Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)
HB: 600-750; T:200-250; HF: 130-156; E: 75-85; W: 8-9 kg.
This animal, in Thailand, may be confused with the Asian Wild Dog, Cuon alpinus, but differs in being generally greyish brown, not reddish brown, and also having the shoulder hairs tipped black, forming a saddle like pattern. Also, the muzzle is not blackish as in alpinus, the tail is short and blackish only on the distal third, also the female has 10 mammae. The skull is typical of Canis, with a long muzzle, rather strong, wide zygomatic arches, a low sagittal crest, and large simple bullae. The skull differs from Cuon in having a narrower muzzle, a less inflated frontal region, and the orbits relatively higher on the head. The dentition has the full 42 teeth of typical dogs; the second upper and lower molars are normal, not reduced and in Cuon. The lower carnassial has two cusps on its heel (one cusp in Cuon)
The Golden Jackal is widespread in North and north-east
Africa, occurring from Senegal on the west coast of Africa to Egypt in the east,
in a range that includes Morocco, Algeria, and Libya in the north to Nigeria,
Chad and Tanzania in the south. They also occur in the Arabian Peninsula and
have expanded their range into Europe, where they have a patchy distribution,
being resident in the Balkans and, since recent times, in Hungary and
south-western Ukraine. It is regularly found as a vagrant in Austria, Slovakia,
Slovenia and north-eastern Italy (Kryštufek 1999). Eastwards they range into
Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, the entire Indian subcontinent, then
east and south to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and parts of Indo-China.
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Bahrain; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Central African Republic; Croatia; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Greece; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Vietnam; Western Sahara; Yemen
Austria; Italy; Slovakia; Slovenia
The Golden Jackal is fairly common throughout its
range. High densities are observed in areas with abundant food and cover. In
several parts of India, high densities of low-quality cattle are maintained. Due
to religious beliefs, most people do not consume beef, and cattle carcasses are
freely available for scavenging. In India, jackal populations achieve high
densities in pastoral areas such as Kutch, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
Based on intensive observations on breeding pack units and radio-collared
individuals, jackal densities in the semi-arid Velavadar National Park were
estimated between one and two jackals per km˛ (Y. Jhala et al., unpubl.); see
Sharma (1998) for densities quoted for the Thar Desert in India. On the African
continent, in the Serengeti National Park, densities can range as high as four
adults per km˛ (Moehlman 1983, 1986, 1989). Based on known density estimates for
parts of India and considering that about 19% (i.e., about 637,000 km˛) of the
geographical area of India has forest cover with jackal populations (and that
jackals are also found outside forested habitats), a minimum population estimate
of over 80,000 Golden Jackals would not be unreasonable for the Indian
sub-continent. Population estimates for Africa are not available.
Population Trend: Increasing
Habitat and Ecology:
Due to their tolerance of dry habitats and their
omnivorous diet, the Golden Jackal can live in a wide variety of habitats. These
range from the Sahel Desert to the evergreen forests of Myanmar and Thailand.
They occupy semi-desert, short to medium grasslands and savannas in Africa; and
forested, mangrove, agricultural, rural and semi-urban habitats in India and
Bangladesh (Clutton-Brock et al. 1976; Poche et al. 1987; Y. Jhala, pers. obs.).
Golden Jackals are opportunistic and will venture into human habitation at night
to feed on garbage. Jackals have been recorded at elevations of 3,800 m in the
Bale Mountains of Ethiopia (Sillero-Zubiri 1996) and are well established around
hill stations at 2,000 m in India (Prater 1980).
Over its entire range, except in protected areas like National
Parks and Sanctuaries, the jackal population is steadily declining. Traditional
land use practices, like livestock rearing and dry farming that were conducive
to the survival of jackals and other wildlife, are being steadily replaced by
industrialization and intensive agriculture; wilderness areas and rural
landscapes are being rapidly urbanized. Jackal populations adapt to some extent
to this change and may persist for a while, but eventually disappear from such
areas like other wildlife. There are no other known threats, except for local
policies of extirpation and poisoning (for example, Israel and Morocco). Jackals
may occasionally be hunted as a game species and eaten, as has been recorded in
Morocco (F. Cuzin pers. comm. 2007). There is no significant trade in jackal
products, although skins and tails are occasionally sold.
Golden jackals are present in all protected areas of
India except for those in the high elevation regions of the Himalayas. In East
Africa, they occur in the Serengeti-Masai Mara-Ngorongoro complex, as well as
numerous other conservation units. Thus they have a wide coverage in terms of
The species is included in CITES Appendix III (in India). Jackals feature on Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) of India and are afforded the least legal protection (mainly to control trade of pelts and tails). However, no hunting of any wildlife is permitted under the current legal system in India. The golden jackal could be considered as a "species requiring no immediate protection" with caution and knowledge that populations throughout its range are likely declining.
Besides being represented in a wide array of protected areas covering several landscapes, no special species targeted conservation efforts have been undertaken. Almost all zoos in India have golden jackals.
Current or planned research projects include ongoing, long-term studies in the Serengeti, Tanzania; ongoing studies on wolves, jackals, and striped hyenas in Bhal and Kutch areas of Gujarat, India; and investigation into crop damage, densities and ranging patterns of golden jackals in Bangladesh.
Gaps in knowledge
Little quantitative information is available on jackal densities, habitat use, and ranging patterns in relation to food availability. Information on dispersal, survival and mortality factors of adults, pups and dispersing individuals is needed. Jackal ecology needs to be studied in forested ecosystems of Southeast Asia where a different set of factors are likely to operate affecting food availability, ranging patterns and survival. Aspects of canid diseases in relation to population dynamics of jackals and transmission need to be better understood.