Like the kangaroo and koala bear, the dingo is strongly identified with his Australian homeland. Beyond Australia, this wild dog is found across southeast Asia, including Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines and Borneo. There are no true dingoes in the U.S.; you'll need to visit the zoo to see a real specimen.
Dingoes Down Under
You won't have too look hard to see a dingo in Australia, where this guy tends to live in western and central forests, plains and mountains. He'll take to desert regions if he can find a reliable water source; water is important to him because he needs 7 percent of his body weight daily during the winter. Dingoes are so plentiful in Australia that a dingo fence runs over 1,000 miles, protecting millions of acres of sheep and cattle grazing land. Dingoes in Asia tend to be more welcome; people entice dingoes with food and shelter because of the protection they provide.
Looking at Dingoes
The Australian dingo is a medium-sized dog, standing 18 to 24 inches at his shoulder and weighing 22 to 33 pounds. The dingo of Asia is a bit smaller, likely because his diet is heavily carbohydrate-based, compared to the Australian's high-protein diet. No matter whether he's Australian or Asian, he'll most likely be a ginger color with white points, however, some dingoes may be black and tan or black and white, or even pure black.
Climbing the Ladder
The dingo behaves like other wild dogs, living a solitary existence outside of mating season when he's a young adult. Packs develop, with 3 to 12 dingoes, with various degrees of sociability. The pack is handy for hunting prey and defending territory. An alpha male and alpha female lead the pack, while low-ranking members will fight for positions within the pack. Each pack limits itself to one litter of dingoes per year, to the alpha female. If a lower-ranking female becomes pregnant, the pups are killed by the alpha female.
Foragers and Scrappers
The Australian dingo is an opportunistic hunter, eating mostly small game such as lizards, rabbits, rodents and birds. Occasionally he may prey on kangaroos, calves, sheep and wallabies, as well as scavenge from humans. He's no stranger to plants and fruit. The Asian dingo eats lots of leftovers, including cooked rice, fruit and bits of fish, crab or chicken. He'll also hunt, eating rats and lizards.
The "American" Dingo
Don't be fooled by the Carolina dog, otherwise known as the American dingo or Carolina dingo. Despite his similar appearance, he's not related to the Australian or Asian dingo. He's the first domesticated dog of the Americas, believed to have made his way to North America via the Bering Strait about 8,000 years ago. His size is similar to the wild dingo, and he's proven to be a very adaptable dog. He enjoys pack life and is a social, gentle companion. If you're looking for a pet dingo, this pup would make a good compromise, giving you the dingo's good looks with an engaging personality. The Australian cattle dog is another solid choice. His heritage goes back to 1840, when a dingo was bred with a blue merle collie dog. The experiment was a success, and the crossbreed was in high demand from cattlemen because of the dog's working ability. Nearly 200 years later these herding dogs still have much of the dingo appearance.
- Dog Breed Info Center: Carolina Dog (American Dingo) (Carolina Dingo)
- National Geographic: Dingo Canis dingo
- Dingo Discovery & Research Center: Dingoes Are Not Dogs
- Animal Diversity Web: Canis lupus dingo Dingo
- Thargotourism.com: Dog Barrier Fence - Formerly Dingo Barrier Fence
- American Kennel Club: Australian Cattle Dog History
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images