Dingoes and dogs have a similar physical appearance – both have snouts, tails, fur, triangular-shaped ears, four paws, and sharp teeth.
So what are the differences between dingoes and dogs? Even though there are some subtle physical differences between dingoes and dogs, the differences are more behavioral than physical.
One of the most noticeable societal differences between dingoes and dogs is the way people treat them. For example, Aboriginal people have had a long relationship with dingoes. These animals have served as companions, water finders, a food source, and a symbol of strength in folk stories.
However, Australian farmers and ranchers view dingoes as a menace because dingoes sometimes hunt cattle and sheep, while some people keep dingoes as pets, providing a loving home for the animal.
11 Fascinating Differences Between Dingoes and Dogs
Here are 11 fascinating differences between dingoes and dogs that can help erase some of the myths and misinformation about the wild dingo:
Scientists Cannot Agree About How to Classify Dingoes
When it comes to dingo classification, scientists often disagree with other scientists. Some scientists classify dingoes as a subspecies of the wolf, Canis lupis dingo, while others classify dingoes as a separate species, Canis dingo. However, scientists agree that domesticated dogs share the same classification as a subspecies of the wolf, C.lupis familiaris.
Because of this ongoing disagreement regarding dingo classification in the scientific community, questions about how to legally classify the dingo remain unanswered.
In some Australian territories, the dingo is listed as a threatened species and is protected under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which means it is illegal for farmers and ranchers to kill them.
However, some territories want to remove the dingo as a threatened species and reclassify it as just another wild dog. As a hunted species, many scientists fear this could cause the entire dingo population to become extinct over time.
Dingoes May Be Descended from Domesticated Dogs, Not Wolves
Most scientific evidence shows that dingoes arrived on Australian soil about 3,500 years ago. These animals were most likely brought to Australia by seafaring travelers from other regions that include Southeast Asia. However, additional evidence suggests that dingoes may have arrived much earlier – between 4,600 and 18,000 years ago.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when dingoes arrived in Australia. It’s also hard to determine if dingoes arrived before or after the domestication of dogs. However, understanding the timeline is necessary because dingoes may not be a separate species or related to the wolf at all, but rather the ancestors of wild dogs from Southeast Asia. Descended from wolves, dogs became domesticated by people between 7,000 and 20,000 years ago.
Dingoes Do Not Rely on People for Survival
Dingoes do not rely on humans for food, water, or shelter. They tend to avoid people whenever possible. Dingoes live alone, or they live and hunt in packs. Dingoes have designated hunting territories that do not overlap with other dingo packs. On occasion, some dingoes may rummage through people’s garbage, but that’s not usually the way dingoes find food.
Dogs rely on people for their survival. Domesticated dogs need food, water, and shelter to survive. Dogs love to socialize with people and might not survive the wilderness alone without people around to care for them.
Dogs Eat Meals Provided by People, While Dingoes Hunt for Their Food
Dingoes mostly eat meat – but may also eat fruits and vegetables if available. From small game like birds, lizards, wallaby, and rodents to large game like a kangaroo, dingoes spend most of their time hunting prey. Sometimes they bury food to eat it later on. Dingoes can travel up to 12 miles per day when searching for prey.
Dingoes sit at the top of the food chain; their only real competition for food is the red fox. No other animal, except for humans, and the occasional crocodile, hunts the dingo. Dogs, on the other hand, eat the food provided to them by people. Dogs do not hunt for small or large game. If left unattended, dogs may eat trash and other items they wouldn’t normally eat.
Dingoes Prevent Weak or Older Animals from Eating and Drinking Water
Young dingoes may prevent weak or old dingoes from eating or drinking water as a way to make them die quicker. Older animals can’t hunt as effectively, so they bring home food less often. Older dingoes also slow the pack down during migration.
The dingo pack typically has an alpha male, alpha female, and a bunch of hunters that often fight each other for dominance. Dingo packs rarely let other dingoes join the pack, but if a pack doesn’t have enough hunters or if a female introduces another male into the pack, the pack may accept the new dingo – as long as the dingo understands its role within the pack.
While dogs have a pack mentality, this urge to form a pack with other domesticated dogs is not very strong. However, dogs can form strong attachments to people. Dogs serve as companions and protectors to those in their human family. Dingoes are very concerned about the survival of their pack, which consists only of other dingoes – this is why dingoes share food and water only with healthy animals, not weak or old ones.
Dingoes and Dogs Have Subtle Physical Differences
From a distance, it may be difficult to tell a dingo and a dog apart. Up close, dingoes have larger ears and a longer muzzle. Dingoes also have larger canine teeth and big molars.
Dingoes can rotate their heads 180 degrees to get a better view of the landscape, watch their prey, or to get a better idea of what’s going on around them. Dingoes also have flexible, rotational wrists for catching and holding onto prey. Dingoes can run, jump, climb, and dig with much more accuracy than dogs. Dingoes can use their paws to open doors, which makes them great escape artists.
Dingoes Tend to Avoid People While Dogs Provide Loyal Companionship
Shy and timid, dingoes try to avoid people when possible. Since dingoes are considered a wild animal, people should avoid approaching a dingo as they could attack. While rare, dingo attacks on people have happened. Scientists are not quite sure why dingo attacks on people have occurred.
In some parts of Australia, it’s illegal to interact with or feed dingoes. Feeding dingoes ‘people food’ can cause health issues and cause dingoes to lose their natural ability to hunt and capture their food. In other parts of Australia, it’s legal to raise a dingo as long as the pup is taken from its mother within six weeks from birth. After six weeks, the animal is considered feral and dangerous.
For the most part, dogs enjoy the company of people. Unlike dingoes, most dogs interact with people in a friendly way. However, people should not feed leftover food scraps and other food to dogs. Dogs should have a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, fiber, and vitamins – the stuff found in most commercial dog foods. Like dingoes, dogs that eat a poor diet will suffer from preventable health issues.
Both Dogs and Dingoes are Smart, Just in Different Ways
Dogs and dingoes can read human body language, take direction from people, and solve problems, especially when it comes to finding food. Dingoes have a better sense of spatial relationships and can get around physical barriers and other obstacles much better than dogs. When faced with a spatial problem, most dogs will ask for assistance; dingoes try to solve the issue themselves.
Understanding non-verbal cues from humans could be the result of early dingo domestication in Southeast Asia or the outcome of the evolutionary process. Scientists are still debating this issue. Some scientists equate the dingo’s ability to problem solve as similar to domesticated cats rather than dogs. In addition to reading human body language, dingoes can also escape from pens, cages, and other confinements, whereas dogs bark and ask for help when trapped.
Dingo Males Look After Their Pups; Male Dogs Do Not
When it comes to breeding and raising dingo pups, dingoes and dogs differ in their approaches. Dingoes breed once a year, while dogs breed twice a year. Female dingoes eat the feces of their young, while female dogs do not.
Male dingoes stick around to help protect and raise pups; male dogs do not. However, both female dingoes and female dogs take on the role of the main protector and provider when raising their pups. Dingoes tend to mate for life. When a dingo mate dies, the other will mourn its death.
Female dingoes that travel in packs will move their pups as the dingo pack migrates. In some cases, alpha females living in dingo packs will kill another female’s pups to ensure that her pups receive enough food and care from the pack females. Dingo pups can live and hunt on their own after six months.
Many young dingoes stay with their pack, while some young dingoes choose to live a solitary life or join another dingo pack. Dingoes and dogs sometimes interbreed, which results in a hybrid subspecies. For scientists studying dingoes, interbreeding causes problems when trying to classify dingo packs. Interbreeding is also considered a cause for the decline in the purebred dingo population.
Dogs Bark, Dingoes Howl
Dingoes howl, yelp, and yowl when communicating with each other and other animals. Dingoes can also growl, moan, and cry when injured. They do not bark. Scientists who study dingo vocal sounds have determined that dingoes talk to each other using a series of short and long sounds. These howls and yelps can signal impending danger, food availability, or as a cry for help, and are used during mating season by both males and females.
Dogs bark, howl, yelp, yowl, and whine for a variety of reasons. They also growl or cry out in pain, and they like to bark to get people’s attention and to communicate with other dogs and animals.
People use dogs as guard animals. However, some dog breeds are better at guarding homes and people than others. Dingoes raised by people have also served as guard dogs. However, in many cases, dingoes living in captivity return to the wild as soon as they possibly can – they just can’t help it.
The Dingo Fence was Created to Keep Dingoes Out
Built in the late 1800s, the Dingo Fence stretches out across southern Australia and measures over 3,500 miles long. This six-foot-tall fence helps keep dingoes away from sheep and other livestock. Unfortunately, dingoes can dig under or jump over the Dingo Fence to reach livestock. After jumping over or digging under the Dingo Fence, the dingoes run through sheep herds and attempt to separate adult sheep from their young. Dingoes attack the young and eat them.
Dingoes and dogs view physical obstacles in different ways. Dingoes try to find ways around them (or over and under them), while most dogs will bark at physical barriers or turn to people for assistance. The Dingo Fence costs millions in government funding each year to repair. But the Dingo Fence has helped keep dingoes from destroying the sheep and cattle ranching industry.
Dingoes and dogs both share many physical characteristics that make it difficult to tell them apart. The ability to survive in the wild is what separates the dingo from the average house dog. Dogs need people to survive and thrive. Dingoes, on the other hand, rely on their hunting skills and intellect to survive.
When raised in captivity, dingoes provide companionship to their owners. But because of their pack mentality, dingoes require much more attention than dogs. Dingo owners must spend lots of time with their dingo.
For example, dingoes left alone during the day become very stressed and anxious when waiting for their owner to return. Stress and anxiety can cause the dingo to become destructive, angry, and violent. Most scientists and dingo activists don’t recommend keeping a dingo as a pet. This wild creature deserves to free-roam, hunt, and live in nature.