“But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.

-Moby Dick

Also known as the Common Jackal, Eurasian jackal, Asiatic jackal or reed wolf is a canid classified by the IUCN as Least Concern. Despite its name, the golden jackal is not closely related to black-backed or side-striped jackals, being instead more closely related to grey wolves, coyotes, and Ethiopian wolves!

About the Species

Possessing a scraggy, buff-grey coat that is not as smooth as a fox’s and not as dense as a wolf’s, the Indian jackal is smaller in size than a wolf with a reddish head and legs. Variation in the pelage color occurs depending on the season. Males measure 71–85 cm in body length, with females being somewhat smaller. It stands 44.5–50 cm in shoulder height and weighs around 6–14 kg. The tail is bushy and medium-sized, reaching the heel or slightly below it. They differ from the wolf in various respects –smaller body size, short muzzle, weaker tooth row and the weakly developed projections of the skull being the prominent ones.

Believed to have seven sub-species, though apparently not well-studied in India.

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
Canis.a. aureus Common Jackal Middle Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Arabian Peninsula, Baluchistan, north-western India Least Concern
Canis.a. indicus Indian Jackal India, Nepal Least Concern
Canis. a. naria Sri Lankan Jackal Southern India, Sri Lanka
Canis a. cruesemanni Siamese jackal Thailand,Myanmar to east India Not available
Canis a. ecsedensis Pannonian jackal Pannonian Basin – East Central Europe Not available
Canis a. moreoticus European jackal South-eastern Europe, Asia Minor and Caucasus Not available
Canis a. syriacus Syrian jackal Israel, western Jordan Not available


Melanists occasionally occur, and were once considered “by no means rare” in Bengal.Unlike melanistic wolves and coyotes, which historically received their dark pigmentation from interbreeding with domestic dogs, melanism in golden jackals likely stems from an independent mutation, and could be an adaptive trait.

Origins and habitat

Found throughout India except the high Himalayas, the Golden Jackal is considered to be one of the most adaptable animals due to its habit generalisation and food adaptability. Amongst the highest widespread species, it is fairly common and easily spotted throughout its range with high densities observed in areas with abundant food and cover. Outside India it is found in North and North-East Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Europe. Eastwards they range into Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, Myanmar, Thailand and parts of Indo-China.

Habitat generalists with a high tolerance for variations, they are found in areas of semi-desert, short to medium grasslands and savannas in Africa, forested, mangrove, agricultural, rural and semi-urban habitats in India and Bangladesh. In fact they have been observed to be highly opportunistic in feeding habits, venturing into human habitation at night to feed on garbage.



Though a successful hunter, especially of rodents, the jackal has primarily gained reputation as a scavenger and opportunistic forager. Though a hunter of small prey, during the cultivation and ripening of crops they have been known to raid the fields ripe with musk melon, water melon and sugar canes. Known for its eerie howls, its presence in and around villages bestows him this notorious reputation. A social creature, though not found in large groups, typically the jackal lives with a partner and offspring if any, or groups. Solitary hunters depending on life stage, they are adept pack hunters as well, able to kill a large Chital with well-coordinated movements and calls. Occasionally packs of 8–12 jackals consisting of more than one family have been spotted in the wild.When hunting alone, the golden jackal will trot around an area, occasionally stopping to sniff and listen. Once prey is located, it will conceal itself, quickly approach, then pounce. When hunting in pairs or packs, jackals run parallel to their prey and overtake it in unison.

Golden jackal are monogamous and mate for life. Their courtship period is relatively long, lasting from 26 – 28 days. On an average four pups are born with a gestation period of 60-65 days. These mature by the age of


Interesting Facts

  • They have found extensive mention in Asian folklore as tricksters, known for being cunning and shrewd in the ways of life. The story of The Blue Jackal for example has the jackal disguising itself with blue paint as Neelaakanth, the guardian of all animals, and tricking the other animals into providing food for him, so that he may continue protecting them!
  • In Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli stories collected in The Jungle Book, the character Tabaqui is a jackal despised by the Seouni wolf pack, due to his mock cordiality, scavenging habits and his subservience to Sher Khan.
  • Occasionally, the jackal develops a horny growth on the skull, which is associated with magical powers in south-eastern Asia
  • Unlike most mammals, jackals are monogamous and mate for life.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Mark Twain

Listed by the IUCN as near threatened, this species of the night though resembling dogs, is not related to dogs genetically. It is well known for its characteristic “chuckling” or laughing sound and bone-crushing jaw strength.

About the Species

A large, shaggy, buff coloured animal that looks like a dog at first instance, the Striped Hyena has a heavyset body balanced on tall lanky legs, forelegs being longer than the hind legs, giving it a slouched appearance. Similar to its three global cousins, the Striped Hyena has thick neck, large head, massive jaws and unique premolar teeth. Easily recognizable by 5 – 9 black striped on the main body and 2 on the cheek body and few striped on the legs and a dark crest on the back that is used as a warning mechanism or threat. Adult weight can range from 22 to 55 kg and body length can range from 33 to 51 inches, the tail being an add-on length of 10 to 16 inches; shoulder height is between 60–80 cm. The male can be distinguished from the female by the presence of a large pouch of naked skin located at the anal opening.

The Striped Hyena is the smallest of the true hyenas and retains many primitive viverrid characteristics lost in larger species. No sub species are deemed to be recognized.

Origins and habitat

Found throughout peninsular India, and south of the Himalayas in arid and semi-arid tracts, not generally found in dense forests and deserts. Outside India they have a patchy distribution from Africa, central Tanzania, Middle East and Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia towards Nepal. It is found up to an elevation of about 3300 metres.

Habitat preference is open scrub and dry thorn forests, often near human habitation. The species avoids true deserts and frequents semi-arid places to foster the building of dens.



The Striped hyena is known for being an excellent scavenger, seeking opportunities from tiger and leopard kills by stalking in groups. A voracious feeder, in one feeding frenzy it can eat up to one third of its body weight and can go for several days without water. The hyena is a highly nocturnal animal, the striped hyena typically only emerges in complete darkness, and is quick to return to its lair before sunrise. Hence spotting a hyena in the wild is a rare occurrence.

Communication between individuals happens by pasting two kinds of body secretions onto plants / vegetation from its anal gland – a white secretion and a black secretion; this is their way of scent-marking territories.  Somewhat social creatures, they live in groups of 1-2 animals, though seldom larger groups of up to 7 have been seen. When greeting each other, they lick the mid-back region, sniff each other’s noses, extrude their anal pouch or paw each other’s throats. This indicates that they are generally not territorial, with overlapping home ranges. Home territory preferred by this animal is self-dug burrows, caves, rock fissures etc.

The striped hyena is a monogamous animal, with both males and females assisting one another in raising their cubs. Gestation lasts for about 3 months, striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. Cubs are weaned at the age of 2 months, and are then fed by both parents

Interesting Facts

  • In ancient Egypt hyenas were domesticated and raised for food.
  • Its long cackling call, often heard at night in neighboring establishments has resulted in folklore that the hyena possesses quasi-magical powers.
  • The laugh of a hyena may indicate social status in the group. The pitch and frequency of the laugh may be to proclaim age, seniority and hierarchy.
  • The jaw bone of the Hyena is so strong that it can splinter a camel’s thighbone in seconds.


Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve_WildDog_jungle_Safari

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Mark Twain


A uniquely Asian reddish brown forest dog, the Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog is smaller than the domestic dog with a body like a wolf. Known for their excellent pack hunting skills, these canid predators of the wild demonstrate the capability of bring down an animal the size of a gaur! With an IUCN status of ‘Endangered’, only a few remain in the wild.

About the Species

The Dhole or wild dog has shorter legs, a more bushy tail and a shorter, thicker muzzle than both the wolf and the jackal. Its general dorsal pelage color is rusty red with slight variations in undertones, mainly variants of white. The Dhole is 90cm in length, 50cm in shoulder height and has a tail of up to 45cm. It weighs between 12 and 20kg. The ears are larger, triangular and have tufts of white air inside. The tail is russet at the base only, usually fully black in colour, a characteristic feature to differentiate the Dhole from other members of the dog family.

Though a part of the dog family, the Dhole has many un-canid features. For example, they have only two molars on each side of the mouth instead of the usual three in dogs. Also, they have a fused toe-pad next to the main pad on the forefeet, unlike domestic dogs. Females have six or seven pair of mammae.

After much debate, three major sub species of the Dhole are supposedly recognized:

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
C. a. alpinus Indian Wild Dog Far eastern Russia,Mongolia,China,Nepal, Indian subcontinent,Bhutan,Burma,Indochina and Java. Endangered
C. a. hesperius Northern dhole /
Tien Shan dhole
Altai, Tien Shan and possibly Pamir and Kashmir Endangered
C. a. sumatrensis Sumatran / Javan Dhole Sumatra Endangered


Origins and habitat

Native to Central, South and South-East Asia,the Dhole is distributed patchily in the central Indian highlands, in the Himalayas and trans-Himalayas, in North East India and the Indian southern highlands. They are absent in the Terai. In the Western Himalayas they are reported from Ladakh. In North East India they are reported from Arunachal, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Assam.


Their typical habitat is open yet shady woodland interspersed with grassy meadows. They show a preference for dry deciduous, moist deciduous and tropical dry forest, though they are also found in dry thorn, evergreen, semi-evergreen and alpine steppe forestlands.



Wild Dogs are highly social animal and live in packs, hunting diurnally. The packs are usually an extended family with many adults and young ones. Each pack generally has one alpha male and alpha female, the others are followers. Social hierarchies are well defined and reinforced in all pack activities – the alpha male feeds on the kill first followed by the lesser adults and lastly the pups. Wild Dogs are known for their steady yet tireless cater while pursuing a prey and are fearless in attacking prey many times its size. They are efficient predators who kill by surrounding their prey as a group, disembowelling it within minutes of the first catch and eating it almost on the hoof. They are known to start eating the prey even before it has died. They communicate through whistling, an infrasonic sound heard as a faint and shrill whistle.

The breeding season in Wild Dogs is between November and December with a gestation period of around 70 days. The pups are born by February and every litter has around 5-6 pups. Pups are sooty brown when born and turn reddish in three months.

Interesting Facts

  • There seem to be less number of Dholes in the wild than tigers. An IUCN update indicate that less than 2500mature breeding dholes are left in the wild as on 2015.
  • Like humans, the white hairs on the body of Dholes increase with age and can be used to age the animals.