Dingo in Mt. Kaputar National Park

Wild Dingo-Dog Mt Kaputar Road

Wild Dingo-Dog on the road from Mt. Kaputar National Park

 I had a surprise sighting on the long drive down from Mt. Kaputar National Park. The road tunnels through a forest of white-trunked Eucalyptus trees. Just where it starts opening onto patchy meadows, a dog broke from the underbrush and trotted across the road in front of me.   

It was built like a medium husky but with bright golden-red fur. I knew instantly this was no ordinary dog. It was a dingo—the wild dog found only in Australia.   

I stopped the car and kept the engine running (to avoid the sudden silence that often spooks wildlife), while the dingo slowed to a saunter about 40 yards into the meadow. Where, to my amazement, it turned sidelong and stared at the car.   

I grabbed my camera from the passenger seat, wondering why some of us are compelled to make a “media event” out of everything. For whatever reason, I wasn’t content just to watch…and if the recorder hadn’t been in the car’s trunk I probably would’ve tried to catch the sound of its footsteps.   

Instead of sprinting for cover as I expected, the dingo stood for a long minute without a twitch, staring intensely at the car while I snapped a few pictures through the windshield.   

“Dingo!” I whispered. Even the name is purely and quintessentially Australian. But dingoes are latecomers here. Biologists figure they arrived roughly 4,000 years ago with fisherman-traders from Indonesia. Aboriginal people adopted them as hunting dogs and wrapped up with them beside waning fires on “Three Dog Nights” in the desert winter.   

Dingoes also went wild and spread throughout Australia. They live in loose packs of several to a dozen and collaborate on hunts for large prey like kangaroos. But they often prowl alone for birds, lizards, or small mammals.   

When Europeans settled Australia they tried to wipe out the dingo, just as they did for wolves in North America. They even built the longest fence in the world to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia…but it was a total failure.   

When I drove past the Dingo Fence in the desert country a few years ago, somebody had shot or poisoned two dingoes and hung their desiccated carcasses from the top wire—as if to say: “These two won’t kill any more lambs!”   

Like the coyote, dingoes are clever and adaptable, and they remain common in much of Australia. But today they’re threatened by a strange kind of extinction.   

Look closely at the Mt. Kaputar dingo. It should have perked-up ears like a wolf and its body should be lean like a red fox. Like most dingoes today, this one has some domesticated dog in its pedigree, even though it remains as red as the central desert sand. The only other dingo I’ve seen had a reddish-gray coat with black markings—obviously a crossbreed.   

Sun setting on the plains surrounding Mt Kaputar NP

Sun setting on the plains surrounding Mt Kaputar NP

Facing the possibility that it could vanish by hybridization, Australia is now trying to protect the few pure dingo populations that still exist.   

It’s a different story from those of the wolf and coyote in North America, but there’s something almost eerily familiar about the love-hate relationship between Australians and the dingo.

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4 Responses to Dingo in Mt. Kaputar National Park

  1. Jc Shore says:

    You made some nice points there. I did a search on the subject matter and found most persons will go along with with your blog.

  2. That must’ve been so exciting! I stumbled upon (what I think was) a dingo while driving close to Uluru a couple years ago, and I was pure adrenaline – even though I barely saw it cross the dirt road 100 meters or so in front of my car. I went really slow and hoped to see it when I got closer, but it was gone.

  3. Andre says:

    I don’t understand this. Why is mixing with other lines bad? Apparently it doesn’t seem to be bad for them, otherwise mixes wouldn’t survive and breed, so what is the justification for this dislike on your part?

  4. Andre says:

    Well among the many blog entries on dingoes this is one of the more cool-headed ones, much better than the average, who usually only press on the tear glands or promote hate and hysteria.
    But there is one thing:
    Why exactly is “hybridization” a problem? So they are descended from some other dog-lines. So what? If that makes them non-native and not worthy to stay than so would the vast majority of the Australian human population.
    Would people say that intermarriage with non-Aborigines makes Aborigines go extinct? Well… some probably would.
    But in case of the dingo… Seriously, what problem could there be? Danger to humans? Based on what evidence?
    Breeding faster? If the Australian environment allowed that, dingoes would have had this feature for centuries already, either via having more than one heat per year or by having more than one breeder per pack (e.g. like many wolves in Yellowstone do).
    Bigger? That has as much to do with genes as it has with food and Europeans provided alot of native and non-native food for wild canines. So even pure dingoes would get bigger.
    Unable to survive? Than how could the crosses be there in the first place? Natural selection would select against anything detrimental and what remains cannot be bad for the overall population.
    Also the “pure” dingoes bred in captivity are only consisting of a limited number, thereby a limited gene pool and considered that dingoes already had a sever genetic bottleneck in the past, what good would another one do?

    So seriously, why is “hybridization” a problem, it is one version of a species mixing with another one to form a new one, that has happened plenty of times. Also this dingo is the second one I saw so far that had dropped ears, all others, no matter what coloration, always had erect ears. So all in all the quintessential dingo body form seems to prevail.

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