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The Dingo

Not Native

The Dingo, Canis lupus dingo, is sometimes often referred to as a native Australian animal.  For example, Charles Darwin did this in his book about the Origin of species, published in 1859.


The Dingo was introduced to Australia by Humans, apparently as a domestic Dog.  Precisely how domesticated it was when brought in is uncertain.  They share many characteristics with the Asian Wolf, Canis lupus pallipes.

The Dingo is of the same species as the domestic Dog, Canis lupus familiaris.  It will interbreed readily with other Dogs.

It is quite uncertain how long ago this animal was introduced into Australia.  Some estimates are as low as 3,500 years while others are as high as 15,000 years.  The oldest reliably dated Dingo remains in Australia are 3,500 years old.  In Asia Dingo remains have been found up to 5500 years old.  austrlian Dingos have evolved a since being introduced to Australia, but are still recognisably the same subspecies as the Asian Dingos.


The Dingo has been in Australia long enough to have evolved into a separate subspecies.  It has adapted for Australian conditions.  There are also different adaptations in different areas, for example the Alpine Dingos have thicker coats than the plains Dingos.

Effect on Native Animals

Because the Dingo was introduced so long ago, we do not know all the effects it had on the native animals.  There appears little doubt that it was one of the factors involved in the extinction on the mainland of the Tasmanian Devil and the Thylacine.  But it is probably not accurate that the Thylacine was unable to compete with the Dingo. The reality was problably much more complicated, remembering that Humans were already making major changes to the environment, especially with the use of fire for hunting.

The bulk of the evidence is that the Dingo was much less disastrous in its effect on the native animals than Foxes and Feral Cats.


Like dogs in general, the Dingo is an omnivore with a strong preference for meat.  In Australia, the Dingo averages about 80 percent of meat in its diet, although similar Asian dogs eat a larger proportion of plant material.

Dingos will catch and kill a wide range of different sized prey, including insects; quite happy eating carrion.


Dingos can certainly kill adult Sheep.  In Sheep grazing areas they can be a problem, but in the Cattle areas where most of the Dingos are, they are in better balance with the stock.  They will not normally attack a fit cow, or a calf being looked after by its mother.


Various methods have been used to control Dingos, especially in Sheep areas.  This includes the use of a poison called 1080 which occurs naturally in some Australian plants.  Native animals tend to have a high resistance to the poison, but introduced ones like Dingos and Foxes do not.

Longest Fence in the World

In an attempt to keep the Dingos out of the Southern parts of Australia, a fence nearly 3,500 miles long was built across the continent.


Pure bred Dingos are no longer common.  Apart from the direct effects of attempts to exterminate them, the pure bred form is threatened by interbreeding with domestic Dogs.



Dingos in Domestication

It is often stated that domestic Dogs are of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris.  This in true in nearly every case, but there is an important exception.

The Dingo is possibly the oldest domesticated breed of dog in the world.  The level of domestication of the Dingo is not as high as that of more familiar breeds, and they cannot be trusted in all situations.  They form packs less than most dogs and their loyalty is generally to their family group.  As a pet, they can learn to accept members of the family, but can be a problem with strangers.

Children will always be at risk if you keep any dangerous animal in your household.

Personally, I would not advocate a Dingo as a pet, but some people keep other dangerous animals, and the Dingo is not as dangerous as some animals. 

The Dingo is recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club of Australia, but apparently not by the Kennel Club of America, or the British Kennel Club.

Dingos do not bark like most Dogs.  They are also more intelligent than most breeds of Dog.  Dingos only breed once a year.  They have permanently erect ears.


Dingos need very good fences to keep them in.  Six feet is sometimes recommended, but looking at the fences for Dingo enclosures in zoos and parks, I would say that even six feet high fences are not sufficient to reliably keep Dingos in.

The Law

In some areas it is totally illegal to keep Dingos or Dogs that are part Dingo.  I have to regard this as a strange law because at least one common breed, The Australian Cattle Dog, contains some Dingo in its ancestry.  There is considerable question about the exact ancestral breeds of the Australian Cattle Dog, but there is general agreement that the Dingo was one of them.  Despite the law about not keeping Dogs that are part Dingo, it is quite legal to keep Australian Cattle Dogs in these areas.

This of course means that the Australian Cattle Dog is not pure Canis familiaris, but contains ancestry of the two sub species, Canis familiaris and Canis dingo.


Dingos, like other Dogs, are capable of killing Humans.  There have been some well publicized cases where Dingos have killed people.  Naturally, children are much more at risk than adults.


Canine Crib, the Dog corner:

The Dingo may be world's oldest dog breed:

American Kennel Club:

British Kennel Club:

Photo by Summi.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Dingo puppies
Photo by Inugami-bargho, Berlin
A Dingo father with his pups
Photo by Inugami-bargho, Berlin
Sturt National Park
Dingo Fence


Photo by Peter Woodard

Australian Cattle Dog
also called
The Blue Heeler

Photo by T Taylor 2006
This is Harry, 3 years old.