Jackal Mythology: The Symbolism and Significance of Jackals in Ancient Cultures.
Jackal: The Howling Canine of Africa and Asia
If you have ever heard a chilling howl in the night, you might have encountered a jackal. These medium-sized canids are related to dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes, but they have their own unique features and behaviors. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about jackals, from their appearance and distribution to their diet and reproduction. You will also discover why jackals are important for the ecosystem and how we can help them survive in the wild.
What is a jackal?
A jackal is an omnivorous species that belongs to the genus Canis, which includes dogs, wolves, coyotes, and other canines. The word "jackal" comes from the Persian word shoghāl, which means "the howler". Jackals are known for their loud and eerie vocalizations, especially at dusk and dawn. They use their howls to communicate with each other, mark their territory, and warn off intruders.
How many species of jackals are there?
There are three main species of jackals that are recognized by most scientists:
The black-backed jackal (Lupulella mesomelas), which has a reddish-brown or ginger coat with a black stripe along its back and a white chest. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in savannas and woodlands.
The side-striped jackal (Lupulella adusta), which has a grayish or tan coat with a white stripe on each side and a white-tipped tail. It is found in tropical Africa, mainly in moist savannas, marshes, bushlands, and mountains.
The golden jackal (Canis aureus), which has a yellowish or pale gold coat with brown tips. It is found in south-central Europe and Asia, mainly in deserts, open savannas, and arid grasslands.
There is also another species that was formerly considered as a jackal, but is now classified as a separate species:
black-backed jackal facts
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The African golden wolf (Canis anthus), which has a similar appearance to the golden jackal, but is genetically closer to wolves and coyotes. It is found in northern and eastern Africa, mainly in semi-arid habitats.
Where do jackals live?
Jackals live primarily in Africa and Asia, but they have different habitats depending on the species. The black-backed jackal stays mostly in savannas and woodlands. The side-striped jackal prefers moist savannas, marshes, bushlands, and mountains. The golden jackal likes dry deserts, open savannas, and arid grasslands. The African golden wolf inhabits semi-arid regions.
Jackals are adaptable animals that can live in various climates and altitudes. They can be found from sea level to over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level. They can also tolerate human presence and fish, insects, or eggs. They can also eat fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, roots, or fungi. They can also feed on carrion, garbage, or human leftovers. They can adapt their diet to the local conditions and availability of food.
How do jackals hunt and scavenge?
Jackals are versatile predators that can hunt or scavenge for their food. They can hunt alone, in pairs, or in small groups, depending on the size and type of prey. They can chase, ambush, or stalk their prey, using their speed, agility, and intelligence. They can also cooperate with each other or with other predators such as lions, hyenas, or leopards, to share their kills or steal their food. They can also scavenge from carcasses left by other animals or humans, using their keen sense of smell and hearing to locate them.
How do jackals mate and raise their young?
Jackals are monogamous animals that mate for life with one partner. They usually mate during the dry season, which varies depending on the region and species. The gestation period lasts for about 60 to 70 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 2 to 6 pups in a den. The den can be a natural hole, a burrow dug by the jackals or other animals, or a sheltered spot under rocks or bushes.
The pups are born blind and helpless, and depend on their mother's milk for the first few weeks. The father and sometimes other helpers from the group assist the mother in guarding, feeding, and grooming the pups. The pups open their eyes after 10 days and start to explore outside the den after 3 weeks. They are weaned after 2 months and start to eat solid food brought by the adults. They learn to hunt and fend for themselves after 6 months and become independent after 8 to 10 months. They reach sexual maturity after 1 to 2 years and may stay with their parents or disperse to find their own mates and territories.
Can jackals interbreed with other canids?
Jackals can interbreed with other canids that belong to the same genus Canis, such as dogs, wolves, coyotes, or African golden wolves. However, this is rare in nature and usually occurs only when there is a lack of suitable mates within the same species. The hybrid offspring of jackals and other canids are usually infertile or have reduced fertility, which prevents them from passing on their genes to the next generation. Therefore, jackals maintain their distinct identity and characteristics despite occasional hybridization events.
What are the threats to jackals?
Jackals face many threats from humans and other animals in their habitats. Some of the main threats are:
Habitat loss and fragmentation: Jackals lose their natural habitats due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, mining, logging, or road construction. This reduces their food sources, shelter options, and breeding opportunities. It also exposes them to more conflicts with humans and domestic animals.
Hunting and poaching: Jackals are hunted by humans for various reasons such as sport, fur, meat, medicine, or pest control. They are also poached illegally for the wildlife trade or killed as retaliation for attacking livestock or crops.
Diseases and parasites: Jackals are susceptible to various diseases and parasites that affect their health and survival. Some of these include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, canine hepatitis, mange, ticks, fleas, or worms. They can also transmit or contract these diseases from other animals or humans.
Predation and competition: Jackals are preyed upon by larger predators such as lions, leopards, hyenas, or eagles. They also compete with other carnivores such as foxes, wild dogs, or wolves for food and territory.
What are the benefits of jackals?
Jackals are beneficial for the ecosystem and humans in many ways. Some of the benefits are:
Ecological balance: Jackals help to maintain the ecological balance by controlling the population of rodents and other pests that can damage crops or spread diseases. They also scavenge on carcasses and waste, which helps to clean the environment and prevent the spread of pathogens.
Biodiversity: Jackals are part of the rich biodiversity of their habitats, which contributes to the health and beauty of nature. They also provide food and shelter for other animals and plants that depend on them.
Cultural value: Jackals have a cultural value for many people who admire their intelligence, cunning, and resilience. They also feature in many myths, legends, stories, and art forms that reflect their symbolic meanings and roles in different cultures.
How can we protect jackals?
We can protect jackals by taking some actions that can reduce the threats they face and improve their welfare. Some of these actions are:
Conserving and restoring their habitats: We can conserve and restore the natural habitats of jackals by preventing or minimizing human activities that degrade or destroy them. We can also create or support protected areas, corridors, or buff