“Nothing living should ever be treated with contempt. Whatever it is that lives – a man, a tree, or a bird – should be touched gently, because the time is short. Civilization is another word for respect for life”
Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984)
Those familiar with Kipling’s Red Dog may remember the bloodthirsty, aggressive and destructive creatures the dhole were portrayed to be. In fact, Kipling did for the dhole what Little Red Riding Hood did for the wolf. Such seemingly innocent children’s stories leading to both animals being ultimately, and wrongly, feared and persecuted.
Although the same stigmata are still attached to the dhole, even more insults have been heaped upon it. Again, we have the same chain of events as with other endangered species. They have been driven away from their rapidly decreasing habitat. They have seen their prey base diminish and been left with no choice but to return the discourtesy of encroachment inflicted upon them, and head towards the settlements of their aggressors.
In moments of hunger they have preyed on cattle and goats. In return, they have been relentlessly poisoned, trapped, shot and had their pups killed in their dens. And, to add to all that, they have suffered the diseases and pathogens brought to their world by man and his domestic animals.
This magnificent species deserves more than this. Alas, it seems to have been forgotten, so now may be a good time to try and raise a little awareness.
These gorgeous creatures have coats of rusty-red, which may vary in tone between regions. They have bushy fox-like tails with a black tip, and white patches on the chest, underside and paws. They can jump vertically to a height of over seven feet and swim extremely well. They have been known to drive prey into the water to capture it. Roughly the size of a springer spaniel, males can weigh up to forty pounds. Females are smaller.
The dhole is capable of felling prey up to ten times its own weight and will happily take on a tiger. The species hunts in packs of five to ten and will ambush prey rather than stalk or chase it.
The breeding season is from November to April, after which, anything between one and twelve pups will be born. The pups will be fully weaned at seven weeks and will reach maturity at the age of one. They will remain in the den for about ten or eleven weeks, and by six months of age will be learning to hunt with the adults.
Moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, open meadows and alpine steppe.
A widespread range across seventeen countries in Central and eastern Asia.
What they eat
The species is almost exclusively carnivore, consuming mainly deer. It will also eat wild boar and hare – as and when available.
Depletion of prey base, loss and transformation of habitat, persecution, disease and competition with other species (In the case of Indo-China this specifically means people).
Status: Critically Endangered
The Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. It is also protected under Cites Appendix 11 (2003). There are thought to be less than two thousand five hundred of the species left in the wild and at least one hundred and twenty in captivity.
This is a species whose habitat is so fragmented and wide ranging, it is easy to forget it is there. Which may be one of the reasons it has not had all the attention it deserves of late. After a great flurry of activity a decade ago, very little has been done since. Hopefully, this will soon change.
The dhole is protected, to some degree, in the following countries:
The Russian Federation
Here is a link to a great first hand account of an encounter with the dhole which you may enjoy.