Jackal: Description, Species, Size, Habitat and Facts

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Jackals are known to be medium-sized omnivorous mammals that fall under the genus Canis. The genus Canis also includes other animals like the domestic dog, wolves, coyotes, and many more.

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Jackals are crepuscular, which means they most active at dusk and dawn.Historically, small canids have been given the name “jackal,” but during the modern age, the name has been used mostly to refer the three species.

The three species which are closely related are the side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal of the Saharan Africa and the south-central Eurasia golden jackal.

Scientific classification

SpeciesCanis adustus, Canis mesomelas, and Canis aureus


Side- striped jackal (Canis adustus)

The side-striped jackal is distinct from other jackals, it inhabits wooded areas. It is less aggressive compared to other jackals, and it preys mostly on smaller animal than large mammals. They can be found in the central and southern parts of Africa.

Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas)

The black-backed jackal is lightly built and considered as one of the oldest members of the genus Canis. It is very aggressive and even known to be the most aggressive among all jackals. It hunts prey twice its size and has trouble relating to others of its kind.

Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)    

The golden jackals are the most rampant of all jackals. They are known to be more related to wolves than jackals. They can be found in the southeastern part of Europe, south Asia, western Asia, and the Middle East.


The three species of jackals all have the same size as domestic dogs. They grow up to 70 – 85 cm (27 – 33 in) from shoulder to rump, and about 25 cm (10 in) of tail length.

Jackals are unscrupulous omnivores and are described as proficient scavengers. They possess long legs with curved and sharp canine teeth, which are used for hunting smaller mammals, reptiles, and birds.

They also have fused bones and large feet, which gives them an advantage during long-distance running. They are capable of maintaining a speed of 9.9 mph (16km/h) for an extended period of time.


Each species have distinguished characteristic which is denoted by their name as stated by Animal Diversity Web (ADW).

The black-backed jackal has black fur from its neck running down its back to its tail. The rest of its body is either ginger coloured or reddish-brown with the belly being white.

Side-striped jackals are tan to light grey with black side stripes and a white stripe from hip to elbow.

The golden jackal’s fur is usually pale gold to yellow and brown-tipped, but the colour can vary with region and season.



Jackals can be found in Africa but are in different locations. They inhabit regions that are suitable for them. The black-backed jackal mostly inhabits woodlands and savannas.

There are two separate populations of black-backed jackals, and one can be found in the southern part of the continent in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The other can be found along the eastern coastline, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

 The two populations were separated by the Olduvai Gorge located in Tanzania. It is a zone with a harsh landscape that is hard to cross.

The side-striped jackal prefers a wet region, like the tropical part of Africa. This region includes the marshes, savannas, mountains, and bushlands, as stated by the African Wildlife Federation (AWF).

The golden jackal prefers a dry region, like the arid grasslands and open savannas. It is regarded as the northernmost jackal. It inhabits East and North Africa as well as South Asia to Burma and southeastern Europe.


All species express different habits, and it has been discovered that some jackals are social animals, while others have issues relating to their specie. Some form small groups called packs, while others live in pairs or alone. A pack consists of six members.


Jackals that form pairs do everything together, including sleeping, eating, and hunting. They also defend their territory together. As stated by the Animal Diversity Web (ADW), jackal pairs are three times more likely to get a successful kill than a lone jackal.

Jackals are both nocturnal and diurnal, meaning they are mostly active at dusk, dawn, or at night. Only the side-striped jackal is strictly nocturnal.

They form a monogamous pair and defend their territory from other pairs by marking landmarks with their feaces and urine. Young adults may stay in the territory with their parents until they are mature enough to make their territories.

Jackals hunt alone or in pairs but there some rare cases where they come together to hunt a particular carcass.


Jackals are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetation and meat. They are scavengers that eat leftovers of other animals’ kills. They also hunt for prey, some of which include reptiles, ground-dwelling birds, antelopes, insects, fruits, grass, and berries.

They are not picky eaters, which means they would eat human trash or even decomposing flesh if nothing more suitable is available.


Jackals have only one mate for life, and both parents help take care of the young. After a gestation period of 57 – 70 days, the female will give birth to two – four babies.

The baby jackals are born with their eyes sealed shut, and it takes them about ten days before they have their sight.

Newly born jackals are called pups. Pups eat regurgitated food and its mother’s milk for two months while being weaned.

Several cases of jackal pup death occur between 14 weeks after their birth. The pups are hunted mostly by eagles that swoop them up. In other to protect her pups, the mother jackal changes her den almost weekly.


Pups are taught to hunt by 5 – 6 months, and assistance is always given by the parents when needed. Jackals are sexually active when they reach the age of 6 – 11 months.

At a certain age, some jackals leave their parent and to go into the world to create their territory. While some stay behind to protect, feed, and babysit the younger siblings. The lifespan of a jackal lies between 10 – 12 years.


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