In a revealing study conducted by the University of New South Wales, Dr. Kylie Cairns a biologist found that contrary to popular belief, there are few wild dogs and Dingo hybrids in Australia. The study showed that 99% of the 5000+ animals tested, were pure Dingoes or if they were hybrids, were mostly Dingo and not dog. Only 1% were wild dogs or dog dominant hybrids.
Some groups refer to Dingoes as wild dogs and try to kill them. The researchers feel that if Dingoes are called Dingoes, the groups that are in favor of destroying them will change their attitude. Because Dingoes come in a range of colors, it can be difficult for people to identify a Dingo and mistake it for a wild dog.
Research has found that by killing Dingoes, the local ecosystem is harmed. The Dingoes keep the herbivores and smaller predators under control and thus keep the environment balanced. When the Dingoes are removed, the Kangaroo population grows which leads to overgrazing and causes damage to the soil.
Only the Victoria National Park in Australia protects Dingoes. Elsewhere they are hunted by dropping aerial bait to kill them. Farmers do complain that their livestock is harmed by Dingoes so a means of protecting farm animals is necessary.
According to retired anthropologist Pat Shipman from Penn State University, dingoes and their closely related New Guinea singing dogs, are not dogs. They are not wolves either, but fall into their own class.
Domestic dogs arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first ships of convicts. The dingoes were already there for at least 4000 or more years prior to that. Genetically and behaviorally, they are more like wolves with their inability to digest starches and their inability to bond with humans. Dogs on the other hand have no difficulty digesting starches and do bond with people.
Dingoes can survive in the Australian outback where domestic dogs that are feral have a difficult time or cannot survive.
What makes it difficult to separate the lines between wolves, dogs and dingoes is that genetically they can hybridize and have fertile offspring unlike horses and donkeys who typically produce infertile mules.
Shipman feels that a dingo is a wolf on its way to becoming a dog but never made it.
Dr. Smith also says that “Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.”
He goes on to say that there is scant evidence that any canid species are interchangeable with Dingoes even though most canids can successfully interbreed with them.
This is an interesting statement to consider. How does it apply to other hybrids such as dog/wolf mixes and donkey/horse mixes? It also brings into question the theory that dogs are descended from wolves. Is it possible that the ancestor of the dog was a canid sub-species and not a wolf just as the dingo is its own species?