Jackal

The jackals are found mainly in open grassland terrain. They are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever carrion and small mammals they can find, as well as a lot of plant matter. However, golden jackals hunt more than other species, and often compete with hyenas and lions, which will try to steal their prey. The jackals eat very quickly, without chewing their food, and will often bury their kills to hide them from other scavengers.

Golden Jackal

This is the largest species of jackal, but it displays considerable variation in size and appearance across its wide range.

The golden jackal is widespread, living across southern Europe and south Asia. It is the only jackal that ranges into North Africa, where it was held sacred to the Egyptian god Anubis in ancient times. It usually sports a golden-brown or yellow coat of short, coarse fur and a black-tipped tail.

Golden jackals mate for life and typically raise pups together. They live in clearly defined scent-marked territories, often in small family groups. Some offspring remain as helpers, taking care of newborn pups and leaving their mothers free to gather food for their families.

Golden jackals can often be seen rummaging around landfill sites near human settlements, looking for tasty refuse.

These jackals are highly adaptable by nature, and are quite common throughout the areas in which they occur. In some regions, groups of up to five individuals may hunt collectively, which helps them to overpower larger and potentially faster prey. Their acute hearing means that they can locate small animals hiding in vegetation, and they can also become adept at catching fish. When hunting opportunities are reduced, they will eat invertebrates and feed on fruit in season.

Distribution: Found in northern and eastern parts of Africa, through Arabia and southern parts of Asia, east to Myanmar (Burma). Also occurs in parts of southeastern Europe.

Habitat: Open savannah and grassland.

Weight: 7 - 15 kg (15 - 33 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 95 - 130 cm (38 - 52 in), including tail; up to 50 cm (20 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 11 months; males 2 years.

Gestation Period: About 63 days; weaning occurs up to 3 months later.

Breeding: 6-9 pups born after 63 days of gestation.

Food: Omnivorous, hunting birds and mammals, as well as scavenging; also eats plant matter.

Lifespan: 12 - 14 years.

Status: Common.

Colouration

The fur is usually yellowish with darker tipping, but this can vary both seasonally and regionally.

Tail

The bushy tail is usually held down at rest.

Development of pups

Pups weigh about 200 g (7 oz) at birth, and their eyes open at about 10 days old.

Black-Backed Jackal

Fossil evidence suggests this species is the oldest surviving member of its genus, existing before the grey wolf, and long before the domestic dog.

Black-backed jackals live in closely bonded pairs, sometimes with one or two older offspring staying to help rear the pups. The older offspring increase the survival rate of young pups by providing extra food and guarding the den from predators, such as hyenas. When the parents arrive back from hunting, the pups start begging and this encourages the adults to regurgitate food which they have caught and swallowed earlier. Female black-backed jackals tend to be paler in colour than males. Pairs form a lifelong bond, but they may sometimes join up with other black-backed jackals to take larger prey. Some of the young from the previous year may also stay with their parents, helping them to hunt and increasing the survival chances of the next set of offspring.

The jackals communicate with screaming yells followed by three or four short yaps. They make these calls more often during the winter when they start mating. In South Africa, where black-backed jackals are the only species of jackal present, howling is common.

The black-backed jackal is reddish-brown with a white-streaked black band along its back. The thick, hairy tail is also black, particularly at the tip. In parts of South Africa, black-backed jackals used to cause problems by feeding on large numbers of pineapples.

Black-backed jackals have very varied diets, feeding on anything from young antelope, rodents and hares through to birds, reptiles, carrion, invertebrates, wild berries and fruit. They are opportunistic too, scavenging on whatever food might be available, including Cape fur seal carcasses.

Distribution: Two distinct populations, occurring in eastern Africa, and also across southern Africa, in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Habitat: Dry savannahs. Food: Omnivorous diet.

Weight: 7 - 13.5 kg (15 - 30 lb); males and southern races are heavier.

Length: 95 - 136 cm (37 - 54 in); up to 42 cm (19 in) tall.

Maturity: About 11 months.

Gestation Period: 60 - 65 days.

Breeding: Usually 3-4 pups born July-October in southern Africa.

Food: Omnivorous, hunting small prey like hares and rodents; also scavenges and eats fruit and berries.

Lifespan: Up to 8 years in the wild; can be 12 - 14 years in captivity.

Status: Common.

Ears

The ears are particularly useful in detecting prey hidden by vegetation.

Colouration

Silver-black fur runs the entire length of the back and tail, contrasting with the gingery flanks.

Profile

These jackals are slimmer than related species, as emphasized by their long muzzle.

Whiskers

Whiskers provide sensory information, helping to confirm the direction of the wind when hunting.

These jackals will dig burrows themselves.

HUNTING TOGETHER

Hunting partnerships can be very successful. Here, one jackal distracts the female gazelle, allowing the other to seize her youngster.

Side-Striped Jackal

Size: 96 - 120 cm (3.1 - 4 ft); 9.7 kg (21.5 lb).

This species of jackal lives in Central Africa. They live alongside other jackals on the grasslands and share a similar body form and lifestyle. However, side-striped jackals are also found in moister habitats, such as mountain woodlands. They are easily distinguishable due to a white stripe along their flanks between a rusty saddle-shaped section of fur on the back and dark sides.

Gallery of Jackal