Dingos

Dingo in profile

It is believed that dingos have lived in Australia for some 5,000 to 10,000 years. Their origin is obscure, although they are thought to be related to the Indian Wolf.

As most Australians know, their reputation as killers was reinforced as a result of the Azaria Chamberlain case. Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were camping near Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Central Australia in 1980, when their 10-week-old baby daughter Azaria disappeared. Lindy, who claimed that a dingo had taken the baby, was subsequently jailed for murder, but after three years, new evidence was found which suggested that a dingo had indeed been the culprit, and Lindy was released. A film called Evil Angels was subsequently made about the story.

There have been other instances of dingos attacking children. In 2001, two dingos attacked and killed a nine-year-old boy on Fraser Island, north of Brisbane. In 2011, a three-year-old girl was attacked on Fraser Island, and sustained serious leg injuries.

Dingos are sophisticated hunters, sometimes operating in packs of up to five or six, and farmers say they will often kill far more animals than they need for food. Sheep, calves, rabbits, kangaroos, and emus are all on the menu. However, there have been very few reports of dingos attacking able-bodies adults, and although we usually see a few dingos when we’re traveling on the north side of the Dog Fence, we have never been threatened by them in any way.

Tourists who don’t know better are sometimes seen feeding dingos. This is frowned upon by the authorities, because it encourages dingos to hang around camp grounds and such places.

Although some people argue otherwise, most experts agree that dingos cannot be tamed, and are therefore unsuitable for keeping as pets. The dingo’s bark is short and infrequent, however the sound of dingos howling at night can be quite eerie.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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5 Responses to Dingos

  1. Interesting. I knew dingos attacked livestock (hence, the Dog Fence), but didn’t realize they ever hunted in packs. I’ve always seen them singly — and had them described as loners. But I guess if you get hungry and the game is big, you adapt.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Yes, they certainly hunt in packs where it’s necessary. Some of the stories you hear make you wonder whether they have a discussion first to decide how they’re going to do it. For example, one approaching a sheep from in front while another one comes from the rear. Or two or three “herding” a few kangaroos against the fence in the corner of a paddock before attacking them.

  2. roobark says:

    My 93 yr old father maintains that the deterioration of his father’s farm in Gnowangerup, WA, was due to the elimination of the dingoes by the State Government (probably in the 1930s but I haven’t checked that). Without the dingoes, the rabbits flourished and destructive processes set in.

  3. John Read says:

    The relationship between dingoes and pastoralists/farmers is really complex and is the subject of research being carried out on 4 pastoral stations in northern SA. In some cases, particularly in droughts, dingoes will attack and sometimes kill weak calves. Of course they also kill sheep too. Yet in many cases, as Roobark mentions, dingoes are beneficial by controlling rabbits, goats and superabundant roos and emus. I know several successful cattle pastoralists who strongly advocate for not controlling dingoes due to their net economic benefit. Most wildlife typically benefit from dingoes too, because dingoes help to control cats and foxes that are more efficient predators of many threatened species.

    I devote a chapter of my recently revised and republished book “Red Sand Green Heart: Ecological Adventures in the Outback” that provides informal but informed opinions on a whole range of environmental and social issues in the Outback – available from Amazon!

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Thanks for those interesting comments, John. I have a (2003) copy of your book on my “waiting to be read” shelf — sometimes it’s a long wait!

      I was preparing to write something about feral cats in the most recent issue of my newsletter, but quickly came to realise that it’s a complex subject, and decided to postpone it. I’d already come across the opinion that a suitable number of dingos can be more effective at controlling feral cats than most human methods. It was nothing short of alarming to read that some estimates claim that feral cats in Australia kill some 75 million native animals every 24 hours!! It made me wonder what the estimated daily killing of native animals by dingos is — I would guess substantially less than that.

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