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Cuon alpinus (aka Asiatic Wild Dog, Red Dog)


The dhole is distinguished from other canids by its rounded ears and shorter muzzle, and by having only two molars on each side of the lower jaw (instead of three like true dogs).


Adult males average 35 inches in length, not including a 16-18-inch bushy tail, stand about 20 inches at the shoulder, and weigh up to 46 pounds; females are signifcantly smaller. The coat varies in color from yellowish to grayish brown, with white on the belly and chest, the ears are full of white hair, the tail is tipped in black, and the eyes are amber. Pups are sooty black at birth, and acquire adult coloration at about three months.

Distribution and Habitat

Dholes are found in India, southeastern Asia to Indonesia, and parts of Russia, China, and Korea. It inhabits a variety of wooded habitats, including dense mountain forests and thick plains jungles, and is often seen in open spaces like jungle roads, river beds, and forest clearings. The only places they do not inhabit are open plains with no surrounding woods and deserts.

range of the dhole

Dholes once lived in packs of 100 or more, but their numbers have decreased dramatically due to scarcity of the large mammals on which they prey, habitat destruction, and the introduction of distemper, rabies, and other diseases into the wild by domestic dogs. They are also killed by natives who see them as a threat to local game/food animal populations. Of the 10 known subspecies (distinguished primarily by geographic range), two are listed as endangered and two others are on the verge of extinction.

Habits and Behaviors

Like most other canids, dholes are very social. They live in packs of 5-12, rarely more than 20, in which males usually outnumber females. There is a strict hierarchy within each pack, but aggression between pack members is rare. Although each pack maintains a hunting territory of about fifteen square miles, neighboring packs rarely challenge each other for territory and "border disputes" are even rarer.

Although dholes do not bark, they have an amazing array of other vocalizations, including whines, growls, mews, scream, and even chicken-like clucks. Every dhole has his/her own peculiar calls. In addition to communicatin vocally, dholes also wag their tails to express emotions.

Dholes love the water, and can often be seen "lounging" in a stream, even in cold weather.

Dholes can run at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, and can jump overseven straight up into the air.


Individual dholes will eat wild berries, insects, lizards, and small mammals, but they prefer muntjac, chital, sambur, and other deer. A pack of dholes can easily take down prey ten times the size of an individual dhole, including buffalo, wild boars, and even other carnivores. Prey is "casually chased" until it is too worn down to continue, at which time the pack attacks, grabbing at any part of the animal that can be grasped. Once down the prey is eaten quickly, often before it is fully dead. A pack of dholes is so efficient at hunting that big cats will give up their kill rather than risk a challenge. Indiidual dholes are, however, vulnerable to other predators.


There is usually only one dominant monogamous pair per pack, but subordinate pairs are not prevented from mating and raising young, and several females may share a communal den.

Pups may be born any time of the year, but most births occur in January and February. The gestation period is about nine weeks, and birth takes place in a den constructed near a streambed or among rocks. A typical litter consists of 2-6 pups, but litters of up to 12 are not uncommon. The entire pack helps care for both mother and pups, including regurgitating meat for them. Pups are able to hunt at a few months of age, and reach sexual maturity at about one year. Females tend to leave their birth pack at about three years.

The average lifespan of a dhole in the wild is ten years; 16 years in captivity.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Canidae
genus & species Cuan alpinus


Animal Diversity Web
San Diego Zoo

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The Robinson Library >> Family Canidae

This page was last updated on September 28, 2018.