The golden jackal (Canis aureus), also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe (up to Austria and Hungary), Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia. It is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern, due to its widespread range in areas with optimum food and shelter. Despite its name, the golden jackal is not closely related to other jackal species, with morphological and molecular studies indicating a greater affinity to the grey wolf and coyote. It is a social species, whose basic social unit consists of a breeding pair, followed by its offspring. The golden jackal is highly adaptable, being able to exploit many foodstuffs, from fruit and insects to small ungulates.
Unlike other jackal species, which are African in origin, the golden jackal likely emerged from Asia. The direct ancestor of the golden jackal is thought to be Canis kuruksaensis, a Villafranchian (from late Pliocene to early Pleistocene) canid native to Tadjikistan. Another prehistoric canid initially thought to be an ancestral jackal, Canis arnensis, which was native to Europe, was later classed as more closely related to the coyote. The golden jackal likely colonised the European continent during the late Pleistocene.
The golden jackal is the most typical member of the genus Canis. It is a somewhat less specialised form than the wolf, as indicated by its relatively short facial region, weaker tooth row and the more weakly developed projections of the skull. These features are connected to the jackal's diet of small birds, rodents, small vertebrates, insects and carrion. The golden jackal is a generalist which adapts to local food abundances, a trait which allows it to occupy a variety of different habitats and exploit a large number of food resources. Its lithe body and long legs allows it to trot for large distances in search of food. It has the ability to forego water, and has been observed on islands with no fresh water. The characteristics of the golden jackal's skull and genetic composition indicate a closer affinity to the wolf and coyote than to the black-backed and side-striped jackals.
Because of the species' large distribution, a large number of local races have been described. During the 19th century, the golden jackals of Africa were considered separate species from those in Eurasia, and were named "thoas" or "thous dogs". Although several attempts have been made to synonymise many of the proposed names, the taxonomic position of West African jackals, in particular, is too confused to come to any precise conclusion, as the collected study materials are few. Prior to 1840, six of the ten supposed West African subspecies were named or classed almost entirely because of their colours. The species' display of high individual variation, coupled with the scarcity of samples and the lack of physical barriers on the continent preventing gene flow, brings into question the validity of some of these West African forms.
, 12 subspecies of golden jackal are currently recognised.
Canis a. algirensis 150 px
||Darker than C. a. aureus, with a tail marked with three dusky rings, it is equal in size to the red fox.
||Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
barbarus (C. E. H. Smith, 1839)
grayi (Hilzheimer, 1906)
tripolitanus (Wagner, 1841)
Canis a. anthus 150 px
|F. Cuvier, 1820
||At least an inch higher at the shoulder, and several inches longer than C. a. lupaster with larger ears, it has a more dog-like head and a more gaunt build. The tail is shorter and not as hairy. The nose and forehead are greyish-buff, while the throat and underparts are white. It lacks the black ring round the neck, nor the stippled arrangement of black points on the back characteristic of C. a. lupaster.
||senegalensis (C. E. H. Smith, 1839)
Canis a. aureus 150 px
||The nominate subspecies, it is large, with soft, pale fur with predominantly sandy tones.
||Middle Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Arabian Peninsula, Baluchistan, northwestern India
balcanicus (Brusina, 1892)
caucasica (Kolenati, 1858)
dalmatinus (Wagner, 1841)
hadramauticus (Noack, 1896)
hungaricus (Ehik, 1938)
kola (Wroughton, 1916)
lanka (Wroughton, 1916)
maroccanus (Cabrera, 1921)
typicus (Kolenati, 1858)
vulgaris (Wagner, 1841)
Canis a. bea 150 px
||Kenya, Northern Tanzania
Canis a. cruesemanni 150 px
||Smaller than C. a. indicus, its status as a separate subspecies has been disputed by certain authors, who point out its classification as such is based solely on observations on captive animals.
||Thailand, Myanmar to east India
|Canis a. ecsedensis
||minor (Mojsisovico, 1897)
Canis a. indicus 150 px
||Its fur is a mixture of black and white, with buff on the shoulders, ears and legs. The buff colour is more pronounced in specimens from high altitudes. Black hairs predominate on the middle of the back and tail. The belly, chest and the sides of the legs are creamy white, while the face and lower flanks are grizzled with grey fur. Adults grow to a length of 100 cm (39 in), 35 45 cm (14 18 in) in height and 8 11 kg (18-24 lb) in weight.
Canis a. lupaster150 px
|Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833
||A large, wolf-like subspecies standing some 41 cm (16 in) in shoulder-height, with a total length of about 127 cm (50 in), it seems to be larger than C. a. moreoticus. It is stoutly built, with proportionately short ears. The pelt is yellowish-grey on the upper parts, and is mingled with black, which tends to collect in streaks and spots. The muzzle, the backs of the ears, and the outer surfaces of both pairs of limbs are reddish-yellow, the margins of the mouth arc white, and the terminal half of the tail is darker than the back, with a black tip. In 2011, researchers from the Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit compared the Egyptian jackal's DNA to other canids, and found it much more closely related to the grey wolf than to the golden jackal.
||sacer (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833)
Canis a. moreoticus 150 px
|I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1835
||One of the largest in the world, animals of both sexes average 120 125 cm (47 49 in) in total length and 10-15 kg (20-33 lb) in body weight. The fur is coarse, and is generally brightly coloured with blackish tones on the back. The thighs, upper legs, ears and forehead are bright-reddish chestnut.
||Southeastern Europe, Asia Minor and Caucasus
||graecus (Wagner, 1841)
Sri Lankan jackal
Canis a. naria 150 px
||This subspecies measures 67 74 cm (26 -29 inches) and weighs 5-8.6 kg (12-19 lbs). The winter coat is shorter, smoother and not as shaggy as that of C. a. indicus. The coat is also darker on the back, being black and speckled with white. The underside is more pigmented on the chin, hind throat, chest and forebelly, while the limbs are rusty ochreous or rich tan. Moulting occurs earlier in the season than with C. a. indicus, and the pelt generally does not lighten in colour.
||Southern India, Sri Lanka
||lanka (Wroughton, 1838)
|Canis a. riparius
||Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1832
||A dwarf subspecies measuring only a dozen inches in shoulder height, it is generally of a greyish-yellow colour, mingled with only a small proportion of black. The muzzle and legs are more decidedly yellow, and the underparts are white.
||Somaliland and coast of Ethiopia and Eritrea
hagenbecki (Noack, 1897)
mengesi (Noack, 1897)
somalicus (Lorenz, 1906)
Canis a. soudanicus 150 px
||Smaller and more lightly built than C. a. lupaster, it stands 38 cm (15 in) at the shoulder, and is 102 cm (40 in) in length. Compared with the wolf-like C. a. lupaster, C. a. soudanicus is built more like a greyhound. The ears are somewhat larger than in C. a. lupaster, and the body colour is generally pale stone-buff, with blotches of black.
Sudan and Somaliland
doederleini (Hilzheimer, 1906)
nubianus (Cabrera, 1921)
thooides (Hilzheimer, 1906)
variegatus (Cretzschmar, 1826)
Canis a. syriacus 150 px
|Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833
||It weighs 5 12 kg (11 27 lb), and has a body length of 60 90 cm (24 35 in). Distinguished by its brown ears, each hair of the back consists of four distinct colours: white at the root, then black, then foxy-red, and the point is black.
||Israel, western Jordan
Skull, as illustrated in Rosevear's The Carnivores of West Africa The Museum of Zoology]], St. Petersburg - note the jackal's smaller size and narrower muzzle.
The golden jackal is very similar to the wolf in general appearance, but is much smaller in size and lighter in weight, and has shorter legs, a more elongated torso and a shorter tail. The end of the tail just reaches the heel or a bit below it. The head is lighter than the wolf's, with a less-prominent forehead, and the muzzle is narrower and more pointed. The iris is light or dark brownish. The species has five pairs of teats.
Its skull is similar to the wolf's, but is smaller and less massive; its nasal region is lower and its facial region shorter. The sagittal and occipital crests are strongly developed, but weaker than the wolf's. Its canine teeth are large and strong, but relatively thinner than the wolf's, and its carnassials are relatively weaker. Eighteen characteristics distinguish the skulls of golden jackals from those of domestic dogs; among them, the jackal has a smaller inflation of the frontal region, a shallower forehead, smaller upward curvature of the zygomatic arches and a longer and thinner lower jaw. Compared to the skull of the side-striped jackal, the golden jackal's profile descends from the frontal to the nasal bones, as opposed to having a flat outline. The rostrum is shorter, less tapering and slender than the side-striped jackal's, and the lower jaw is curved and more powerfully built. Differences in dentition are also apparent, with the golden jackal having larger carnassials. Occasionally, it develops a horny growth on the skull which is associated with magical powers in southeastern Asia. This horn usually measures half an inch in length, and is concealed by fur.
Adults measure 71 85 cm in body length and 44.5 50.0 cm (18-20 inches) in shoulder height. Weights differ 12% between the sexes; males weigh 6.3-13.7 kg (13.9-30.1 lbs), while females weigh 7.0-11.2 kg (15.4-24.7 lbs).
The winter fur is generally either of a dirty reddish-grey colour, strongly highlighted with blackish tones due to the black guard hairs, or a brighter, rusty-reddish colour. The anterior part of the muzzle, the area around the eyes and the forehead are ochreous, rusty-reddish. A blackish stripe is present above each eye. The margins of the lips and lower cheeks are dirty white. The upper part of the forehead and occiput are ochreous. The back of the ears is pale rusty. The inside of the ears is covered with dirty whitish hairs. The chin and throat are whitish, with a dirty tint. The guard hairs are black, and are especially developed on the back, but less so on the flanks; the general colour of these parts is brighter and clearer. The belly is whitish along the midline, while the lower region is mixed with a reddish tint. The limbs are ochreous red, with the internal surfaces being of a lighter colour. The tail is grey with an ochreous tint with a strongly defined, dark shade on the dorsal side and tip. The summer fur is sparser, coarser and shorter, and has the same colour as the winter fur, but is brighter, with less-defined dark tints. Newborn golden jackals have very soft fur, which varies in colour from light-grey to dark-brown. This pelage remains on the cubs for one month, with the adult coat growing in August. The colour of the fur varies geographically, with animals from high elevations having buffier coats than their lowland counterparts. Melanists occasionally occur, and were once considered "by no means rare" in Bengal.
The golden jackal moults twice a year, in spring and autumn. In Transcaucasia and Tajikistan, the spring moult begins in mid- to late February, while in winter it starts in mid-March and ends in mid- to late May. In healthy specimens, the moult lasts 60 65 days. The spring moult begins on the head and limbs, then extends to the flanks, chest, belly and rump, with the tail being last. The autumn moult takes place from mid-September onwards. The shedding of the summer fur and the growth of the winter coat is simultaneous. The development of the autumn coat starts with the rump and tail, spreading to the back, flanks, belly, chest, limbs and head, with full winter fur being attained at the end of November.
Social and territorial behaviours
The golden jackal's social organisation is extremely flexible, being dependable on the availability and distribution of food. The basic social unit is a breeding pair, followed by its current offspring, or offspring of former litters. It usually lives in pairs, but is also found either singly, or in pairs and families up to five individuals. A golden jackal may pair up with a member of the opposite sex before leaving its natal range. Pairs typically first meet each other on the boundraries of their parents' territories. The pair patrols and marks its territory in tandem. Both partners and helpers will react aggressively with intruders, though the greatest aggression is reserved for intruders of the same sex; pair members do not assist each other in repelling intruders of the opposite sex. Territories are marked with urine and faeces. The golden jackal holds rather loosely defined hunting ranges which are not seriously defended, and are seemingly somewhat arbitrary. The size of the territory also varies considerably according to environmental factors. It may be only about 2.5 square kilometres or, where game is more thinly spread, 20 square kilometres or more.
Reproduction and development
Lactating female Sri Lankan jackal (Canis a. naria) (note the teats) The golden jackal's courtship rituals are remarkably long, during which the breeding pair remains almost constantly together. The mating process may last 26 28 days. In Transcaucasia, estrus begins in early February, and occasionally late January during warm winters. Spermatogenesis in males occurs 10 12 days before the females enter estrus and, during this time, males' testicles triple in weight. Estrus lasts for three to four days, and females failing to mate during this time will undergo a loss of receptivity which lasts six to eight days. Females undergoing their first estrus are often pursued by several males, which will quarrel amongst themselves. Prior to mating, the pair patrols and scent marks its territory. Copulation is preceded by the female holding her tail out and angled in such a way that the genitalia are exposed. The two approach each other, whimpering, lifting their tails and bristling their fur, displaying varying intensities of offensive and defensive behaviour. The female sniffs and licks the male's genitals, whilst the male nuzzles the female's fur. They may circle each other and fight briefly. The male then proceeds to lick the female's vulva, and repeatedly mounts her without erection or hip thrusting. Actual copulation takes place days later, and continues for about a week. The copulatory tie lasts 20 45 minutes in Eurasia, while in Africa it lasts roughly four minutes. Toward the end of estrus, the pair drifts apart, with the female often approaching the male in a more submissive manner than before. In anticipation of the role he will take in raising pups, the male disgorges or surrenders any food he has to the female.
In Transcaucasia, pups are usually born in late March to late April, in northeastern Italy probably in late April, in the Serengeti in December and January, and in Nepal, they are born at any time of the year. The number of pups in a single litter varies geographically; jackals in Uzbekistan give birth to two to eight pups, in Bulgaria four to seven, in Michurinsk only three to five, and in India the average is four. Pups are born with shut eyelids and soft fur, which ranges in colour from light grey to dark brown. At the age of one month, their fur is shed and replaced with a new pelt of reddish colour with black speckles. Their eyes typically open on their eighth to 11th day of life. The ears become erect after 10 13 days. The eruption of their adult dentition is completed after five months. The pups have a fast growth rate; at the age of two days, they weigh 201 214 g, 560 726 g at one month, and 2700 3250 g at four months.
The length of the nursing period varies; in the Caucasus it lasts 50 70 days, while in Tajikistan it lasts up to 90 days. The lactation period ends in mid-July, though in some areas it ends in early August. In Eurasia, the pups begin to eat solid food at the age of 15 20 days, while in Africa they begin after a month. Weaning starts at the age of two months, and ends at four months. At this stage, the pups are semi-independent, venturing up to 50 metres from the den, even sleeping in the open. Their playing behaviour becomes increasingly more aggressive, with the pups competing for rank, which is established after six months. The female feeds the pups more frequently than the male or helpers do, though the presence of the latter allows the breeding pair to leave the den and hunt without leaving the litter unprotected. Once the lactation period concludes, the female drives off the pups. Pups born late remain with their mother until early autumn, at which point they leave either singly or in groups of two to four individuals.
Denning and sheltering behaviours
In the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, female golden jackals usually give birth in burrows dug with the assistance of males, or they occupy derelict fox or badger dens. The burrow is dug a few days before parturition, with both the male and female taking turns digging. The burrow is located either in thick shrubs, on the slopes of gulleys or on flat surfaces. A golden jackal burrow is a simple structure with a single opening. Its length is about 2 metres, while the nest chamber occurs at a depth of 1.0-1.4 metres. In Dagestan and Azerbaijan, litters are sometimes are located within the hollows of fallen trees, tree roots and under stones on river banks. In Middle Asia, the golden jackal does not dig burrows, but constructs lairs in dense tugai thickets. Jackals in the Vakhsh tugais construct 3-metre-long burrows under tree roots or directly in dense thickets. Jackals in the tugais and cultivated lands of Tajikistan construct lairs in long grass plumes, shrubs and reed openings.
Diet and hunting behaviours
Serengeti jackal (C. a. bea) carefully navigating a herd of blue wildebeest in the Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania The golden jackal is an omnivorous and opportunistic forager; its diet varies according to season and habitat. In Bharatpur, India, over 60% of its diet consists of rodents, birds and fruit, while 80% of its diet consists of rodents, reptiles and fruit in Kanha. In the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, the golden jackal primarily hunts hares and mouse-like rodents, as well as pheasants, francolins, ducks, coots, moorhens and passerines. Vegetable matter eaten by jackals in these areas includes fruits, such as pears, hawthorn, dogwood and the cones of common medlars. It is implicated in the destruction of grapes, watermelons, muskmelons and nuts. Near the Vakhsh River, the jackal's spring diet consists almost exclusively of plant bulbs and the roots of wild sugar cane, while in winter it feeds on the fruit stones of wild stony olives. In the edges of the Karakum Desert, the golden jackal feeds on gerbils, lizards, snakes, fish and muskrats. Karakum jackals also eat the fruits of wild stony olives, mulberry and dried apricots, as well as watermelons, muskmelons, tomatoes and grapes. In Hungary, its most frequent prey animals are common voles and bank voles. Information on the diet of the golden jackal in northeastern Italy is scant, but it certainly preys on small roe deer and hares. In west Africa, it mostly confines itself to small prey, such as hares, rats, ground squirrels and grass cutters. Other prey items include lizards, snakes, and ground-nesting birds, such as francolins and bustards. It also consumes a large amount of insects, including dung beetles, larvae, termites and grasshoppers. It will also kill young gazelles, duikers and warthogs. In East Africa, it consumes invertebrates and fruit, though 60% of its diet consists of rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, hares and Thompson's gazelles. During the wildebeest calving season, golden jackals will feed almost exclusively on their afterbirth. In the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, less than 20% of its diet comes from scavenging. In Israel, golden jackals have been shown to be significant predators of snakes, including venomous snakes; an increase in snakebites occurred during a period of poisoning campaign against golden jackals while a decrease in snakebites occurred once the poisoning ceased.
The golden jackal rarely forms small packs when hunting, though packs of 8 12 jackals consisting of more than one family have been observed in the summer periods in Transcaucasia. When hunting singly, 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 and overtake their prey in unison. When hunting aquatic rodents or birds, they will run along both sides of narrow rivers or streams, driving their prey from one jackal to another. The golden jackal catches hares with difficulty, as they are faster than it, and gazelle mothers (often working in groups of two or three) are formidable when defending their young against single jackals. It is much more successful in hunting gazelle fawns when working in a pair. Jackal pairs will methodically search for concealed gazelle fawns within herds, tall grass, bushes and other likely hiding places. Although it is known to kill animals up to three times its own weight, the golden jackal overall targets mammalian prey much less frequently than the black-backed jackal. Upon capturing large prey, the golden jackal makes no attempt to kill its prey, but rips open its belly and eats the entrails. Small prey is typically killed by shaking, though snakes may be eaten alive from the tail end. The golden jackal often carries away more food than it can consume, and caches the surplus, which is generally recovered within 24 hours. When foraging for insects, the golden jackal turns over dung piles to find dung beetles. During the dry seasons, it excavates dung balls to reach the larvae within. Grasshoppers and flying termites are caught either by pouncing or are caught in mid-air.
Relationships with other predators
Lydekker]]'s Wild Life of the World The golden jackal is warier of lions than the black-backed jackal is, but is bolder with African wild dogs and spotted hyenas.
The golden jackal dominates vultures on kills, and can singly hold dozens at bay by threatening, snapping and lunging at them. Sometimes, it jumps in the air to bite at a vulture alighting too closely.
Golden jackals tend to dominate smaller canid species. In Africa, golden jackals have been observed to kill the pups of black-backed jackals. In Israel, red foxes are a commonly occurring predator and, although smaller than jackals, their dietary habits are identical, and the two species are therefore in direct competition with one another. Foxes generally ignore jackal scents or tracks in their territories, though they will avoid close physical proximity with jackals themselves. Studies have shown that in areas where jackals became very abundant, the population size of foxes decreased significantly, apparently because of competitive exclusion. Conversely, jackals are shown to vacate areas inhabited by wolves. Wolves are often actively intolerant of jackals in their established territories and have been known to approach jackal-calling stations at a quick trotting pace, presumably to chase off the competitors. The jackal's recent expansion throughout eastern and western Europe has been attributed to historical declines in wolf populations. The present diffusion of the golden jackal in the northern Adriatic hinterland seems to be in rapid expansion in various areas where the wolf is absent or very rare (see also:). Jackals have been observed to follow and feed alongside wolves without evoking any hostility. In Africa, golden jackals often eat alongside African wild dogs, and will stand their ground if the dogs try to harass them. In South-eastern Asia, golden jackals have been known to hunt alongside dhole packs, and there is one record of a golden jackal pack adopting a male Ethiopian wolf.
In India, lone jackals expelled from their pack have been known to form commensal relationships with tigers. These solitary jackals, known as kol-bahl, will attach themselves to a particular tiger, trailing it at a safe distance to feed on the big cat's kills. A kol-bahl will even alert a tiger to a kill with a loud pheal. Tigers have been known to tolerate these jackals: one report describes how a jackal confidently walked in and out between three tigers walking together a few feet away from each other. Tigers will, however, kill jackals on occasion; the now extinct tigers of the Amu-Darya region were known to frequently eat jackals.
Jackals will feed alongside spotted hyenas, though they will be chased if they approach too closely. Spotted hyenas will sometimes follow jackals during the gazelle fawning season, as jackals are effective at tracking and catching young animals. Hyenas do not take to eating jackal flesh readily: four hyenas were reported to take half an hour in eating one. Overall, the two animals typically ignore each other when no food or young is at stake. Jackals will confront a hyena approaching too closely to their dens by taking turns in biting the hyena's hocks until it retreats. Striped hyenas have been known to prey on golden jackals in Kutch, India; one striped hyena den contained three dead jackals.
Golden jackals frequently groom one another, particularly during courtship, during which it can last up to hour. Nibbling of the face and neck is observed during greeting ceremonies. When fighting, the golden jackal slams its opponents with its hips, and bites and shakes the shoulder. The species' postures are typically canine, and it has more facial mobility than the black-backed and side-striped jackals, being able to expose its canine teeth like a dog.
The vocabulary of the golden jackal is similar to that of dogs, with seven different sounds having been recorded. Different subspecies can be recognised by differences in their howls. Among African canids, the golden jackal has the most dog-like vocalisations. Its cry consists of a long, wailing howl which is repeated three or four times, each repetition in a note a little higher than the preceding, and then a succession of usually three quick yelps, also repeated two or three times. It was commonly rendered in English as "Dead Hindoo, where, where, where". This sound is usually uttered shortly after dark or before dawn. The golden jackal may howl for different reasons, such as to call other jackals or, seemingly, to announce changes in weather. It has been recorded to howl upon hearing church bells, sirens or the whistles of steam engines and boats. It typically howls at dawn, midday and the evening hours. Groups will occasionally howl in chorus, which is thought to reinforce family bonds, as well as advertise territorial status. When in the vicinity of tigers or leopards or any other cause for alarm, the golden jackal emits a cry transliterated as "pheal", "phion" or "phnew". When hunting in a pack, the dominant jackal initiates an attack by repeatedly emitting a sound transliterated as "okkay!".
In Africa, golden jackals are widespread in the north and northeastern portions of the continent, being present from Senegal on Africa's west coast to Egypt in the East. This range includes Morocco, Algeria, and Libya in the north to Nigeria, Chad and Tanzania in the south. They also occur in the Arabian Peninsula, and have a patchy distribution in Europe. In their European range, jackals are found in the Balkans, Hungary, and southwestern Ukraine. They are found also in Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and northeastern Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto), where their distribution has recently increased, encompassing also the region Trentino Alto Adige. To the east, their range includes Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, then east and south to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, and parts of Indochina.
Diseases and parasites
The golden jackal can carry diseases and parasites harmful to human health, including rabies and Donovan's Leishmania (which, although harmless to jackals, can cause leishmaniasis in people). Jackals in southwestern Tajikistan have been recorded to carry 16 species of cestodes, roundworms and acanthocephalans (Sparganum mansoni, Diphyllobothrium mansonoides, Taenia hydatigena, T. pisiformis, T. ovis, Hydatigera taeniaeformis, Diphylidium caninum, Mesocestoides lineatus, Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala, Dioctophyma renale, Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina, Dracunculus medinensis, Filariata and Macracanthorhynchus catulinum). Jackals infected with D. medinensis can infect water bodies with their eggs, and cause dracunculiasis in people who drink from them. Jackals may also play a large part in spreading coenurosis in sheep and cattle, and canine distemper in dogs. Jackals in the Serengeti are known to carry the canine parvovirus, canine herpesvirus, canine coronavirus and canine adenovirus. In July 2006, a Romanian jackal was found to be carrying Trichinella britovi. Jackals consuming fish and molluscs can be infected with metagonimiasis, which was recently diagnosed in a male jackal from northeastern Italy. In Tajikistan, at least 12 tick species are known to be carried by golden jackals (which include Ixodes, Rhipicephalus turanicus, R. leporis, R. rossicus, R. sanguineus, R. pumilio, R. schulzei, Hyalomma anatolicum, H. scupense and H. asiaticum), four flea species (Pulex irritans, Xenopsylla nesokiae, Ctenocephanlides canis and C. felis) and one species of louse (Trichodectes canis). In northeastern Italy, the species is a carrier of the tick species Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus.
Relationships with humans
In folklore, mythology and literature
Life-sized Anubis statue from the Tomb of Tutankhamun (Cairo Museum) Tabaqui (left) torments Father Wolf and his family, as illustrated in page 5 of the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
The Ancient Egyptian god of embalming, Anubis, was portrayed as a jackal-headed man, or as a jackal wearing ribbons and holding a flagellum. Anubis was always shown as a jackal or dog colored black, the color of regeneration, death, and the night. It was also the color the body turned during mummification. The reason for Anubis' animal model being canine is based on what the ancient Egyptians themselves observed of the creature - dogs and jackals often haunted the edges of the desert, especially near the cemeteries where the dead were buried. In fact, the Egyptians are thought to have begun the practice of making elaborate graves and tombs to protect the dead from desecration by jackals. Duamutef, one of the Four Sons of Horus and a protection god of the Canopic jars, was also portrayed as having jackal-like features.
In Hinduism, the golden jackal is portrayed as the familiar of several deities, the most common of which being Chamunda, the emaciated, devouring goddess of the cremation grounds. Another deity associated with jackals is Kali, who inhabits the cremation ground and is surrounded by millions of jackals. According to the Tantrasara, when offered animal flesh, Kali appears before the officiant in the form of a jackal. The goddess Shivatudi is depicted with a jackal's head. Golden jackals appear prominently in Indian folklore and ancient texts, such as the Jakatas and Panchtatra, where they are often portrayed as intelligent and wily creatures. In Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories collected in The Jungle Book, the character Tabaqui is a jackal despised by the Sioni wolf pack, due to his mock cordiality, scavenging habits and his subservience to Shere Khan.
The Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Bible never mentions jackals, though this could be due to a translation error. The AVs of Isiah, Micah, Job and Malachi mention "wild beasts" and "dragons" crying in desolate houses and palaces. The original Hebrew words used are lyim (howler) and tan, respectively. According to biologist Michael Bright, tan is more likely referring to jackals than dragons, as the word is frequently used throughout the AV to describe a howling animal associated with desolation and abandoned habitations, which is consistent with the golden jackal's vast vocal repertoire and its occasional habit of living in abandoned buildings. Jeremiah makes frequent references to jackals by using the word shu'al, which can mean both jackal and fox. Although the AV translates the word as fox, the behaviour described is more consistent with jackals, as shown in the books of Lamentations and Psalms, in which references are made to the shu'al's habit of eating corpses in battlefields. David W. Macdonald theorizes,because of the general scarcity and elusiveness of foxes in Israel, the author of the Book of Judges may have actually been describing the much more common golden jackals when narrating how Samson tied torches to the tails of 300 foxes to make them destroy the vineyards of the Philistines. According to an ancient Ethiopian folktale, jackals and man first became enemies shortly before the Great Flood, when Noah initially refused to allow jackals into the ark, thinking they were unworthy of being saved, until being commanded by God to do so.
Although present in Europe, jackals are rarely featured in European folklore or literature. Surveys taken in the high Adriatic hinterland indicate the totality of people with first-hand experience of jackals (hunters, game keepers and local people) regularly mistook red foxes affected by sarcoptic mange (or in a problematic state of moult) for golden jackals. The sighting of a true golden jackal, however, was always referred to as a wolf, or a little wolf. This was verified both with photo-trapping sessions and with a study on tracks, confirming previous observations on this matter. This erroneous and controversial perception of the golden jackal may be because its presence is still not traditional, neither in Italian and Slovenian human culture, nor in hunting and game keeping traditions.
Livestock, game and crop predation
Golden jackals can be harmful pests, and will attack domestic animals, including turkeys, lambs, sheep, goats, and one record of a jackal attacking a newborn domestic water buffalo calf. They destroy many grapes, and eat watermelons, muskmelons and nuts. In Greece, jackals tend not to be as damaging to livestock as wolves and red foxes are, though they can become a serious nuisance to small stock when in high numbers. In southern Bulgaria, 1,053 attacks on small stock, mainly sheep and lambs, were recorded between 1982 and 1987, along with some damages to newborn deer in game farms. In Israel, about 1.5% 1.9% of the calves born in the Golan Heights die due to predation, mainly by golden jackals. In both cases, the high predation rate is thought to be the consequence of a jackal population explosion due to the availability of food in illegal garbage dumps. Preventive measures to avoid predation were also lacking in both cases. However, even without preventive measures, the highest damages by jackals from Bulgaria are minimal when compared to the domestic animal losses by wolves. Golden jackals are extremely harmful to furbearing rodents, such as nutria and muskrats. Nutria can be completely extirpated in shallow water bodies; during the winter of 1948-49 in the Amu Darya, muskrats constituted 12.3% of jackal faeces contents, and 71% of muskrat houses were destroyed by jackals, 16% of which froze and became unsuitable for muskrat occupation. Jackals also harm the fur industry by eating muskrats caught in traps or taking skins left out to dry.
Hunting Jackals by Samuel Howitt, illustrating a group of jackals rushing to the defence of a fallen packmate During the British Raj, British sportsmen in India would hunt jackals (often nicknamed "Cousin Jack") on horseback with hounds as a substitute for the fox hunting of their native England. Although not considered as beautiful as English red foxes, golden jackals were esteemed for their endurance in the chase; one chase lasted 3 hours. India's weather and terrain also added further challenges to jackal hunters not present in England; the hounds of India were rarely in the same good condition as English hounds were, and although the golden jackal has a strong odour, the terrain of Northern India was not good in retaining scent. Also, unlike foxes, golden jackals were documented to feign death when caught, and could be ferociously protective of their captured packmates. Jackals were hunted in three ways: with greyhounds, with mixed packs and with foxhounds. Hunting jackals with greyhounds offered poor sport, as greyhounds were too fast for jackals, and mixed packs were too difficult to control. Some indigenous people of India, such as the Kolis and Vaghirs of Gujarat and Rajastan and the Narikuravas in Tamil Nadu, hunt and eat golden jackals, but the majority of South Asian cultures consider the animal unclean. The orthodox dharma texts forbid the eating of jackals, as they have five nails (panchanakha).
In the former Soviet Union, jackals are not actively hunted, and are usually captured incidentally during the hunting of other animals by means of traps or shooting during drives. In the Trans-Caucasus, jackals are captured with large fishing hooks baited with meat, suspended 75 100 cm from the ground with wire. The jackals can only reach the meat by jumping, and are hooked by the lip or jaw.
The Greek Ministry of Agriculture annually organised shooting and poisoning campaigns against jackals until 1981. An average of 1000 jackals were killed per year in these campaigns, and a bounty was paid for each animal killed. The jackal was the first wild canid to be removed from Greece's vermin list in 1990, and it was followed by the wolf and fox in 1993, though, unlike the latter two species, jackals did not fully recolonise areas of their former range. Although jackals in Greece are rarely hunted intentionally, they are occasionally shot during the hunts of other animals, such as wild boar.
In Italy, the species has been recently protected by the National Law 157/1992, but it is occasionally shot illegally during fox hunts. This seems to be the main obstacle for the species in Italy.
Jackals are hunted in Vietnam for their noses, which are supposed to possess medicinal qualities.
In Russia and other nations of the former Soviet Union, golden jackals are considered furbearers, albeit ones of low quality due to their sparse, coarse and monotonously coloured fur. Asiatic and Near Eastern jackals produce the coarsest pelts, though this can be remedied during the dressing process. As jackal hairs have very little fur fibre, their skins have a flat appearance. The softest furs come from Elburz in northern Iran. Jackals are known to have been hunted for their fur in the 19th century: in the 1880s, 200 jackals were captured annually in Mervsk. In the Zakatal area of the Trans-Caucasus, 300 jackals were captured in 1896. During that period, a total of 10,000 jackals had been taken within Russia, and were sent exclusively to the Nizhegorod fair. In the early 1930s, 20-25 thousand jackal skins were tanned annually in the Soviet Union, though the stocks were significantly underused, as over triple that amount could have been produced. Before 1949 and the onset of the Cold War, the majority of jackal skins were exported to the USA. Despite their geographical variations, jackal skins are not graded according to a fur standard, and are typically used in the manufacture of cheap collars, women's coats and fur coats.
When taken young, golden jackals can quickly become tame, and will follow their owners and respond to their calls, as well as carry and fetch. They are however prone to stealing, and are untrustworthy toward small children.
Relation to the domestic dog
Sulimov dog at work Golden jackals are capable of reproducing with dogs. In his The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Charles Darwin wrote of a female hybrid from an English dog and jackal kept in the Zoological Gardens of London. The hybrid was sterile, but Darwin pointed out this was an exceptional case, as there were numerous cases of jackal hybrids successfully reproducing. Robert Armitage Sterndale mentioned jackal hybrids from British India, noting that glaring jackal traits could be exhibited in hybrids even after three generations of crossing them with dogs.
Scientists at Russia's DS Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection began a breeding project in 1975 in which they crossed golden jackals with huskies, to create an improved breed with the jackal's power of scent and the husky's resistance to cold. In recent years, Aeroflot has used one-quarter jackal hybrids, known as Sulimov dogs, to sniff out explosives otherwise undetectable by machinery. Breeding experiments in Germany with poodles, jackals, and later on with the resulting dog-jackal hybrids showed, unlike wolfdogs, jackal-dogs exhibit a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems, and an increase of genetic diseases after three generations of interbreeding. This led to the conclusion that dogs and jackals were not as closely related as once thought. Illustration of domesticated jackals in a prehistoric human community Following the example of Charles Darwin, who speculated that dogs originated from multiple wild canid species, Konrad Lorenz advocated the view that most dogs, particularly central European breeds, originated from golden jackals, and that wolf blood only contributed in the creation of northern dog breeds. Lorenz theorised wolf blood was added to an already-existing, jackal-derived population only when humans began colonising Arctic zones, to improve the hardiness of their animals in cold weather. He further argued that with the exception of northern dog breeds, which treat their human masters as pack leaders as wolves would do, the majority of dogs view their captors as parent animals, and display a submissive behaviour not usually found in northern breeds, a trait consistent with the golden jackal, which does not rely heavily on pack members to procure food and survive. While capable of absolute obedience, the supposed jackal-derived dogs are lacking in the deeper traits of loyalty and affection. He later rescinded this view upon taking into account the golden jackal's complicated repertoire of howling, which is absent in dogs and wolves.
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