Dhole

Indian_wild_dog_by_N._A._Naseer

Profile

Dholes, also called Asian wild dogs are medium-sized canines living in the south-eastern half of Asia. They look like a mix between a fox and a coyote. For pretty obvious reasons, this dog is also called the red dog. This is because of their rusty-red coat. These dogs can be distinguished from other wild canines by their thicker muzzle. Another more reliable yet harder way to recognize these dogs is the fact that they have one less molar on each side of their lower jaw. Not all of this dog’s fur is red. Their belly, paws, as well as the inside of their ears have white fur, and their tail is black. All dholes have yellow eyes. Although this dog is similar to other wild dogs such as the African wild dog and the bush dog, they have their own genus. In case you were wondering, the word “Dhole” is pronounced with a silent “h.”

Size

These wild dogs are about as big as medium-sized pet dogs. From nose tip to the base of their tail they are about 35 inches (90 cm) long, though some can be up to 43 inches (110 cm). At the shoulder, they stand about 19 inches (50 cm) tall. This is about the same size as a pit bull. Dholes have rather long tails that can be about half the length of their body. They are usually between 16 and 18 inches (40-45 cm) long. Males, which weigh more than the females do, have a weight range of 33-44 pounds (15-20 kg). Females are usually between 22 and 29 pounds (10-13 kg).

Diet and hunting

Dholes hunt in packs which are the same packs used in the mating system. Because they are the same packs, I will talk more about the way the packs are made under the Reproduction section. The reason these dogs live in packs is that they can hunt and  attack larger animals this way. A deer, one of the dhole’s favorite foods, can be taken down in just a few minutes with two or three of these dogs working together. Part of this is because of the predator’s extreme speed. These animals can run up to 45 miles (72 km) per hour! There are also several animals that an individual dhole can take down without help from its pack. These include monkeys, hares, lizards, and insects. They also eat sheep as well as wild goats and pigs, but they may need help on these. The larger prey are usually not killed immediately when attacked but die from loss of blood or while being eaten. This dog’s diet does not consist completely of animals, though, as they also eat wild berries.

Habitat and range

As you can see in the range map below, the range of this animal covers about half of the continent of Asia. According to some sources, this map is old. As has happened with many animals, the dhole’s range has shrunk in recent years, and they are currently thought only to be found in isolated spots in this range. The countries they live in include Malaysia, China, both Koreas, India, and Russia. Today there are eleven different species of dholes with the main differences being their ranges.

Leefgebied_dhole

The habitat these animals prefer is typically forests. There are several factors that play a role in where a dhole decides to live. Its habitat must have enough water and prey as well as suitable sites for dens. They also like semi-open areas as these usually have a high concentration of prey.

Status and threats

The IUCN Redlist classifies the dhole as ‘Endangered.’ As with most animals today, their main threat is habitat destruction, especially since they live in forests which are used for timber. They are also cleared to make way for agriculture and industry. In past times, hunters would see dholes as competition to their game and would kill them or even put out bounties to have them killed. Given that they are some of the top predators in Asia, these dogs do not have any readily known predators in the wild. There are estimated to be fewer than 2,500 mature dholes in the wild

Reproduction

As I mentioned earlier, red dogs live in packs. The pack usually consists of a dominant male and female with several other males and females. There are usually more males than females in the group. Although there have been some groups of up to forty members observed, most packs have between five and twelve individuals. Only the dominant male and female mate, while the rest of the pack helps to care for the young once they are born. Dholes have a long breeding season which runs from September to February. After a two-month gestation period, the dominant female usually gives birth to about eight pups. This number can sometimes be as high as twelve. The young dholes are born in a den, which is usually an abandoned animal burrow. The whole pack helps to feed the pups and protect them. They are usually fed by the pack members regurgitating some of their meal for them, though they are fed only on milk from their mother for the first three weeks. Within just a few months the pups are ready to hunt. They reach their adult size by the time they are about one and a half years old.

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Sources:

 

Photo credits:

  • Dhole – N. A. Naseer
  • Dhole range – Jürgen
  • Mystery animal – Nicor
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