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History and biology

When did Wild Dogs arrive to Australia?

image source, P Fleming
The wild dog population in Australia is comprises of two sub-species of canid: Dingoes (Canis lupus dingo); Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and their hybrids. Both are derived from wolves (Canis lupus).
Dingoes were introduced from Asia about 4000 years ago, where-as domestic dogs were introduced and spread by European settlers over the past 200 years. Both dingoes and domestic dogs (and hybrids) are now widely distributed across the Australian mainland, and many off-shore islands. After dingoes were introduced to Australia, Aboriginal people are thought to have aided their spread throughout the country.
They were used as companions, food, hunting-aids and bed-warmers. Dingoes never reached Tasmania, but occur on many off-shore islands. Over the past 200+ years, wild dogs have been removed from agricultural areas, mainly for protection of livestock. Dog-fences have also been used to protect sheep from predation. Hybridisation between dingoes and dogs is considered a threat to pure dingoes in Australia. 
Wild Dogs include dingoes, domestic (and feral) dogs, and their hybrids:
  • Dingoes - Native dogs of Asia. Introduced to Australia prior to European settlement (possiby 4000 years ago). Pure dingoes are those that have not hybridised with domestic dogs.
  • Domestic dogs - Dogs bred by humans, introduced to Australia 200+ years ago during European settlement, and derived from wolves and/or dingoes.
  • Feral dogs - Wild-living domestic dogs (escapees, released, neglected or abandoned domestic dogs).

What we know about Wild Dog biology

image source, P Fleming

Wild dogs comprise dingoes and domestic dogs (and their hybrids). Dingoes differ from domestic (and feral) dogs mainly in their reproduction. Dingoes breed once a year, whereas domestic (and feral) dogs can breed twice per year. The average adult dingo weighs 15kg, and domestic and feral dogs can weigh as much as 60kg, but most are less than 20kg. 
They eat a wide range of food types, ranging from insects to rabbits, cats, kangaroos, and livestock. They usually live and hunt in packs, and larger groups are more successful at taking down larger prey. Solitary animals are more successful hunting smaller animals, like rabbits. Homerange size can vary from 10 square kilometres to 300 square kilometres.  
The distribution of dingoes has decreased since European settlement, but the abundance of wild dogs has probably increased in some areas with the provision of increased food and water resources. Wild dogs are often elusive and nocturnal, making it difficult to detect wild dogs and estimate their abundance.

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