Dhole

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Dhole

The dhole (Cuon alpines) is a canid endemic to Southeast Asia, and South, Central, East Asia. It bears other English names, which include the Asiatic wild dog, Asian wild dog, whistling dog, Indian wild dog, mountain wolf, and red dog.

It is believed to genetically close to species within the genus Canis, but is different in several anatomical aspects; its skull is not concave but rather convex in profile, it also lacks the third molar.

During the Pleistocene, the dhole occurred throughout North America, Europe, and Asia but became restricted to its historical range 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. Dholes are social animals that live in large clans without any form of rigid dominance hierarchies.

The clans created by the dhole also consist of multiple breeding females. The usual number of individuals in a clan is 12, although over 40 individuals are known.

It is a diurnal pack hunter; they hunt both during the day and night. Dholes target medium and large-sized ungulates. The dhole competes with leopard and tiger in tropical forests.

It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered, because its populations are decreasing, with only fewer than 2,500 adults.

Factors contributing to this decline include loss of prey, habitat loss, persecution due to livestock predation, competition with other species, and disease transfer from domestic dogs.

Table of Contents

Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
SubfamilyCaninae
TribeCanini
GenusCuon
SpeciesC. alpines

Subspecies classification

SubspeciesDescriptionDistribution
Burmese dhole (C. a. adjustus)Short hair on the paws, reddish coat, and black whiskers.South of the Ganges river, northern Myanmar and Northeastern India.
Ussuri red wolf (C. a. alpinus)Greyish neck, thick tawny red coat, and ochre muzzle.East Russia, East of eastern Sayan Mountains, and Northeastern Asia.
Asiatic dhole (C. a. fumosus)Dark back, luxuriant yellowish-red coat, and grey neck.China, Western Szechuan, and Mongolia. Thailand, Southern Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Tien Shan dhole (C. a. hesperius)white underside, long yellow tinted coat, and pale whiskers. Smaller than C. a. alpinus, with lighter-coloured winter fur and wider skull.China and Eastern Russia.
Asiatic dhole (C. a. laniger)Yellowish-grey coat, the tail is the same colour as the body.Himalayan Nepal, Southern Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Kashmir.
Asiatic dhole (C. a. lepturus)Uniform red coat and thick underfur.China, South of the Yangtze River.
Sumatran wild dog (C. a. sumatrensis)Red coat with dark whiskers.Sumatra and Indonesia.

Characteristics

The dhole is said to have the combined physical characteristics of the red fox and the grey wolf, although it has also been described to have a cat-like appearance on account of its slender limbs and long backbone.

The dhole has a wide and massive skull with a developed sagittal crest. Compared to other canid species, the dhole masseter muscles are highly developed, which gives it an almost hyena-like appearance.

Adult females can weigh from 22 – 37 lb (10 – 17 kg), while the slightly larger male may weigh from 33 – 46 lb (15 – 21 kg). The average weight of adults from three small samples was 33 lb (15.1 kg). Occasionally, the dhole can be said to sympatric with the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes).

The Indian wolf is one of the smallest species of the grey wolf. Dholes stand 430 – 560 mm (17 – 22 in) at the shoulder and measure 0.91 m (3 ft) in body length. Its ears are fairly rounded but less so than the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus).

In winter, the brightest hues occur, although the general tone of the fur is red. The chest, throat, belly, flanks, and the upper parts of the limbs are all less brightly coloured. The forehead and muzzle are greyish-reddish.

The tail is fluffy and luxuriant and is reddish-ocherous in colour with a dark tip. The summer coat is darker, shorter, and coarser, the lateral and dorsal guard hair in adults measure 20 to 30 mm in length.

The dhole is known to produce whistles resembling the calls of the red fox, and sometimes it renders the coo-coo sound. This sound is assumed to help coordinate the pack when travelling through thick bush, although how the sound is produced is still a mystery.

The dhole produces the KaKaKaKAA sounds. It produces other sounds such as growls (warning), whines (food soliciting), yapping cries, chattering, and screams (both of which are alarm calls).

Distinct from wolves, dholes do not bark or howl, but they have a complex body language. Submissive and Friendly greetings are accompanied by lowering of the tail and horizontal lip retraction, as well as licking.

Threatening or aggressive dholes raise the hairs on their backs, keep their tails horizontal or vertical, and pucker their lips forward in a snarl. When afraid, dholes flatten their ears against the skull, pull their lips horizontally, and tuck their tails.

Reproduction

Dhole

Dholes’ mating season in India occurs between mid-October – January. Distinct from wolf packs, dhole clans may contain one or more breeding females.

More than one female dhole may rear their litters together in the same den. During mating, the female takes a crouched, cat-like position.

The gestation period may last up to 60 to 63 days, with litter sizes averaging 4 – 6 pups. Compared to the wolves, the growth rate of dhole is much faster, but it is similar to that of coyotes.

Dhole pups are suckled for 58 days. During this time, the pack provides food for the mother at the den site. The pups remain at the den site for 70 to 80 days.

By the age of 6 months, pups follow the adults on hunts, and by the age of 8 months, they assist in killing large prey like the sambar. The lifespan of a dhole in captivity is 15 to 16 years.

Diet

Prey animals in India include sambar deer, chital, mouse deer, muntjac, wild boar, barasingha, water buffaloes, gaur, cattle, banteng, goats, nilgai, Himalayan field rats, Indian hares, and langurs. In the Tarbagatai Mountains and Tian Shan, dholes prey on arkhar, Siberian ibexes, maral, roe deer, and wild boar.

In the Sayan Mountains and Altai, they prey on reindeer and musk deer. In eastern Siberia, they prey on Manchurian wapiti, roe deer, musk deer, wild pig, and reindeer, while in Primorye they feed on goral and sika deer. In Mongolia, they prey on Siberian ibex and argali.

Similar to African wild dogs, but different from wolves, dholes do not attack people. Dholes eat vegetables and fruits more readily than other canids. In captivity, they eat various kinds of herbs, grasses, and leaves, not just when they are ill but for pleasure.

Habitat

Found in southern and eastern Asia, from Malay Peninsula in the south to Siberia in the north. Dholes occupy a wide variety of habitats and climates, including scrub, dense forests, alpine regions, and steppes.

They vary in colour from rust-red to charcoal grey to sandy beige, depending on their habitat.

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