Meet the Controversial Australian Dingo
By Awake! correspondent in Australia
THERE has been a long-standing debate in Australia over the dingo. Does this animal have a right to live in the Australian wilds? Or is it a killer that should be fenced off and gradually destroyed?
The dingo is a wild dog. It is stout, with short, soft fur and erect, pointed ears. Full-grown, it stands about two feet [60 cm] at the shoulder and measures about four feet [120 cm] from its nose to the tip of its foot-long [30 cm] bushy tail. It has a much larger skull and longer teeth than domestic dogs of the same size but can interbreed with them. The name dingo was used by Aborigines living around Sydney and first appeared in writing about the year 1790.
Dingoes are found all over the Australian continent but not on the island-state of Tasmania. They have an attractive coat in colors that include cream, pale yellow, white, rich red-brown, rusty-red, yellowish-brown, and black. Pure-bred adult dingoes always have a white tail-tip and usually have white feet, no matter what their overall color.
Where Did It Come From?
The dingo is not indigenous to this vast, sunbaked country but was probably brought here by boat. Just when and by whom is not certain. The strongest indication of the dingo’s origin appears to be that it is a descendant of the Indian wolf. Fossils show a strong resemblance to Indus Valley dogs that were bred by crossing domestic dogs with Indian wolves.
Other similarities to the wolf are the silent hunting-style of the dingo and the fact that it does not bark but lets out a drawn-out howl. One popular theory is that travelers from India, who had boats that could cross the seas, took the dingo first to Timor and then on down to Australia.
Can It Be Tamed?
The dingo puppy is a cuddly little fellow. From early times Aborigines kept them as pets. But when the pups grew up, they always returned to the wild.
Professor N. W. G. MacIntosh of the University of Sydney is not impressed with efforts to tame the dingo. He claims that even police-dog trainers, with their great experience, patience, and affection for animals, failed to produce anything resembling obedience.
On the other hand, George Bingham, who has worked with dingoes for about two decades, says that those he has handled were extremely trusting and playful and never aggressive. But he admits that if their natural traits are not taken into account, they can become uncontrollable and destructive to personal property, though not necessarily savage. He also acknowledges their desire to return to the wild and cautions that if a pet dingo is let off the leash, it will soon become a visitor rather than a companion dog.
A Menace to the Farmer
Despite their willingness to be petted by man, the hard fact is that dingoes roaming wild are voracious hunters and can wreak havoc to flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Rarely do they hunt in packs. They are loners by nature, but occasionally they hunt in pairs. This is done especially when attacking a large animal such as a kangaroo, where one dingo attaches himself to the victim’s tail or a leg while the second dingo concentrates on the throat.
Dingoes show great cunning in a number of ways. They will often follow a drover with his flock of sheep for weeks, picking off any animals that stray from the main flock. Or they will quietly get a cow used to their presence for several days and then suddenly seize her calf when she is unprepared.
Some graziers report losing up to 50 percent of newborn lambs or calves to dingoes. One lost 900 sheep out of a flock of 5,500 in just four months. That dingoes often kill sheep and then eat little of the carcass further infuriates the sheep farmer.
So it is easy to understand why the dingo is described as one of the most controversial animals in Australia. Most herders describe them as cruel, cunning killers. Conservationists urge their preservation along with other wild Australian animals and point out their usefulness in cleaning up dead animal carcasses.
Costly Control Measures
Efforts to control increasing numbers of dingoes include an eight-foot-high [2.5 m] fence stretching more than 5,000 miles [8,000 km]. This “great dingo fence” is reputed to be longer than the Great Wall of China and was built at huge expense, with the ambitious aim of keeping dingoes in the north out of sheep country farther south. Other methods used with varying success include trapping and shooting by professional “doggers,” or dingo trappers, and the laying of poison baits, including aerial baiting. Unfortunately, other wildlife is often affected.
Are They Man-Eaters?
To date there has been no authentic record of dingoes attacking humans, either singly or in packs. When living near civilization, dingoes are scavengers and will eat any food found in garbage containers. In the wilds of Australian bushland, they usually hunt and eat any animal smaller than themselves, including rabbits, opossums, wombats, rodents, and small wallabies.
Just which Bible definition—“wild beast” or “domestic animal”—fits the dingo is something of an enigma. (Genesis 1:25) But whatever the exact role, the controversial Australian dingo with its cuddly puppies may indeed exist on the Paradise earth when all animal creation brings pleasure to man and honor to its imaginative and caring Creator.—Isaiah 11:6-9.