to large mammals . The consumption of red foxes and domestic cats has also been proven. Non-mammals are only eaten occasionally and make up no more than ten percent of the diet. Large reptiles are rarely captured, at least in Eastern Australia, although they are widespread. It is possible that large monitor lizards in particular are too defensive and well armed or simply able to flee quickly enough in burrows or on trees.

A dingo on the beach

The composition of the food varies from region to region. In the Gulf region of Queensland, feral domestic pigs and agile wallabies represent an important part of the diet. In the northern wet forests the main prey consists of cleft-footed geese, rodents and agile wallabies. In the southern areas of the Northern Territory from rabbits, rodents, lizards and red giant kangaroos, in dry Central Australia from rabbits, rodents, lizards (especially in the Tanami Desert), red giant kangaroos and cattle carcasses and in the dry northwest from mountain and red giant kangaroos. In the deserts of the southwest they mainly eat rabbits and in the eastern and southeastern highlands they eat wallabies , possums, and wombats . The extent to which the availability of rabbits influences the composition of the diet is not yet clear, but since the number of rabbits in Australia fell sharply at the end of the 20th century due to the Chinese plague , it is assumed that the main diet of the dingoes in the affected areas will change Has. Fish have also been identified as a large part of the diet on Fraser Island . The main part consisted of two bandicoot and different types of rats. They also ate relatively large amounts of echidnas , crabs, small skinks , fruits and other plants, as well as insects (mostly beetles). In these studies, only ten percent of the fecal samples contained human waste (50% was reported in a previous study).

In the case of carrion, mainly cattle and kangaroos are eaten (camels have also been detected). Dingoes in coastal regions regularly patrol the beaches and eat dead fish, seals, penguins and other stranded birds. Looting of crocodile and turtle nests as well as cases of cannibalism have also been proven.

Few dingoes in Asia live completely independently of humans, and their main diet consists of carbohydrates (rice, fruits and other leftover food) that are provided by humans. In rural areas of Thailand and Sulawesi, dingoes have been seen hunting insects, rats, lizards, and other live prey along roads, in rice fields, and forests.

Wild dogs usually drink around one liter per day in summer and around half a liter in winter. In arid areas in winter, dingoes may only be able to live on the water they get from their prey, provided there is enough prey. Likewise, weaned puppies in Central Australia can get all of their water from food. Females were also observed to choke water from their young. Females in captivity do not need more water than usual during breastfeeding, as they eat the pups' feces and urine, thereby recycling the water and keeping the litter box clean.

Hunting behavior

Dingoes often kill by biting their throats and adapt their hunting behavior to the prevailing circumstances. The availability of prey (in terms of hunting effort) seems to be of greater importance than the amount of prey available, and the flexible social organization of the dingoes allows versatile hunting strategies and resource defense. The hunt for large prey usually requires two or more individuals because of their strength and the potential danger they pose. Such group formations are unnecessary when hunting rabbits and other small creatures.

Hunting kangaroos is probably more successful in open land than in dense vegetation, and young are likely to be killed more often than adults. They are usually killed by a dingo driving a kangaroo towards the other pack members. Dingoes have also been observed to kill kangaroos by chasing their prey towards a fence that blocks the path, or by drifting into shallow water. Birds can be captured if they cannot fly or if they cannot take off from the ground fast enough. Dingos also hunt prey from eagles, for example. A collaboration of three dingoes to kill a large monitor was observed and on Fraser Island they are said to have coordinated wild horses. Active fishing behavior was also demonstrated there. There are also reports that some dingoes live there practically only on human food and others more or less often steal, pick up or beg for human food. In fact, dingoes are known for such behavior in some areas of Australia. It is believed that this could potentially lead to the loss of hunting techniques and changes in social structures.

During studies on the Fortescue River in the mid-1970s, it was observed that most of the dingoes observed quickly learned to hunt and kill sheep, even if they had never had contact with sheep before. Although the dingoes killed many sheep at the time, they still hunted and ate kangaroos. In the early 1990s, it was observed that wild dogs have an extraordinarily high success rate in hunting sheep and do not need to hunt in a coordinated manner to kill them. Often times a dog would only chase a sheep and even overtake it, only to suddenly chase another. As a result, few of the sheep and goats injured or killed are actually eaten (which seems to be the rule rather than the exception). Presumably, due to the rather panic and uncoordinated escape behavior of the sheep, they lapse into a kind of “killing frenzy”, as the sheep repeatedly run in front of the dingo's noses and thus trigger one attack after the other. Dingoes often attack sheep from behind as they run away, causing injuries to the hind legs. The rams are usually attacked from the side - presumably to avoid the horns of the rams - and sometimes on the testicles. Inexperienced dingoes or those who kill “for fun” can cause significant damage to the rear legs of sheep, often resulting in death.

Almost all attacks by wild dogs on cattle and buffalo are directed against young animals. The success of the hunt depends on the health and condition of the adult cattle and their ability to defend the young. The defensive behavior of the suckler cow can be sufficient to repel an attack. The basic tactics are therefore: distracting the suckler cow, rousing the group, and watching and waiting (sometimes for hours) to find the weakest members. When a herd of cattle was found, the dingoes were observed to first make several mock attacks, focusing first on the calves and later attacking the suckler cows to distract them. The dingoes then withdrew and waited some distance away until the remaining cows had gathered their calves and withdrew. On another occasion it was observed how “subgroups” of a dingo pack alternated attacking and resting during an attack until the suckler cow was too exhausted to continue to defend the calf adequately. When six dingoes were hunting a buffalo, which was believed to weigh 200 kg, the dingoes also took turns biting the buffalo’s legs during the pursuit.

Social behavior

In investigations into the ability of Australian dingoes socialized on humans to recognize human finger signs, all examined dingoes (with individual variation) passed the tests with a success rate that rules out chance. There were differences to other domestic dogs tested, but the dingoes differed greatly from gray wolves. From this it was concluded that dingoes lie between gray wolves and other domestic dogs when recognizing human finger signs. Furthermore, dingoes raised in captivity fared better than domestic dogs previously examined in other studies on problem-solving tasks that required the individual to bypass a clear barrier in order to receive a reward.

Puppy interacting with an adult dingo

Although dingoes are usually observed alone (especially in areas where the dingo has been fought), most belong to a social group whose members meet occasionally and are permanently together during the mating season to reproduce and raise young. Dingoes are usually highly social beings and where they can form stable packs with fixed territories, the size of which depends on the food supply and which only slightly overlap with those of neighboring packs. Invaders are mostly killed. The packs usually consist of three to twelve individuals (mostly the alpha pair and the current offspring and the offspring of the previous year) who occupy a territory all year round. But there are regional variants that show the flexible social structure of the dingoes. Apparently, specializing in larger prey encourages social behavior and the formation of larger groups. During periods of drought in Australia, dingo packs split up and mortality rates are high for all pack members, regardless of social status.

Packs have different (but not completely independent) hierarchies for males and females, whereby the ranking, especially among males, is mainly established through ritualized aggression. Impressive and agonistic behavior is only reduced in Australian dingoes. Serious fighting was observed only in a few cases and under extreme conditions. Higher-ranking dogs occasionally display this behavior to reinforce their status, while lower-ranking dogs tend to display conflict-preventive behavior.

Larger packs are often divided into subgroups of more flexible size and composition. In addition, some loners with loose contact, including participation in the acquisition of food, can live with the groups in already occupied areas. Desert areas have smaller groups of dingoes with looser territorial behavior and overlapping use of the few water points. For dingoes on Fraser Island, pack sizes ranged from two to nine dogs with overlapping territories. However, there was also a very high proportion of infanticide there , presumably due to the possibly too high dingo density in relation to the size of the island and the prey populations.

Four dingoes in the Wolfswinkel Trumlerstation

Territory size and individual areas change depending on the availability of prey, but are not related to pack size. Wild dogs move little outside of their territories. The areas of individual individuals can strongly overlap. If the territories of neighboring packs overlap, direct contact is avoided as far as possible. The size of the territory and thus the range of the dogs depends largely on the availability of resources. Home areas are usually stable, but can change over time due to external circumstances or changes in social organization. Individuals who begin to break away from the pack have larger roaming areas before they ultimately migrate.

Territories around areas that are used by humans are usually smaller and contain a comparatively high number of dingoes due to the easier availability of food. According to studies in Queensland, the wild dogs there have smaller territories in urban areas, sometimes only two to three kilometers in diameter. A territory of a single dingo has already been proven, which consisted only of a small patch of scrubland on the edge of a primary school in the heart of a large small town.

Most dingoes stay close to where they were born and do not migrate more than 20 km per day, but some, especially young males, migrate. The size of the home ranges of individuals increases with age. The largest observed ranges (90–300 km²) are in the deserts of Southwest Australia. In the center of the Northern Territory, grazing areas of up to 270 km² have been observed. Home ranges elsewhere are 45–113 km² in northwestern Australia, 25–67 km² for central Australia, an average of 39 km² in the tropical north and 10–27 km² in the mountain forests of eastern Australia.

Reproduction and rearing of young

Dingo puppies from the Berlin Zoo

Dingoes reproduce once a year, depending on the females' oestrus cycle, which according to most sources only comes into oestrus once a year. Dingo bitches can come into heat twice a year (with all symptoms of heat), but only once pregnant and the second time at most apparently pregnant (or copulation does not even occur).

The males are fertile all year round in most areas, but usually have less sperm production in summer. In studies of dingoes from the eastern highlands and central Australia in captivity, no reproductive cycle could be found in the males either; they were able to procreate throughout the year. Reproduction was controlled solely by the females' heat cycles. Although the testosterone levels of the males increased during the mating season, this was attributed to the presence of females in heat and copulations. In contrast, there was evidence of a male reproductive cycle in captured dingo males from Central Australia. They showed no interest in bitches in heat (in this case no dingoes) outside the mating season from January to July and did not mate with them.

The mating season in Australia is between March and May (April and June according to other sources). In Southeast Asia, mating occurs between August and September. During this time, dingoes can actively defend their territories using vocalizations, dominance behavior, growling and biting.

Most females begin breeding in the wild at two years of age, and in packs the alpha female tends to be ready to mate before the lower-ranking females and can suppress their reproductive efforts. Males become reproductive at one to three years of age. In males and females, however, reproductive capacity was also determined at the age of seven months. The precise onset and extent of reproduction vary with age, social status, geographic scope and seasonal conditions. For dingoes in captivity, pre-oestrus and oestrus lasted ten to twelve days. It is believed, however, that the pre-oestrus could last up to 60 days in the wild. In a pack, only the alpha pair usually reproduces successfully and the other pack members help raise the pups. Low-ranking individuals are actively prevented from reproducing by the alpha pair, and some lower-ranking females enter a pseudo-pregnancy. By breaking the pack structure, for example by killing, even low-ranking individuals of a pack can successfully raise their own young and there have been observations of successful reproductions of solitary animals.

A male dingo with his pups

The gestation period is 61 to 69 days and the litter size can range from one to ten puppies (usually five puppies), although the number of males is usually higher. Puppies of low-ranking bitches are killed by the alpha bitch, which means that an increase in the population is rather small even in good years. Possibly this population control behavior is an adaptation to the volatile environmental conditions of Australia. In Australia, puppies are usually littered between May and August (i.e. in winter). In tropical regions, reproduction can occur at any time of the year.

The puppies first leave the litter box at the age of three weeks and leave it entirely at eight weeks. Most of the litter caves in Australia are underground. Caves were reported in enlarged rabbit burrows, rock formations, under rubble in dry river beds, under large tufts of Spinifex grass, in hollow tree trunks, under fallen trees, between protruding tree roots, in enlarged monitor caves and old wombat burrows. The puppies usually roam within a three-kilometer radius around the litter box and are accompanied by older dogs for longer distances. The change to solid food is usually done by all members of the pack between the ages of nine and twelve weeks. In addition to their own experience, the boys learn through observations by their parents. The pups usually become independent at three to six months of age, or they leave the pack voluntarily at twelve months when the next mating season begins.

Migratory behavior

Most of the time, dingoes are true to location and do not migrate seasonally. But when food becomes scarce in “safe” areas, dingoes migrate to agricultural and livestock areas where intensive human containment measures are in place. As early as the 1970s, it was discovered in Western Australia that young dogs can cover long distances. About ten percent of the dogs caught at the time - all younger than twelve months - were later recaptured far away from their initial location. For these ten percent, the distance covered was 21.7 km for males and eleven kilometers for females (in other studies even pack migration was observed). Migratory dingoes had less chance of survival in foreign territories and it is therefore unlikely that they would survive long migrations through occupied areas. The rarity of long migrations seems to confirm this assumption. Investigations in the Nullarbor Plains revealed further migrations. The longest migration route of a transmitter-equipped dingo was approximately 250 km, and during observations in Victoria, a dog was observed to cover a distance of 230 km in 9 days.

Health and mortality

Dingoes are prone to the same diseases as other domestic dogs. So far, 38 species of parasites and pathogens have been identified in Australian dingoes. Most of these diseases have little impact on the survival of adult wild dogs. Exceptions include distemper , hookworms, and heartworms in northern Australia and southeastern Queensland. Puppies are also killed by lungworms , whipworms , hepatitis , coccidia , lice and ticks. Mange is a common parasitic disease in Australian dingo populations, but is rarely debilitating. Wild dogs are the ultimate hosts for echinococcosis tapeworms and have an infection rate of 70 to 90%, but they do not die from them. According to a study in Queensland, urban dog diseases pose a relatively low risk to humans and pets.

It was also speculated that some dingo populations due to the presence of the cane toad have decreased their stocks.

The information about the average age of dingoes in the wild varies between five and ten years. In captivity, an age of 13 to 15 years, in exceptional cases even up to 24 years, has been observed. Dingoes are mainly killed by humans, crocodiles and other domestic dogs, including dingoes. Other causes of dingo mortality include starvation and / or dehydration during periods of drought or after severe bush fires, infanticide, snakebites, killing of puppies by wedge-tailed eagles, and injuries by buffalo and domestic cattle.


In the case of dingoes, only a rough classification of their range can be made with the corresponding population density. It is difficult to give exact information about the distribution of dingoes and other domestic dogs, since the exact extent of the mixing of dingoes with other domestic dogs is not known. Therefore, the following information on the distribution of dingoes relates to dogs that were assigned to the dingo based on coat color, body shape and reproductive cycle and maps of the distribution area can also contradict one another.

Spread in the past

Based on fossil , molecular and anthropological evidence, it is believed that dingoes may once have had widespread distribution. The dingoes of that time would have been associated with nomadic hunter-gatherer societies and later with the flourishing agricultural population centers. There they were tamed and then transported around the world. The oldest dingo fossils are finds from Thailand and Vietnam, which were estimated to be around 5500 years and 5000 years respectively. In the Indonesian highlands, the age of the finds varies from a maximum of 5000 years to (mostly) 2500 to 3000 years.

The debate as to whether dingoes are indigenous to Australia had been raging for many years, and its status came under scrutiny with the advent of indigenous animal protection. The dingo was originally thought to have been introduced to Australia by the Aborigines in the Pleistocene , which led to confusion about the dingo nomenclature. Today it is mostly believed that the dingo arrived in Australia 4,000 years ago, as the earliest solid archaeological evidence of dingoes is around 3,500 years old and fossils from around this time have been found across Australia, which means that colonization was fast speaks. There are no finds from Tasmania, which was separated from the continent about 12,000 years ago by the rise in sea levels. Therefore, archaeological data suggest an arrival 3500 to a maximum of 12,000 years ago. To reach Australia from Asia, even with the lowest sea level, at least 50 km of open sea would have to be crossed. Since there is no case of a large land animal that could have made such a journey on its own, the ancestors of today's dingoes were most likely brought there by boat by Asian seafarers. A dance by the local population along the coastal regions of Kimberley , in which they depict dogs running excitedly back and forth on a boat and finally jumping into the water, is taken as a further indication of the importation of the dingoes by seafarers. Presumably these dogs served the seafarers as food, possibly also as watch dogs. The dingo may have come to Australia and the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific as the Austronesian culture spread.

Possible migration route of the dingoes on the way to Australia

There are two main hypotheses about the geographic origin and migration path of the ancestors of today's dingo and their arrival in Australia:

  • An origin in East Asia and a hiking route over the Southeast Asian islands due to the proximity to Australia and the relatively easy accessibility via the islands of the Southeast Asian archipelago. This theory is supported by genetic studies on mtDNA from Australian dingoes.
  • An importation of sheepdogs from the Indus Valley in Asia via the island of Timor by Indian sailors, based on the similarity in the anatomy of the skeleton of Indian pariah dogs and Indian wolves . This theory also claims that the oldest bone finds are 4000 years old and were found on Timor, where they coexisted with sheep and pigs for a while. This theory would be supported by the assumption that the simultaneous appearance of certain stone tools in Australia was influenced by India, but this is denied by other parties.

It is not yet clear whether there have been several arrivals of dingoes or just a single one in Australia. However, the results of genetic studies published in 2011 suggest that dingoes arrived in Australia between 4600 and 18300 years ago. These studies also indicated an introduction (and possible common origin) to Indonesia and Southeast Asia from southern China for dingoes, New Guinea dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs, and not via Taiwan and the Philippines as expressed in some theories of Polynesian origin. A new dating of the oldest dingo bones ever found using the radiocarbon method, published in mid-2018, revealed an age of 3348 and 3081 years. It could therefore be that the spread of dingoes in Australia only began around 3500 years ago.

The first official mention of a "wild dog" in Australia comes from Captain William Dampier in 1699 . At that time, dingoes were likely to be found all over the main part of Australia and lived both wildly and with the Aborigines. They were mostly tolerated and sometimes consumed by the European settlers. The number of dingoes was probably low at the time and the dingo frequency has since increased in some parts of Australia. The situation of a high population density of wild and self-sufficient dingoes could only be a phenomenon of the last 200 years. Their number probably increased sharply in the 1880s with the establishment of pasture farming and artesian watering places and probably peaked in the 1930s to 1950s. After that it remained high, but the proportion of dingo hybrids has increased significantly over time.

Today's distribution

Possible distribution area of ​​the dingo (red) (after Corbett 2006)
Distribution map of dingoes in Australia, the black line represents the dingo fence (after Fleming et al. 2001)

Dingoes now inhabit all biotopes , including snow-capped mountain forests in Eastern Australia, arid hot deserts in Central Australia, and tropical wetlands in forests in Northern Australia. The absence of dingoes in many of Australia's grasslands is due to human persecution. Based on skull features, size, coat color, and reproduction, there appear to be regionally different populations between Asia and Australia, but not within Australia.

Today, the total population of wild dogs on the Australian continent, in addition to the dingo, consists of a wide range of feral domestic dogs (mostly mixed breed dogs or dingo hybrids) with enormous color variability. Due to the increased availability of water, domestic and imported prey, as well as livestock and human-hand food, their numbers in Australia are seen as increasing. There have been reports from some parts of Australia that wild dogs now hunt in packs, even though they used to hunt individually. The density of wild dogs varies between 0.03 and 0.3 individuals per km² depending on the biotope and the availability of prey.

"Pure" dingoes are considered widespread in north, northwest and central Australia, rare in south and northeast Australia, and possibly extinct in the southeast and southwest areas. The establishment of agriculture led to a sharp decline in dingoes, and they were practically driven from the sheep industry areas. This particularly affects large parts of South Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. By erecting the dingo fence , this situation is maintained. Even if dingoes have been wiped out in most areas of southern South Australia, they still exist on about 58,000 km² in the dry north north of the dog fence and thus on about 60% of the entire area. In Victoria today, wild dogs are concentrated in the heavily forested regions of the eastern highlands, from the New South Wales border south to Healesville and Gembrook. They also exist in the Great Desert in the northwest of the state. Wild dog populations in New South Wales today exist primarily along the Australian hill country and coastal hinterland, as well as in Sturt National Park in the northwest of the state. In the rest of the continent, dingoes are considered widespread, with the exception of the arid eastern half of Western Australia. In the adjacent areas of South Australia and the Northern Territory, they are naturally rare. Wild dogs are widespread in the Northern Territory, with the exception of the Tanami and Simpson Deserts, where they are rare due to a lack of watering holes. There are local concentrations of dingoes in areas with artificial water points. According to DNA studies in 2004, only "pure" dingoes live on Fraser Island. However, skull examinations in the 1990s came to a different conclusion.

Outside Australia, dingoes are known to be found in Thailand based on comparisons of Thai dog skulls with those of fossil and contemporary dingoes from Australia. The population there may have the largest proportion of "pure" dingoes. They are widespread in northern and central Thailand, and less often in the southern regions. They may also occur in Burma , China , India , Indonesia , Laos , Malaysia , Papua New Guinea , the Philippines and Vietnam , but if so, then with an unknown distribution. Dingoes are considered widespread in Sulawesi , but their distribution in the rest of Indonesia is unknown. They are considered rare in the Philippines and may have become extinct on many islands. In Korea , Japan and Oceania there are local dog breeds that have dingo-like characteristics, but dingoes are considered extinct there.

Ancestry and genetic status


Since the dingoes on the continent of Australia were the only large placental mammals besides humans and looked similar to the dogs in human hands, but still lived in the wild, their origin was an issue of since the 18th century and especially in the first half of the 20th century great interest. Later archaeological and morphological studies indicated a relatively late arrival of the dingoes and a close relationship to other domestic dogs. The exact descent, place of origin and time of their arrival in Australia were not determined, also not whether they were domesticated or semi-domesticated and thus feral or really wild dogs on arrival.

A widespread theory assumes that the dingo developed or was bred from the Canis lupus pallipes or Canis lupus arabs about 6,000-10,000 years ago (which has also been assumed for all other domestic dogs). This view is based on the similarities in skulls between these wolves and dingoes. Genetic investigations, however, indicated a much earlier domestication.

Studies of the amino sequences of the hemoglobin of "pure" dingoes in the 1970s also supported the assumption that dingoes are more closely related to other domestic dogs than to gray wolves or coyotes . In addition, it was assumed that dingoes and other Asian dogs were members of a group of domestic dogs that went wild at an early age. At the same time, studies were already being carried out on the DNA of Australian dingoes and other domestic dogs in order to reliably differentiate the two populations and to determine the extent of intermingling. In the first two investigations, in which at first 14 loci and later five of these loci were examined, no genetic differences could be found. The investigations were later expanded to 16 loci. This time dingoes from central Australia, the eastern highlands, dingo hybrids and other domestic dogs were examined. In all of the investigations, the researchers were surprised that they could not find any differences. From this it was concluded that dingoes and other domestic dogs have a very similar gene pool. However, since only a few differences in the enzymes were found between different species of the Canis genus , it was assumed that this was not necessarily due to a close taxonomic relationship. It was also concluded that the degree of intermingling in the wild is difficult to determine.

In investigations at the end of the 1990s, 14 loci were also examined and a significantly lower genetic variability of the Australian dingo compared to other domestic dogs was found and a small founder population was considered. A locus was found that could be used as a distinguishing feature, but not in the case of mixing a mongrel with other "pure" dingoes. In addition, it was assumed that a find of other suitable loci could be used to find out whether there could be clearly delineated subpopulations among the “pure” dingoes.

To determine the origin and time of arrival of the dingoes on the Australian continent, the mtDNA sequences of 211 dingoes and 19 archaeological samples from pre-European Polynesia were compared with those of 676 other domestic dogs and 38 gray wolves in 2004 . The domestic dog samples came from Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, India, Siberia, Arctic America, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, New Zealand, Hawaii and the highlands of New Guinea . The dingo samples came from dingoes from zoos, wildlife parks, dingo protection groups, enthusiasts and 192 wild specimens from 27 regions across the Australian continent, mainly from the Pilbara region, New South Wales and northeast Victoria. The wild specimens were selected on the basis of external similarities in order to rule out the influence of feral domestic dogs and mongrels as far as possible.

Compared to wolves and other domestic dogs, the variation in mtDNA sequences among the dingoes was also very limited. Among the dingoes, 20 different mtDNA types were found, which differed in at most two point mutations . In comparison, 114 mtDNA types were found among the other domestic dogs with a maximum difference of 16 point mutations between the DNA types. Two of the dingo mtDNA types were identical to those of other domestic dogs (A9, A29) while the other 18 were unique to dingoes. In a phylogenetic tree of wolves and domestic dogs, all dingo sequences fell into the main stem (A), which contained 70% of all domestic dog sequences. Within this tribe, the dingo types formed a group around type A29, which was surrounded by 12 less common dingo types as well as a number of other domestic dog types. This type of mtDNA was found in 53% of the dingoes and was also found in some domestic dogs from East Asia, New Guinea and Arctic America (and, during independent later investigations, also in Puerto Rico). Based on these test results, it was concluded that all dingo mtDNA types have their origin in A29. A9 was found in only one individual and it was considered possible that this type was the result of a parallel mutation . Based on the mutation rate of the mtDNA and the fact that A29 is the only founder type, it was considered most likely that the dingoes arrived in Australia 4600 to 5400 years ago, which corresponds to archaeological finds. However, it was also taken into account that the dingoes could have arrived between 4,600 and 10,800 years ago if the mutation rate was slower than assumed. It was further concluded that these results strongly suggest an ancestry of the dingoes from East Asian dogs (subsequent investigations increased the upper limit to 18,300 years and indicated an origin in Southeast Asia) and not from Indian domestic dogs or wolves. In addition, these results indicated two possible origins:

  • all Australian dingoes are descended from very few dogs, theoretically even from only one pregnant female
  • The Australian dingoes are descended from a group of domestic dogs that radically lost their genetic diversity due to one or more severe genetic bottlenecks on their way from the Asian continent via Southeast Asia

However, the existence of some other mtDNA types on the islands around Australia indicated that there were other types besides A29 and only one founding event. It also indicated that there had been no other significant domestic dog introductions to Australia (prior to the arrival of Europeans) thereafter. Likewise, a common origin and some exchange of genes between the Australian dingoes and the New Guinea dingoes are considered possible. The current state of the dingoes was traced back to the long wild existence of these dogs and it was assumed that it was an isolated example of early domestic dogs.

Contrary to relevant claims, these results by no means show that only female dingo dogs mix with other non-dingo males and not vice versa. The results would not allow this conclusion at all, since a mating between a female dingo and a non-dingo male would not be detectable with the help of an mtDNA analysis. In addition, care was taken from the outset to exclude mixed race as far as possible.

According to 2010 published genetic analyzes of the single nucleotide polymorphisms of 912 dogs and 225 gray wolves , the Middle Eastern wolves have been identified as the primary origin for all domestic dogs, with some possible secondary origins in Europe and East Asia. In this study, dingoes were among the dogs in which strong evidence of a later admixture of gray wolves from other regions was found in their history. In the case of the Australian dingo (such as the Akita Inu , the Chow Chow and Shar Pei ), indications of an admixture of Chinese wolves were discovered. In the case of the dingo and the chow chow, far more than expected. In addition, a lower genetic variability than usual for domestic dogs was confirmed in dingoes and a split from other dogs to a point in time around 2000 BC. Considered likely. At the same time, dingoes belong to the group of dogs that are genetically distinct from most of the other examined breeds and are referred to as "ancient breeds" (in the original " ancient breeds "). Within these dogs, dingoes, along with the New Guinea dingo, the Chow Chow, the Akita Inu and the Shar-Pei, belong to the so-called "Asian group".

Mixing with other domestic dogs

A wild dog that resembles a dingo in shape, but is more of a dingo hybrid due to its color
Main article: Mixing the dingoes with other domestic dogs

With the colonization of the Australian continent by the Europeans, their domestic dogs also came to Australia. These ended up in the wild (intentionally and unintentionally), established feral populations, and mixed with dingoes. Mixed breeds of dingoes and other domestic dogs exist today in all dingo populations in Australia, their proportion is considered to be increasing and completely "pure" populations may no longer exist. The degree of intermingling is now so high locally, for example in urban and rural areas, that there are large populations that only consist of mongrels. Estimates have already assumed a proportion of dingo hybrids of around 75% on the mainland. Quantification is hampered by the lack of reliable tests.

Dingo-like domestic dogs and dingo hybrids can usually be differentiated from "pure" dingoes on the basis of their coat color, as there is a greater range of colors and patterns among them. In addition, the typical domestic dog form of barking occurs among mongrels. Furthermore, the reproductive cycle, certain skull features and genetic engineering analyzes can be used to differentiate. With all the characteristics that can be used to distinguish between dingoes and other domestic dogs, there are two problems that should not be underestimated. On the one hand, there is no real clarity as to when a dog is considered to be "pure" dingo, on the other hand, no distinguishing feature is 100% reliable and it is not certain which features are permanently preserved under the conditions of natural selection.

In the scientific field, there are two main opinions on how to respond to the process of mixing. In the first, probably the most widespread position, the aim is to preserve the “pure” dingo by vigorously combating wild dog populations and to protect only “pure” or largely “pure” dingo. The second position is still relatively new and is of the opinion that one must accept that the dingo has changed and that it is not possible to bring back the "pure" dingo. Protection for these dogs should be based on how and where they live, and their cultural and environmental significance, rather than focusing on precise definitions or concerns about "genetic purity". Both positions are controversial.

Evidently there is a far greater variability of coat colors, skull shapes and body size within the population of wild dogs than in the time before the arrival of Europeans. In the course of the past 40 years, the average body mass of wild dogs has also increased by 20%. It is not yet known whether, in the event of the disappearance of “pure” dingoes, the then existing hybrids will change the hunting pressure on other living beings. It is also not clear what place such hybrids will occupy in Australian ecosystems. However, it is considered likely that the dynamics of the respective ecosystems will not be disturbed by this.

Problems with the classification of the dingo

Borneo dogs that look very much like Australian dingoes

There is no agreement, both scientifically and otherwise, what the dingo actually is from a biological point of view, since it is called "wolf", "dingo", "dog" and "wild dog". Even in the scientific community, the dingo has different names. In addition, there is no agreement as to whether it is a feral or indigenous animal or which dogs are even counted among the dingoes. Some consider the Hallstrom dog (or New Guinea dingo), the Basenji , the Carolina dog and other dog populations as belonging to the dingo, but this has not been proven. The evidence also suggests an ambiguity regarding the status of these dogs per se. Dingos are seen as wild dogs, ancestors of domestic dogs or ancestors of today's breeds, as a separate species, as a link between wolf and domestic dog, as a primitive canid species or primitive domestic dog, as "dog-like" relatives of wolves or a subspecies of the domestic dog. For others, dingoes are native dogs of Asia, an only slightly modified form of early domestic dogs, partly wolf and partly domestic dog, were purposefully bred from wolves or the term "dingo" refers to all domestic dogs living in the wild. For still others, dingoes are no longer wild, but completely wild, as they have been exposed to natural selection for many generations. As far as we know today, they are domestic dogs that came with humans to their current area of ​​distribution, adapted to the respective conditions and are not more “original” than other domestic dogs.

Carolina dogs, which are sometimes very similar to the dingo

Some believe that the Australian dingo was never subjected to the artificial selection that may have spawned modern domestic dogs, and for others, dingoes are the undomesticated descendants of an extinct Asian wolf. However, dingoes have a relative brain volume that is almost 30% below that of the European gray wolf, less differentiation of social interactions, reduced facial expressions, reduced impressive behavior (all compared to the European gray wolf), tails laid over the back or curled up and usually year-round Male fertility, the same traits that occur in other domestic dogs and are counted among the effects of domestication. It can happen that one and the same source sees the dingo as a subspecies of the gray wolf but all other domestic dogs as a separate species. Likewise, the scientific name of the dingo can be given as Canis lupus dingo and yet the dingo is referred to as a separate species. Alfred Brehm at first thought the dingo was a separate species, but after inspecting various specimens, he came to the conclusion that it could only be domestic dogs. In contrast, the dingo was classified as a separate species by William Jardine and as a feral domestic dog by French researchers at the same time. Even by today's scientists, dingoes and other domestic dogs are sometimes viewed as two separate species, despite proven minor genetic, morphological and behavioral differences (e.g. comparative studies at the Institute for Pet Science in Kiel came to the conclusion that dingoes are clearly dogs). The phenomenon of intermingling of the two is then attributed to the fact that all wolf-like species could intermix and produce fertile offspring. In crossbreeding experiments at the Kiel Institute for Pet Research, however, unrestricted fertility could only be demonstrated in the crossbreeding domestic dog and gray wolf. When crossing the domestic dog / coyote and the domestic dog / golden jackal , there were communication difficulties between the mongrels and between the mongrels and with the parents, and from the third generation onwards, there was reduced fertility and an increase in genetic defects among the mongrels. Such observations were never reported for mixtures of dingoes and other domestic dogs, but that dingoes can mix with other domestic dogs completely freely.

The choice of name can have a direct impact on the dingoes. Outside a natural park, a dingo officially ceases to exist and becomes a wild dog that is not protected. This term itself sometimes only includes dingoes and their hybrids or excludes dingoes. Another name change is that dingoes are "only" wild outside the national parks, whereby this term has a far more negative meaning in this context than the term "wild".

On the other hand, dingoes have been "rehabilitated" by changing their status from vermin to "Australia's native dog" or, more subtly, from a subspecies of domestic dog to that of gray wolf. The undertone in the Australian press is that being a gray wolf or Asiatic wolf means that the dingo is "wilder" and therefore more desirable than a companion animal (domestic dog). Perhaps the habit of calling dingoes in everyday language only dogs (not wild dogs) indicates familiarity with them or a devaluation, in the latter case it might be morally easier to kill them if there are problems, as they then do not have the " have the high status of a wolf or dingo. Sometimes it is viewed as a shame that the dingo is a domestic dog or is descended from such and not "directly" from the gray wolf. If the dingo is considered native, it deserves protection, but if it is “only” a variant of the domestic dog, it is instead considered a nuisance and must be wiped out.

Ecological importance

Reliable data on the exact ecological, economic and social effects of wild dogs are not yet available. In addition, the importance of wild dogs depends on various factors and a separation between dingoes and other domestic dogs is not necessarily made.

Ecological impact of the dingo after its arrival

The dingo is believed to be responsible for the extinction of the thylacine , Tasmanian devil, and Tasmanian grouse in mainland Australia, as the arrival of the dingo and the extinction of these species coincide. Apart from that, dingoes do not seem to have had the same influence on the local fauna as red foxes , for example, later had. This could be related to the way they hunted and the size of their preferred prey, as well as the lower number of dingoes in the period before European colonization.

Tasmanian wolves and dingo show overlaps in the activity pattern and thus probably also in the prey spectrum. In New Guinea, where the Hallstrom dog occurs instead of the dingo, the thylacine also became extinct . Dingoes and pouch wolves have been shown to have lived side by side on the mainland for a while. Heinz Möller therefore considered it unlikely that the bagwolf would be displaced by the inferiority of its competitors. This view has also been criticized from other quarters, arguing that the extinction of the thylacine on the mainland was only part of an already long-lasting ecological decay, which was triggered thousands of years before by the arrival of humans.

The assumption that the dingo had ousted the thylacine was first put forward in 1837, but found little support. It was instead believed that the thylacine would have ousted the dingo from Tasmania. It wasn't until the 1950s that this assumption became popular among scientists.

The assumption that dingo and thylacine were food competitors is based on the external similarity of the two species. The pouch-wolf had a stronger and more efficient bite, but was arguably reliant on hunting relatively small prey, while the stronger skull and neck allow the dingo to hunt large prey as well. The dingo would be the superior predator, as it could hunt in packs in a coordinated manner and defend resources better, while the thylacine was probably more solitary. In addition, wild populations of dingoes may have had support from their own conspecifics or have brought in some diseases to which the thylacine was susceptible. The extinction of the thylacine on the continent about 2000 years ago has also been linked to changes in the climate and land use by the indigenous people. Naming the dingo as the cause is plausible, but there are significant morphological differences between the two, suggesting that the ecological overlap of the two species may be exaggerated. The dingo has more generalist teeth, while the pouch grinder has those of a meat specialist (with no characteristics for eating carrion and bones). It has also been argued that the thylacine was a flexible predator that should have withstood competition from the dingo and instead became extinct from human persecution.

This theory also has to explain the question why the dingo and the Tasmanian devil existed on the same continent until about 430 years ago, if the dingo is said to have caused its extinction. In fact, the group dynamics of the dingoes could have successfully kept the devil away from carrion, and since dingoes can crack bones, there wouldn't have been much left for the devil. In addition, devils are also successful hunters of small to medium prey, and so there would have been an overlap in live prey as well. In addition, the arguments that the dingo is supposed to have triggered the extinction of the thylacine, the devil and the grouse are in contradiction to one another. If the dingo is said to have been similar enough to the devil and the thylacine in its ecological role to supplant both, it is strange that the grouse could coexist with both for so long. While this is possible, the indications of this are viewed as weak by critics.

However, research from 2013 suggests that the extinction of the Tasmanian devil and thylacine was more likely due to the simultaneous population explosion around 5000 years ago.

Ecological importance today

Today the dingo is seen by many biologists as well as environmentalists as part of the Australian fauna, mainly because these dogs existed there before the arrival of Europeans and a mutual adaptation of the dingo and ecosystem took place. But there is also the opposite view that the dingo is just another introduced predator or only native to Thailand.

Much about the current position of wild dogs in Australian ecosystems and especially in urban areas is still unclear (it has been proven, however, that dingoes lead to year-round reproduction in swamp wallabies). Although one understands the ecological role of dingoes in northern and central Australia, that of wild dogs in the east of the continent is far less understood. Contrary to some claims, it has been clearly refuted that dingoes are generally harmful to the Australian ecosystem. It is mostly believed that they have a positive effect.

Dingoes are considered to be the main prey grabs and may generally have a key ecological function. Hence, it is considered likely (with increasing evidence from scientific research) that they control diversity within ecosystems by limiting the numbers of prey and competitors. Wild dogs hunt feral livestock such as goats and pigs (they are considered to be the only potential predators of camels); as well as domestic prey and introduced wild animals (e.g. red deer ). Perhaps the lower distribution of wild goats in Northern Australia is due to the presence of the dingoes; whether they really regulate their populations is still worth discussing. Wild dogs could also be a factor limiting the spread of feral horses .

Studies from 1995 in the northern humid tropics of Australia came to the conclusion that dingoes did not reduce the number of feral pigs there, but that their raids, together with the occurrence of water buffalo (which make it difficult for pigs to access food), had an impact on the pig population to have. Analysis of data on the relationship between dingoes and feral domestic pigs in Queensland from 1945 to 1976, however, indicated that dingoes were major predators of domestic pigs there.

There have been observations on the mutual influence of dingoes and fox and cat populations and indications that dingoes block red foxes and domestic cats from accessing certain resources. It is therefore believed that the disappearance of the dingoes could lead to an increase in the populations of red fox and feral cats and thus increased pressure on smaller native animals. Research has found that the presence of dingoes is one of the factors that keeps red fox numbers low in an area, thereby relieving pressure on other native species and preventing them from disappearing from affected areas. It was also shown that nationwide the fox population is particularly high where dingo numbers are low, but it was considered that other factors could be responsible for this depending on the area. It was also reported from parts of Australia that the number of feral domestic cats increased after control measures reduced the number of dingoes. In fact, an experiment in South Australia demonstrated direct killing of red foxes by dingoes, and it appears that all of the test foxes were killed by dingoes. In the same experiment it was also shown that dingoes killed 2 out of 5 domestic cats and were the only ones of the three predator species left at the end of the experiment. Investigations in the areas of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales found evidence of competition between wild dogs and red foxes, as there was much overlap in the prey spectrum. However, there was only evidence of local competition, not on a large scale. Research published in 2011 also showed great potential for inter-species competition, demonstrated fox killings by dingoes, and concluded that the presence of dingoes could benefit smaller prey species. However, it is also possible that dingoes can live side by side with red foxes and domestic cats in areas with sufficient food (e.g. high numbers of rabbits) and hiding places without the number of cats and red foxes decreasing. Almost nothing is known about the relationship between feral dogs and feral domestic cats (both coexist in most areas). Although wild dogs also eat cats, the extent to which this affects the population is unknown. Wild dogs live in many areas together with all species of bag marten, with the exception of the eastern bag marten, which is believed to be extinct on the continent, and are therefore not considered a threat to them.

Likewise, the disappearance of the dingoes could lead to an outgrowth of red kangaroos and rabbits. In the areas not enclosed by the dingo fence, the number of kangaroos and emus is lower than inside, with the number changing depending on the area and time. Since the environment is the same on both sides of the fence, the dingo is considered a powerful factor in the regulation of these animals. For this reason, some sides are calling for dingo populations to increase in areas with low density or to reintroduce them in order to reduce the pressure on threatened populations of native species and to be able to reintroduce them in certain areas. A study from 2009 found evidence that certain threatened species occur in stable populations where there are also stable dingo populations. The results of another study (published in the same year) led the researchers to the conclusion that reintroducing the dingo into currently dog-free areas would restore the local ecosystems by suppressing introduced species.

But there are also critical voices that indicate that due to the strong changes in the Australian landscape since the arrival of the Europeans, a positive management of dingoes does not necessarily lead to the recovery of endangered species and even endangered these dogs at the local level Threaten species.

Cultural meaning

The appearance of a wild dog is arguably insignificant for its ecological significance. It depends more on what a dog does, i.e. what place it occupies in the ecosystem and what effects it has. In contrast, a wild dog's appearance is sometimes very important in terms of its cultural and economic significance. Here it is often required that the wild dog corresponds externally to what is expected, i.e. either a dingo ("pure" dingo) or looks like one. In terms of economic importance, however, this has so far only been related to cases where the "pure" dingo is a tourist attraction, for example. Where wild dogs are viewed as pests, appearance (if at all) plays only a very minor role.

The importance of wild dogs in urban areas and whether they pose a threat to people (direct attacks, diseases and more) has not yet been clarified.

Views of the dingo have often been based on its perceived "cunning" and that it sits somewhere between wild and civilized.

Some of the early European settlers compared dingoes to domestic dogs and viewed them as such, while others compared them to wolves. As dingoes began to kill sheep over time, the immigrants' attitude towards them changed very quickly: they were viewed as cunning and cowardly, since, according to Europeans, they would not fight a fight and simply disappear into the bush. Dingoes would not kill out of hunger, but out of malice (the same is now said of mixed dingoes). Likewise, they were soon referred to as promiscuous, or devils , endowed with a poisonous bite or saliva, and reservations about killing them were unnecessary. Over time, trappers gained a certain prestige for their work, especially when the dingoes they hunted were particularly difficult to catch. Dingoes were quickly equated with thieves, vagabonds, bush walkers and the opponents in parliament. The oldest evidence that politicians called their opponents dingoes (thus cowardly and treacherous) dates back to the 1960s and became very popular afterwards. To this day, the word dingo in Australian slang stands for coward and cheat and the verb and adjective form have the corresponding meaning.

In Australia today, the dingo's identity is complex and ambivalent. And while it is not the only Australian creature that is perceived in dramatically different ways, the dingo is probably the creature with the most ambivalence in public perception. The image of the dingo ranges from a romantic transfiguration as completely harmless, masculinization to demonization as a fundamental danger to people and the environment. For some, the dingo is a “living fossil” or a “beautiful, unique animal” and for some is not a house dog, but a wolf. Dingoes are referred to as an icon of Australia that should be preserved (at least in "pure" form) and their possible "extinction" is also compared to that of the thylacine. Where dingoes are seen as pests despite this "rehabilitation", this can degenerate into hatred. It is sometimes said that dingoes harm society and the ecosystem (for example, that they are fundamentally responsible for the extinction of native fauna). Dingoes (regardless of whether they are "pure" or not) are then viewed as a scourge that must be eradicated. In such cases, it is also considered acceptable if all wild dogs must be exterminated in order to save a human life. There is also the opinion among bureaucrats that wild dogs are cruel to sheep and cattle and that cruelty against them is justified.

Rock painting in Namadgi National Park .

Dogs traditionally have a privileged position in the indigenous culture of Australia (which the dingo may have inherited from the thylacine) and the dingo is a well-known element in rock art and cave paintings. There are ceremonies (such as the howling for the dead at Cape York ) and dreamtime stories related to the dingo that have been passed down through the generations; there are strong feelings in Aboriginal society that dingoes should not be killed, and in some areas women breastfeed young dingoes. Most of the time, they are treated with astonishing forbearance, although the reasons do not necessarily have to be friendliness, as dogs are sometimes treated very brutally. Nevertheless, there seems to be a great sense of belonging, even if the reasons are not always clear. Just as many colonialists got dingoes as domestic dogs, so too did many natives quickly get dogs from the immigrants. This process went so quickly that Francis Barrallier (the first European to explore the Australian interior) discovered in 1802 that he had already beaten five domestic dogs of European descent. From some sides the theory is expressed that other domestic dogs will take over the role of the "pure" dingoes. In fact, the majority of the myths about dingoes simply refer to them as dogs (whether this role has been taken over by other domestic dogs or if there is no difference to the narrators is not clear) and other introduced creatures such as water buffalo and domestic cats have already been introduced into the culture in some areas of the natives in the form of rituals, traditional drawings and dream time stories.

The dingo is associated with sacred places, totems , rituals and characters of the dreamtime. There are stories that say dogs can see the supernatural, are watchdogs and warn of evil forces. There is evidence that dogs were buried with their owners in order to protect them from evil influences even after death. Most of the published myths about dingoes come from groups in the Western Desert and show an astonishing complexity. In some stories dingoes play the main role, in others supporting roles. At one point he is an ancestor of the dream time, who creates people and other dingoes or gives them their shape. Then there are explanations about creation, how certain things are and what one should do. There are myths about shapeshifters (human to dingo or dingo to human), "thing humans" and about the creation of certain landscapes or elements of the landscape, such as water holes or mountains. He is also responsible for death in others. In other myths, information about social behavior and warnings are given to those who do not want to follow the rules of the group. Stories can indicate territorial boundaries or dingoes themselves stand for certain members of society, for example rebellious dingoes as a warning for "wild" members of the tribe. The dingo also has a wild and uncontrollable side in other stories and there are many stories about dingoes who kill and eat people (for example about the mamu who catches and eats the spirit of every child who moves away from the campfire). Other stories tell of a huge man-eating devil dingo, from which the actual dingoes later emerged. The dog appears as a murderous, malevolent creature, which - apart from the absence of a subtle mind - resembles a trickster , since it plays the role of a mischievous opponent for other mythical characters. Many mythological beings fall prey to or escape from bloodthirsty dogs. Here, too, the individual figures have a certain meaning and sometimes become part of the landscape. The actions of the dogs themselves also lead, for example, to stones and trees or blood turning into red ocher from flying bones and pieces of meat .

Economical meaning

Feral dogs are known for a number of negative and undesirable influences on the livestock industry across Australia and have been considered pests in Australia since the beginning of the European livestock industry. The sheep are the most common prey, followed by cattle and goats. However, it was only relatively recently that research began to investigate how great the damage actually is and why the problem exists. There are many causes for a farm animal to die, and when found it can often be too late to be able to say for sure what the animal died of. Since the outcome of an attack on farm animals depends in large part on the behavior and experience of the attacker and the prey, there is no certain way (other than perhaps direct observation) of determining whether an attack has been carried out by dingoes or other domestic dogs . It does not necessarily identify the remains of livestock in the feces of wild dogs as pests, since wild dogs also feed on carrion. Accurate numbers or reliable estimates of damage from wild dogs are therefore difficult to come by and seldom reliable. Even if farm animals should not make up a large part of the dingo's diet, these observations say nothing about the extent of the damage that dingoes can inflict on livestock farming.

The importance of the dingo as a pest is mainly due to its forays into sheep and, to a lesser extent, from cattle and is not only related to the direct loss of livestock. Sheep of all ages are susceptible to attack by dingoes; in the case of cattle, this danger only exists for calves. Sheep harassment can lead to less than optimal use of pasture land and miscarriages.

Distribution of wild dogs and livestock (after Breckwoldt 1988, Corbett 1995a, Fleming 1996a)

The cattle industry can tolerate low to medium degrees and sometimes even high degrees of wild dogs (which is why dingoes are not so quickly considered pests there), and sheep and goats are kept with zero tolerance. The greatest danger comes from dogs that live within or near the paddock areas. The extent of sheep loss is difficult to determine due to the large grazing areas in some parts of Australia. In cattle, losses are far more variable and not as well documented. Although the loss of calves can increase to 30%, the normal loss is zero to ten percent. Factors such as the occurrence of domestic prey as well as the defensive behavior and the health of the cattle determine the amount of losses. A 2003 study in Central Australia confirmed that when there are enough other prey like rabbits and kangaroos, dingoes have little impact on cattle populations. In some areas of Australia it is believed that the damage to the cattle industry can be minimized by using suckler cows with horns instead of horned ones. The exact economic significance in this case is not known and it is considered unlikely that rescuing a few calves would outweigh the costs of the containment measures for individual owners. Calves tend to suffer fewer fatal injuries than sheep due to their size and the protection provided by the adult cattle and have a higher chance of surviving attacks. It can happen that indications of dog attacks are only noticed when the cattle are fenced in and tracks such as bitten ears, tails and other wounds are discovered. The views of cattle farmers towards dingoes are far more variable than those of the sheep industry and some landowners believe that in periods of drought it is better for the weakened suckler cows to lose their calves (and then no longer have to care for them) and therefore dingoes become there seldom killed. This theory was also advocated by Laurie Corbett. The cattle industry may also benefit from the dingo's raids on rabbits, rats and kangaroos. In addition, calf death rates have many possible causes and it is difficult to distinguish between them. The only reliable method of recording the damage would have to be to record all pregnant cows and observe the later fate of the suckler cows and the calves. Calf loss in surveys was higher in areas where the dingo was controlled than in others. Loss of livestock is therefore not necessarily due to the presence of dingoes and is independent of wild dogs.

Domestic dogs are the only land carnivores large enough to kill adult sheep in Australia, and few sheep recover from serious injuries. Many lambs die from causes other than predatory attacks, which are often suspected of having eaten from the carcass. Red fox attacks are less common than first thought, but still occur. The fact that sheep and goat farming are much more susceptible to damage from wild dogs than cattle farming is mainly due to two factors:

  • the escape behavior of the sheep and their peculiarity to band together in danger
  • the hunting methods of wild dogs and the efficiency with which they handle sheep and goats

As a result, the damage to the livestock industry cannot be related to the density of the wild dog population (except that there are none where there are no dogs). Even if there are few wild dogs in an area, sheep loss can be very high as there can be excessive killing. Sometimes there is talk of extreme losses that are getting bigger and bigger (once out of 2000 dead sheep in one night).

Wild dogs cost the state approximately $ 30 million annually due to livestock losses, disease spread and containment efforts, according to a report from the Queensland government. Losses to the livestock industry alone were estimated at $ 18 million. According to a 1995 survey of ranchers conducted by the Park and Wildlife Service, the hosts estimated their annual feral dog losses at 1.6% to 7.1% (depending on the district). Despite the diversity of estimates, there is little doubt that raids by dingoes can cause enormous economic damage, especially in the early days of a drought, when domestic prey is scarce but the number of dingo is still relatively high. Furthermore, wild dogs are involved in the spread of echinococcosis in cattle and sheep and heartworms and parvoviruses in domestic dogs in human hands. Echinococcosis infection leads to the seizure of the innards of 90% of slaughtered cattle in infested areas, resulting in a decline in the value of meat and high economic losses. In addition, bitten cattle can only be sold for lower prices.

Use of the dinghy in Western Australia

In East Asia and Oceania, domestic dogs are considered a delicacy and are regularly killed for consumption. In northeastern Thailand, at least 200 dingoes are killed each week and their meat is offered for consumption in the markets. They were also used as food by Aboriginal Australians before the beginning of the 20th century, but the practice has not been reported recently. The Australian natives also considered dingoes as hunting companions (according to studies, however, only in certain regions, as a rule they appear useless for this), live hot water bottles, camp dogs and their scalps as a form of currency. This includes the traditional use of teeth as necklaces and their hair for traditional costumes. In some parts of Australia, premiums are paid for dingo and scalp skins. However, the fur of dingoes is usually of little value and exporting these furs to states where they are protected is prohibited. There is also no large-scale commercial trapping and killing of dingoes to capture the fur. Sometimes "pure" dingoes are important for tourism if they are used to attract visitors. On Fraser Island, for example, images and symbols of dingoes are actively used by the tourism industry to make the island attractive to visitors. Dingo profiles and paw prints are used in the logos of several hiking groups and are often found on promotional materials and tourist merchandise. In this context, dingoes have a visible and valued place, but they have to meet certain expectations in order to keep it. The experience of personal interaction with dingoes seems to be particularly important for tourists and part of the experience that the island provides. Images of dingoes appear on most of the brochures and many websites and postcards promoting the island. The use of dingo urine to deter kangaroos and wallabies has been considered, but has not yet been implemented economically.

Legal status

Internationally, the dingo was classified as endangered on the Red List of Endangered Species in 2004. This classification was made because the number of “pure” dingoes has decreased by 30% in the last generation due to mixing with other domestic dogs. In the Commonwealth , the dingo is a regulated native species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and is therefore placed under protection in the National Parks of the Commonwealth as well as in areas of world heritage and other protected areas. The law also allows dingoes to be fought in areas where they can be shown to have an impact on the local ecology. The law prohibits the export of dingoes or their body parts from Australia, except as provided by law. The dingo is not considered threatened. In Australia, the legal status of dingoes and other wild dogs varies between states and territories:

  • Northern Territory : The dingo is considered protected under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (2000) , not endangered, and indigenous because of its ecological importance. Since interbreeding with other domestic dogs in the Northern Territory is relatively low, they are accorded an important protective value. In agricultural areas, however, dingoes may be hunted if they pose a threat to livestock farming.
  • Western Australia : Dingoes and mixed breeds are designated "designated animals" under the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act (1976) . Populations need to be controlled and can only be kept in captivity under certain conditions. Containment measures are strictly limited to livestock areas; other domestic dogs are generally fought. Dingoes are also classified as "unprotected native fauna" under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (1950) . Although not protected, they are usually not hunted in protected areas without a permit.
  • South Australia : Dingoes and mixed breeds are “designated” pests in the sheep areas south of the dog fence under the Animal and Plant Control Board (Agricultural Protection and Other Purposes) Act (1986) . They must be combated there and can only be kept in authorized zoos and wildlife parks. North of the dog fence, dingoes are considered legitimate game species and even if they are unprotected, they are granted some protection outside a 35 km buffer zone north of the fence.
  • Queensland : Dingoes and mixed breeds are considered pests under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 . All land managers have a legal obligation to reduce the number of wild dogs on their lands. The dingo is considered a "wild species" and "native wild species" under the Nature Conservation Act (1992) and is a natural resource (and therefore protected) in protected areas. Outside of protected areas, the dingo is not considered "native to Australia" and will not be protected. Dingoes and mixed breeds may only be kept in zoos and wildlife parks with the consent of the minister.
  • New South Wales : The Rural Lands Protection Act (1998) gives wild dogs pest status and requires landowners to decimate or eradicate them. Although the dingo is not protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) , it is fully protected in national parks. The dingo is considered a native species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995) , as these dogs were established before European colonization. The Wild Dog Destruction Act (1921) includes dingoes in its definition of wild dogs. This law only affects the western part of the state, where landowners are required to control wild dogs. The law also forbids the possession of dingoes in this region unless authorized by law. Elsewhere in the state, dingoes can be kept as pets under the Companion Animals Act (1998) .
  • Australian Capital Territory : Dingoes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act (1980) . Wild dog killing is permitted on private land with government approval.
  • Victoria : Wild dogs are considered "established pests" under the Catchment and Land Protection Act (1994) , and landowners (other than the Commonwealth) have a legal obligation on their own land to prevent their spread and to eradicate them as much as possible. All dingoes, feral domestic dogs, dogs “gone wild” and mixed breeds are considered wild dogs (except for recognized mixed breed breeds such as the Australian Cattle Dog ). The Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animal Act (1994) puts dog owners under the obligation to keep them under constant control. Dingoes are granted some protection in areas governed by the National Parks Act (1975) . Since 1998 it has been possible to own registered dingoes there. At the moment there is the possibility that the “pure” dingo could be officially classified as a protected species, according to official information this should not conflict with the control measures against wild dogs.
  • Tasmania : The entry of dingoes into Tasmania is prohibited under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970) . Control of dogs that attack livestock is dealt with under the Dog Control Act (1987) .

Control measures

"Dingo controls" have been in place as long as dingoes have come into conflict with Europeans, and this euphemism continues to be used to describe the dingo's extinction across much of Australia.

Attacks by dingoes on farm animals have led to widespread efforts to keep them out of areas of intensive agricultural production. By the late 1800s, all states and territories had passed dingo control laws. In the early years of the 20th century, fences were put up to keep dingoes out of the sheep farming areas. Ranchers began routinely eradicating dingoes. In areas of the sheep industry, so-called doggers were employed, specifically to reduce the number of dingoes by using traps with steel jaws, meat baits, firearms, or other means. The landowners were responsible for fighting the dogs. At the same time, the government was forced to decimate the dingoes that came from unoccupied land or reservations and that might invade industrial areas. Since dingoes migrate over long distances to areas with more abundant prey, control was concentrated on "paths" or "ways" even in distant areas. Every dingo was seen as a potential danger and hunted.

Part of the dingo fence

In the 1920s, based on the Wild dog act (1921), the dingo fence was built and by 1931 thousands of miles of dog fences had been erected in several areas in South Australia. In 1946 these efforts were given a common goal and the dingo fence was finally completed. This fence joined other fences in New South Wales and Queensland. The main responsibility for the maintenance of the dog fence still rests with the landowners, whose properties adjoin the fence and who can get support from the state.

While a premium system (both local and government) was in place from 1836 through the late 20th century, despite the billions of dollars paid, there is no evidence that it was ever an effective method of containment , and the premiums decreased over time.

Warning of poisonous sodium fluoracetate baits

The extinction of dingoes due to livestock damage has decreased along with the importance of the sheep industry and the use of strychnine (previously used for 100 years) since the 1970s. Likewise, the number of doggers decreased and the number of government poisoning campaigns with aerial bait increased. During this period, many farmers in Western Australia switched to cattle farming, and insights in the field of biology enabled more efficient and cost-effective control strategies and techniques, such as the use of sodium fluoroacetate (1080 for short). This led to initial fears that dingoes might become locally extinct. Environmentalists opposed the indiscriminate killing of dingoes and called for the effects on other living beings to be taken into account. Investigations into the way of life of the dingoes then led to the practice of laying bait in the vicinity of water holes, hiding places and concentrated prey.

Constant population reductions are now considered necessary to limit the influence of wild dogs, regardless of their species, on the one hand, and to ensure the long-term survival of the "pure" dingoes in the wild on the other.

Owners of dingoes and other domestic dogs are sometimes asked to sterilize them and keep them under observation in order to reduce the number of stray and feral domestic dogs and to prevent interbreeding with dingoes (e.g. under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (2000) ) . At least in some areas, the precautionary principle applies when fighting dingoes, as they are fully protected there, are culturally important for the Aborigines and there is still a lack of data on the ecological significance of the dingoes and the effects of the control measures on other species. Historically, when fighting dingoes, the views and needs of local people and their culture have not been taken into account. The establishment of so-called “dingo protection zones”, which are mainly based on known sacred dingo sites and “dreamtime” paths, is seen as a possible solution to this problem. The genetic status (the degree of intermingling) of the dingoes in these areas, the ownership structure and the use of the land are taken into account. Kills should only be carried out outside of these zones. Landowners are encouraged to regularly record where individual dingoes and their tracks appear most frequently and do the most damage. The birth, harm and mortality rates of livestock should also be recorded. The controls and investigations are aimed at minimizing the loss of livestock and not at protecting dingoes. In cattle areas there are few or no control measures and efforts are mostly limited to occasional shooting and poisoning measures. Government-monitored use of 1080 is only carried out there on average every three years, when field observations prove the reports of the landowners large losses and high dingo numbers.

Meat baits with 1080 are considered to be the fastest and safest method of fighting dogs, as they are extremely susceptible to it and even small amounts of the poison per dog are sufficient (0.3 mg per kg). Airborne use is regulated within the Commonwealth by the Civil Aviation Regulations (1988) . The assumption that giant martens could be harmed by poison bait meant that the areas where poison bait could be dropped from the air became smaller. In areas where it is no longer possible to throw poison bait from the air, it is necessary to set traps and lay poison baits on the ground. Cage traps are used where steel traps or poison bait cannot or may not be used (for example in residential areas).

Wild dog carcasses hung from a fence

With the exception of the introduction of 1080, which was used extensively for 40 years and also became known as "doggone" (German: dogs away), the means and strategies for decimating wild dogs have changed little over time. Strychnine is still used across Australia. Removal trapping is an essential part of control efforts in the plateaus of southeast New South Wales and north Victoria. It also happens that dingoes are hunted and shot from horseback, or bonuses are paid for shooting them. One method that has no proven use, however, is to hang the bodies of hunted dogs along the border of one's own territory in the belief that this would deter other wild dogs. Dogs ( Maremmas , Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Pyrenees Mountain Dogs ), donkeys , alpacas and llamas are used to protect cattle . Cyanide ejectors and protective collars (which are filled with 1080 in certain places) have also been tested in recent years. In order to keep wild dogs away from areas, efforts are also being made to make these areas unattractive for wild dogs, for example by removing leftover food. Combating disease through the conscious spread of disease is usually not considered. Since typical canine diseases are already present in the population, such attempts are unlikely to be successful, and human-owned dogs would also be susceptible to these diseases. Other biological control methods have so far been considered not feasible, as they would also decimate dogs in human hands with a high risk.

The effectiveness of control measures was and is often questioned, as is whether they have a good cost-benefit ratio. The bonus system has proven to be vulnerable to fraud and useless on a large scale and can therefore only be used for the targeted elimination of "problem dogs". Animal traps are viewed as inhumane and inefficient on a large scale, for example due to the limited effectiveness of the attractants. Investigations suggest that only dogs are caught that would otherwise have died. In addition, wild dogs are very adaptive and can sometimes discover and avoid traps. There is one known case where a female dingo was chasing a dogger and setting off its traps one at a time by carefully pushing her front paw through the sand under which the trap lay. Poison baits can be very effective if the meat quality is good, but they do not work long before and have been proven to be accepted by red foxes, giant martens, ants and birds. Marsupials have a higher tolerance to 1080, but for many the advantage of this resistance is reduced due to their small size. Regarding the susceptibility of giant sacred martens, studies in New South Wales found no effects of baits prepared with 1080 on their populations. After investigating two other species, researchers believe that bait control measures are unlikely to have any effect on those species.

Although most baits are absorbed within a few days, there have also been reports of baits that did not lose their toxicity even after months and were a source of danger. Laying bait from the air can lead to the almost complete extinction of a dingo population. Livestock guardian dogs can successfully minimize damage, but are less effective in large areas with widely dispersed livestock and, due to negligence on the part of the owners, can endanger livestock themselves or even fall victim to killing measures. Fences can reliably deter wild dogs from entering certain areas, but they are expensive to build and require constant repairs. In addition, fences only act to relocate the problem.

According to studies, control measures can reduce a population of wild dogs by 66 to 84%, but the population can quickly regain its old strength within a year and depending on the season, for example through immigration. If at all, only coherent, coordinated control in all areas would be effective in the long term. Control measures mainly result in smaller packs or in the demolition of the pack structure. The measures seem to be rather harmful even for the livestock industry, because the empty areas are occupied by young dogs and the raids increase. According to studies on wild dogs in the settlement areas of the southeast of Queensland, a targeted control of young dogs with simultaneous sparing of the lead dogs would bring more, since the corresponding areas remain occupied by the lead dogs and no new dogs can migrate. There is also evidence that unstable dingo populations also result in unstable populations of other native species. In spite of everything, it is considered unlikely that control measures can ever completely eradicate the dingo in Central Australia, or that eradicating all wild dogs is a realistic option.


The main threats to the dingo are habitat fragmentation, habitat change and mixing with other domestic dogs.

There is only an official protection and sanctuary for "pure" dingoes in Australia. All other wild dogs are considered pests. However, all wild dogs in protection zones are granted the same protection, as separate handling is not possible. Australian dingoes are only considered “legally protected” in national parks, nature reserves, in the Arnhem Land Aborigine Reserve and nature parks in the Northern Territory, national parks and reserves in New South Wales, national parks in Victoria and in the entire Australian Capital Territory. Although they are protected there and in areas of the UNESCO World Heritage and in Aboriginal reservations, dingoes are considered "designated" pests in most of their remaining range, and landowners are obliged to control the populations there. However, this condition is still relatively new. Before the 1970s, dingoes were viewed almost exclusively as pests.

Dingo with ear tag on Fraser Island

The dingoes of the island of Fraser Island are very important for the protection of the dingoes, because due to their geographical and genetic isolation they are often considered to be the "purest" population and thus the most similar to the original dingoes. Allegedly, the dingoes are not supposed to be "threatened" by mixing with other domestic dogs.

Groups dedicated to preserving the “pure” dingoes through breeding programs include the Australian Native Dog Conservation Society and the Australian Dingo Conservation Association . The efforts of the dingo conservation associations in Australia are currently considered ineffective as most of their dogs have not been tested or are known to be mixed breeds.

The main focus in protecting the dingoes is stopping them from mixing with other domestic dogs. Protection against intermingling is extremely difficult and costly and protection efforts are made more difficult because it is not known exactly how many “pure” dingoes there are still in Australia and that protection efforts conflict with control measures. Steps to obtain "pure" dingoes can only be effective if a reliable distinction can be made between dingoes and other domestic dogs (especially in living individuals). Protection of “pure” and viable dingo populations is considered to be very promising in remote areas where contact with humans and especially with other domestic dogs is rare. In parks, reserves and other non-agricultural areas, these populations should only be controlled if they pose a threat to the survival of other native fauna. The establishment of "dog-free" buffer zones around areas with "pure" dingo populations is considered realistic in order to prevent mixing. Right now, this is being done by allowing all wild dogs to be killed outside of protected areas. Investigations from 2007 indicate, however, that even an intensive control of core areas probably cannot stop the process of mixing.

So far there is no precise information on what the views of the general public in Australia are on the protection of the dingoes. In addition, there is no unit about when a dog should be accepted as a "pure" dingo and to what extent this should be controlled.

The dingo as a pet

There are different opinions about keeping dingoes as pets: Critics consider the dingo in no way suitable, supporters see no difference to other domestic dogs. Dingoes could therefore be recognized as a dog breed and domestication would be a way to get the "pure" dingo.

Dingoes can become very tame with frequent contact with humans and are less shy than gray wolves. In addition, people lived and live with dingoes. Australian natives and the first colonialists acquired dingoes, but without breeding or training them on a large scale. Alfred Brehm reported, on the one hand, of completely tame dingoes that did not differ in their behavior from other domestic dogs and were even used successfully for herding large cattle. On the other hand, he describes dingoes that remained wild and shy. Regarding reports of completely uncontrollable and aggressive dingoes, he said that they should not be “given more attention than they deserve”, since it depends on how a dingo is kept from an early age. He also believed that these dogs could be made very handsome pets.

According to Eberhard Trumler , dingoes are very smart and affectionate. He advises against keeping it if no sufficiently large and escape-proof enclosure and no partner of the opposite sex can be made available. Dingoes are reluctant to be alone and are even more difficult to keep than other domestic dogs during heat. Their attachment creates problems because they follow you anywhere. The ability to train is associated with a high willingness to learn and comprehension, but stop at the slightest pressure. Just like other domestic dogs, they could be house trained. They also have an enormous urge to move. He assumed that it would only be possible to develop “domestic dog-like behavior” in exceptional cases, and also reported very close ties and loyalty to people with good upbringing.

In 1976 the "Australian Nature Dog Training Society of New South Wales e. V. “( Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW Ltd. ) was founded. At that time it was considered illegal because keeping dingoes was forbidden. The dingo was officially recognized as Australia's national breed in mid-1994 by the Australian National Kennel Council , and a breeding standard was issued a year later. However, this does not entitle the owner to own dingoes in states where the possession, breeding or sale of these dogs is prohibited.

A "singing" dingo

Today dingoes are bred by both private individuals and associations in Australia and the USA. In Germany, dingoes are kept in the Berlin zoo , the Wolfswinkel Trumler station and the Sättelstädt zoo.

It differs from country to country, within Australia also from state to state, whether or not dingoes can be kept as pets. In South Australia, for example, dingoes can only be kept in specially authorized zoos, circuses and research institutes. Possession, planned domestication or commercial use of the dingoes is considered unacceptable there as this would lead to the reintroduction of dingoes in sheep areas and thus to dangers for sheep.

The Dingo is not recognized as a dog breed by the International Domestic Dog Breeding Organization (FCI). The dingo, however, is rated differently by the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), where it is listed in the "Spitz and Primitive Group". The dingo is also listed in Group 4 by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC).


Breeding programs are considered to be the best way to ensure the long-term existence of the Australian dingo in its "pure" form, sometimes with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild later. The original aim of the reclassification as a pet in New South Wales in 1998 was to save dingoes from extinction.

In addition, dingoes should also be produced through breeding in order to sell them or later use them as working dogs. First efforts to use dingoes at customs were made in 1976 in Victoria. Critics believe it is possible that these dogs were mixed breeds of dingo and shepherd.


The keeping of dingoes as pets and the resulting breeding has been criticized from several sides.

One point of criticism is that dingo conservation associations, dingo “farms” and legislation on legal ownership of dingoes for people in public threaten the continued existence of the “pure” dingoes: most of these breeds would effectively promote the intermingling process if the regulations of a "pure" dingo are not absolutely correct or mixed breeds would be sold as "pure" dingoes.

A dingo on a camel farm

Proponents are also skeptical about breeding to preserve the "pure" dingo. Maintaining a population that is suitable for later release into the wild is difficult. According to David Jenkins, breeding and reintroduction of "pure" dingoes is difficult because of their strong territorial nature. There would be no research on this topic, especially with existing dingo populations.

Another point of criticism is the danger that breeders breed with individuals who are easier to handle. This can create a tamer population that is less suitable for life in the wild than their ancestors. An initially small population can also lead to a loss of genetic variability and thus to a higher susceptibility to certain diseases. Likewise, negative changes can occur solely from being kept in captivity. In addition, in the wilderness, characteristics that are essential for survival can no longer be sufficiently practiced under domestication conditions and can “weaken”, for example hunting skills.

Critics believe that adult dingoes would not make pets like other domestic dogs. Dingoes think more independently and domestication is more difficult. Dingoes are shy, with increasing age their aggressive instincts gain the upper hand, attacks on humans become more likely and they usually run away. In addition, most keepers could not meet the needs of dingoes and dingoes did not respond well to domestication and training. Only a few dingoes and dingo hybrids live to a great age because the owners do not know how to handle them. An unsocialized dingo is difficult to control. To make dingoes "more suitable" as pets, they would be crossed with other domestic dogs.

The breeding of dingoes itself is also criticized. Laurie Corbett argued that if dingoes had breed standards and characteristics, and if they were bred for them, they would not remain dingoes but would become a new breed of dog . It is also feared that dingoes, which are the subject of dog shows , would face the same health problems as other dogs in the show lines. As early as the 1970s, Eberhard Trumler expressed his concerns about the classification of the dingo as a pedigree dog and the establishment of a breed standard. He feared that the Australian government would no longer give the wild dingoes the necessary protection if they were recognized worldwide as a breed of dog. In addition, he knows from his own experiments how quickly a lack of breeding selection leads to degenerative approaches in the dingo (e.g. shortened tail, increased puppy mortality and weakening of the ear cartilage after five generations of sibling mating).

Attacks on people

A dingo on Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

As large carnivores, wild dogs can be dangerous to humans. The sand island Fraser Island is the focus of interest in this topic, as the number of interactions between humans and dingoes is very high there due to tourism and most reports therefore come from there.


Whether wild dogs pose a threat to humans depends in large part on how humans behave towards these dogs. The more frequently the dogs are fed or found leftovers, the more likely it is that they will lose all caution towards people and, in some cases, become aggressive when they run out of food.

In a study of the dingoes on Fraser Island, researchers concluded that human presence affects the dingo's activities. The local tourism industry encouraged people to approach dingoes without caution and such encounters were formally expected by visitors. Humans increasingly lost their caution in handling dingoes, and incident reports increased. The way dingoes behaved towards humans was dependent on the reaction of humans to the dingoes. Dingoes were more likely to behave aggressively when people ran away and were more likely to be intimidated when they moved confidently or aggressively toward the dingoes. A submissive demeanor on the part of humans seemed to cause a neutral or submissive response from the dingoes. At different times of the year, dingoes seem equally likely to show aggressive behavior towards humans. However, adult dingoes may be most dangerous during the mating season and female dingoes especially when they are raising pups.

While getting used to people in different ways seems to be the root cause of attacks, it is not clear what ultimately causes and triggers attacks and threats against people. Some of the attacks may result from puppy "playing", especially with children. Attacks could also be triggered by incorrect reactions by humans to the dominance and aggressive behavior of dingoes. It is believed that some dingoes may have adopted "human" food sources (garbage bins, garbage, alms, and so on) as part of their territory, and that attacks can arise from these dogs defending the food sources because they see certain people as food competitors. It is also thought possible that some dingoes might view humans as prey, because humans, especially children, can theoretically be overwhelmed.

Known cases

Dingoes are known to attack children, and as early as 1961 there was a documented case of a half-tame dingo dragging a one-year-old Aboriginal child away.

The first well-documented case of a dingo attack on Fraser Island dates back to 1988. 60 years earlier, a newspaper report mentioned problems with dingoes on the island. Between 1996 and 2001 a total of 279 incidents involving dingoes were known, of which 39 were classified as "serious" and one as "catastrophic".

Two reports of dingo attacks on humans received particular attention:

  • On August 19, 1980, ten-week-old Azaria Chamberlain was abducted and killed by a dingo near Uluṟu . The child's mother was then suspected and convicted of murdering her daughter, and released four years later when her innocence was proven by finding the child's jacket in a dingo cave (the child's body was not found). The story was filmed in 1988 under the title A Cry in the Dark (German title A cry in the dark ) with Meryl Streep .
  • On April 30, 2001, nine-year-old Clinton Cage was attacked and killed by dingoes at Waddy Point on Fraser Island. The incident and the killing of 31 dingoes afterwards caused a strong outcry among the population, there were several protests and the proposal to erect fences. However, the incident seemed to have had little impact on tourism and some tourists even felt safer afterwards due to the increased presence of rangers.


In order to be able to react better to dingo attacks, an improved recording of problematic cases is required. Likewise, non-lethal projectile weapons, spray cans with the appropriate content, stick whips and aversive bait against dingoes should be used to increase fear of humans. “Problem dingoes” are to be killed because attempts to relocate have turned out to be ineffective.

However, people's behavior can undermine these methods (which is why the main focus is on influencing people's behavior). Warning signs such as "Danger dingoes" have meanwhile lost their effect despite their large number on Fraser Island. In addition, humans do not realize how adaptable and fast dingoes are. Therefore, they do not remain vigilant enough and do not expect dingoes, for example, to steal food such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, tourists in some parks are said to be confused by the multitude of regulations and in some cases are even asked to feed wild animals.



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Web links

Commons : Dingo  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


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