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(aka Common Jackal) Canis aureus
With a body length of up to 3-1/2 feet, not including a tail of up to 12 inches, height of 16 inches at the shoulders, and weight of 33 pounds, this is the largest of all jackals. It has long legs and a long, pointed muzzle. The coat is usually yellow to pale gold and brown-tipped, but the color can vary with season and region. The golden jackal can be distinguished from other jackal species by the black tip to the tail.
Distribution and Habitat
The only jackal outside of sub-Saharan Africa, the golden jackal ranges across North and East Africa, Southeastern Europe, and South Asia to Burma. Although it prefers dry open country, arid short grasslands, and steppe landscapes, it can be found in a variety of habitats.
Habits and Behaviors
The basic social unit of the golden jackal is a mated pair or a mated pair and its young. Golden jackal pairs forage, hunt, and rest together. Members of the same family also cooperate in sharing larger food items and transport food in their stomachs for later regurgitation to pups or to a lactating mother. Hunting families hold territories of about a square mile throughout the year, portions of which are marked with urine, either by the male or the female jackal, to ward off intruders.
Golden jackals are strictly nocturnal in areas inhabited by humans, but may be partly diurnal elsewhere. They dig caverns for shelter, or use crevices in rocks, or caverns that were dug by other animals.
A very vocal species, golden jackals use a variety of barking, growling, cackling, and whining calls. The most distinctive is a high-pitched, wailing howl, often given in chorus at dawn and dusk, and thought to reinforce family bonds and/or advertise territory ownership.
Golden jackals are opportunistic foragers with a very varied diet, which consists of young gazelles, rodents, (especially during winter), hares, ground birds and their eggs, reptiles, frogs, fish, insects and fruit. They also take part in the kills of larger animals, such as those of the lion, and will readily move in on the carcass as soon as the original predator walks away. Should other animals arrive at the scene, the jackals bury their pieces of meat. Around humans, they scavenge in garbage, searching out scraps of food, and may prey on small or newborn livestock.
Mating pairs are strictly monogamous. Births occur mainly in January-February in East Africa and in April-May in Southeast Europe, but take place throughout the year in tropical Asia.
The gestation period is 63 days. Young are born in a den within the parents' marked territory. Litters can contain one to nine pups, but two to four is the usual number. Pups' eyes open after about ten days. The pups are nursed for about eight weeks, and then weaned. The young are fed by regurgitation and begin to take some solid food at about three months. Sexual maturity comes at eleven months, but the young typically remain with the adults for up to two years, during which time they help feed and guard the next litter of pups.
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This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.