Three Species of Dog in Australia

Domestic dog (Canis familiaris): bred by humans as companion, working and hunting animals and includes Feral dogs (referred to as ‘wild dog’) which are domestic escapees, released, neglected or abandoned dogs run wild. Domestic pig hunting dogs are generally large, mix breed dogs which are selectively bred for endurance and strength as well as their tracking ability and jaw strength.

The Dingo (Canis dingo1): (referred to as ‘wild dog’) arrived in Australia some 3000-5000 years ago2,3 likely from east Asia4 has been isolated from any other dog species and subject to natural selection which has lead it to become unique canid5. Dingos are top-order predators that have co-evolved with Australian wildlife and recent research has shown they play a positive role in biodiversity conservation by regulating trophic levels6, in other words they keep a balance in the ecosystem by regulating the numbers smaller native and exotic predators, in particular the red fox and feral cat which reap havoc on wildlife7,8.

Hybrid domestic dog/dingo (Canis familiaris dingo) (referred to as ‘wild dog’) a high percentage of dingo genes have been found in feral dogs as a result of interbreeding. Domestic dogs of similar size to dingoes which are, or have frequently been used as stock-working dogs and hunting dogs in Australia such as cattle dogs, kelpies, collies and greyhounds could reasonably be expected to have interbred with dingoes. Many wild dogs believed to be hybrids are culled on the basis of pelage colour, in particular those with sable coloration as they do not conform with the previous criteria used to define pure dingos which are commonly thought to be yellow-tan in colour 9.

Wild dogs (feral domestic, dingo and hybrid domestic/ dingos) are regulated under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.

1 Meyer, F.A.A. (1793). Systematisch-summarische Uebersicht der neuesten zoologischen Entdeckungen in Neuholland
und Afrika: nebst zwey andern zoologischen. Abhandlungen. Leipzig: Dykische Buchhandlung.
2  Gollan, K. (1984). The Australian dingo: in the shadow of man, In Vertebrate zoogeography and evolution in Australasia:
921–927. Archer, M. & Clayton, G. (Eds). Perth: Hesperian.
3 Savolainen, P., Leitner, T., Wilton, A.N., Matisoo-Smith, E. & Lundeberg, J. (2004). A detailed picture of the origin of
the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 12387–12390.
4 Oskarsson, M.C.R., Klütsch, C.F.C., Boonyaprakob, U.,Wilton, A., Tanabe, Y. & Savolainen, P. (2011). Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian
domestic dogs. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. Ser. B-Biol. Sci. 279, 967–974.
5 Corbett, L.K. (1995). The dingo in Australia and Asia: Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
6 Letnic, M., Ritchie, E.G. & Dickman, C.R. (2012). Top predators as biodiversity regulators: the dingo Canis lupus dingo as a case study. Biol. Rev. 87, 390–413.
7 Dickman, C.R. 1996. Overview of the impacts of feral cats on Australian native fauna.
8 Kinnear J.E., Sumner N.R. and Onus M.L. 2002. The red fox in australia - an exotic predator turned biocontrol agent.
9 Crowther, M.S, Filios, M., Colman, N. and Letnic, M. 2014. An updated description of the Australian dingo, Journal of Zoology, Zoological Society of London.

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