The domesticated dog, Canis lupus familiaris, is known for having many breeds and types, but it’s also a part of a larger group of canine-like species called Canidae. Many subspecies include wolves, foxes, and coyotes, but also have a wide variety of wild breeds of dogs.
Though some wild dogs may have more in common with foxes than your domesticated friend, they’re still genetically linked to domesticated dogs. Here are 4 Different Types of Wild Dogs and their differences:
1. African Wild Dog
African Wild dogs are carnivorous canids in the same family as domesticated dogs, known for their systematic pack hierarchies. There are 5 subspecies of African Wild Dogs: Cape Wild Dogs, East African Wild Dogs, West African Wild Dogs, Chad Wild Dogs, and Somali Wild Dogs. Originating in Sub-Saharan Africa, African Wild Dogs prefer the open lands of the savannas to pack-hunt their prey.
African Wild dogs have black and tan spotted fur that’s bristly and coarse, with long tails and slender legs. Their large, rounded ears are their most recognizable feature, standing upright and outward. African Wild Dogs are also born without dewclaws and sometimes have fused toe pads. They can weigh anywhere between 45 to 70 pounds, depending on the subregion they’re from.
Temperament & Behavior
African Wild Dogs are social canids that rely on pack hunting and security for survival. Males and females have separate hierarchy systems within the same pack, which is rare for wild canines that stay in groups. They’re usually suspicious and nervous around humans, which earned them their aggressive reputation.
Dingoes are usually the first thing people think of when asked to name a wild dog, which is correct. Although they look like our friendly canine friends, these wild dogs split off from the lineage that created the domesticated dogs that we know and love today. However, the population of Dingoes has been dwindling for multiple years due to environmental factors, so they’re currently on the endangered list.
Dingoes look similar to domestic dogs but have longer teeth and muzzles. They have sandy-colored short coats and long legs, with bushy, coyote-like tails. They have light-to dark-brown, almond-shaped eyes and pointed ears that naturally stand upright. Dingo puppies have fluffy coats and tend to have black and white face markings that fade as they grow.
Temperament & Behavior
Dingoes’ temperament and natural behaviors change depending on their location in Australia, but most tend to form small couples or packs. Dingoes are shy and suspicious by nature, but they are also large and can take down prey larger than the average human. They tend to have a negative reputation due to some recent attacks on humans, but most cases proved to be situations in which humans provoked the dingoes before the attack.
3. New Guinea Singing Dog
Known for their characteristic abilities to hold a note, the true classification of New Guinea Singing Dogs is often debated. Their appearance is that of a Dingo, yet other taxonomic factors point them toward the family line of domestic dogs. Regardless of their labels, New Guinea Singing Dogs are also called Highland Wild Dogs due to their alleged origins in the Highlands of New Guinea
New Guinea Singing Dogs are similar in appearance as their Australian cousin, the Dingo, but are slightly smaller and leaner in weight. Coloration can vary from light tan to black, all with black muzzles and white points. Singing Dogs have shorter legs than other wild dogs, which is where some of the debate of their classification started.
Temperament & Behavior
The few sightings of New Guinea Singing Dogs are a few that it has been hard to find any real information about them in the wild. One pattern that did emerge is that they were always spotted in pairs, instead of packs like the Dingoes and African Wild Dogs. They possess both wild dog and domesticated dog behaviors, which makes it difficult to correctly classify them.
New Guinea Singing Dogs are, of course, known for their howl-like singing. It can start with one dog and turn into a chorus of singing dogs, often in sync and expertly holding the note. They make other singing-like sounds, including a fluttery, bird-like howl that no other canid makes.
*Although their origins talk of sightings of wild New Guinea Singing Dogs, the jury is still out on whether or not this is an extremely rare breed of canis lupus (domestic dog) or a true wild dog.
Dholes are in the canid family but are still genetically related to other wild dogs in the canis family. Often called Asian Wild Dogs, whistling dogs, and mountain wolves, dholes are mainly found in mountainous and tropical regions. Though they are listed as threatened and endangered, they are rarely sought after and hunted by poachers or hunters.
Dholes have the appearance of a red fox with the body of a wolf, with a foxlike tail that blends into a dark brown color at the point. Their coats are a reddish color, which varies in intensity during the year. Dholes usually have white markings on their chest and legs, with coats that generally molt after winter.
Dholes thrive in large social formations that can have anywhere between 10 to over 40 in one distinguished pack. They’re famous for the whistling sound that they produce, which is said to be communication between different pack members. Often in heavy competition with big cats, some Dholes have been spotted stealing the kills from them as well.