the charismatic and controversial canine
Names): Goofy (canis dingo Where Canis familiaris); other names in indigenous languages include Aringka, Boololomo, Durda, Dwer-Da, Gali, Gal Gal, Joogoong, Kal, Keli, Kua, Kurpany, Maliki, Mirigung, Noggum, Palangamwari, Papa-Inura, Wantibirri, Warang, Warrigal , Wilkurr .
Cut: Usually about 1.2m in length, 15-20kg in weight, and 55-60cm in height at the shoulder.
Habitat/range: Much of Australia except Tasmania.
Conservation state: Listed as vulnerable in Victoria.
Superpower: Dingoes can jump 2 meters vertically and ladder fences
Australia’s native dog, the dingo, brings to mind all kinds of emotions and burning passions in Australian society, perhaps more than any other Australian mammal.
The dingoes are culturally significant to Indigenous peoples, featuring heavily in art and stories. Dingoes are hated and actively persecuted by many others throughout much of Australia due to conflict with cattle herders. And, increasingly, many scientists recognize the importance ecological roles played by dingoesas Australia’s largest land predator (excluding humans).
Dingoes have a serious identity problem. That dingoes are “native” is intensely debated. Thanks to a combination of fossil and genetic proof, they are estimated to have arrived in Australia between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago, either with the help of humans or by trotting themselves over the land bridge between Australia and Papua New -Guinea before it was submerged about 8,000 years ago. There is also a ongoing debate whether dingoes represent their own species distinct from other canids such as dogs and wolves.
Whatever names we give and whatever boxes we try to put dingoes in, since their arrival on this continent they have been spectacularly successful. They are found from the tropical north of Australia in the savannahs and rainforests, to temperate forests, forests and alpine regions in the south, across the deserts of the arid interior and off some islands, including K ‘gari (Fraser Island). Notably, dingoes are absent and have never occurred in Tasmania.
Dingoes are very variable in size and appearance. They are generally similar in size to Australia’s well-known working dog, the kelpie, but take on a sturdier, fluffier appearance in cooler, seasonal snow-covered areas. Dingoes can be black, black and tan, black and white, brindle, red, sable, white, or an uneven mix of colors.
The dingoes’ success in occupying so much of mainland Australia is largely due to their ample and adaptable palate. Dingoes eat everything from human waste and food scraps to fruits and insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small and large mammals. Their diet often shows a preference for large mammals such as deer, goats, kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats.
Dingoes also eat livestock, including goats, sheep, and cattle, in some areas. For this reason, Australia has built the largest continuous fence in the world, the dingo barrier fence, approximately 5,600 kilometers long. Like almost everything about dingoes, this fence, and others, are highly controversial. They have been associated with a range of environmental impacts, including changes in sand dune geomorphologyincreased abundance and activity of herbivores and invasive predatorsand decline in native prey populations. Fences can also prevent other animals from move freely in the landscapewith kangaroos and emus getting stuck and dying on those fences.
Many may not appreciate that dingoes, although considered “dogs“, have physical abilities that are more like those of cats. They are very flexible and expert climberswhich helps them catch prey and move through the often rugged country of Australia with relative ease.
The dingo can certainly lay claim to the term ‘icon’ and deserves your support as Australia’s Mammal of the Year!
We all love birds, but why should our feathered friends have fun? This winter, join Cosmos in celebrating the incredible diversity of Australian mammals, from the antechinus to the yellow-legged wallaby, in our first-ever Australian Mammal of the Year poll.
Keep an eye on the Cosmos website or subscribe to our mailing list for new items about awesome Australian mammal species every week. You can even nominate your own favorite Australian mammal using the form below!