Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) - Wiki
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[Photo] Golden jackal in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Photo by Lee R. Berger. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Profberger
The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), also called the Asiatic or Common Jackal, is a mammal of the order carnivora native to North and East Africa, Southeastern Europe and South Asia to Burma. It is the largest of the jackals, and the only species to occur outside Africa, with 12 different subspecies being recognised.
The golden jackal's short, coarse fur is usually yellow to pale gold and brown-tipped, though the color can vary with season and region. On the Serengeti Plain in Northern Tanzania for example, golden jackals are brown-grizzled yellow in the wet season (December-January), changing to pale gold in the dry season (September-October). Jackals living in mountainous regions may have a greyer shade of fur.
The golden jackal is generally 70-105 centimetres (28-42 inches) in length, with a tail length of about 25 centimetres (10 inches). It's standing height is approximately 38-50 cm (16-20 inches) at the shoulder. Average weight is 7-15 kilograms (15-33 pounds) with males tending to be 15% heavier than the females. The form of the skull bares more similarities to that of the coyote and the grey wolf than it does with other jackal species. Scent glands are present on the face and the anus and genital regions. Females have 4-8 mammae. The dental formula is I 3/3 C 1/1 Pm 4/4 M 2/3 = 42.
Courtship and reproduction
Jackals are a strictly monogamous species. In most jackal families, there are one or two adult members who act as "helpers". Helpers are jackals who have reached sexual maturity, yet remain with their parents without breeding, in order to help take care of the next litter.
The time of births vary according to region. In East Africa, births occur mainly in January-February, in Southeastern Europe in April-May, but take place non-seasonally in tropical Asia. Golden jackals of the Serengeti court at the end of the dry season and produce pups during the rainy season. Young are born in a den within the parents' marked territory after a 63 day gestation period. Litters usually contain 2-4 pups which are weaned after 50 to 90 days. Cubs at birth weigh 200-250 grams, and open their eyes after about ten days. The young are milked, then fed by regurgitation when they begin to take solid food at about three months. Sexual maturity comes at eleven months.
Diet and hunting
The golden jackal is an oppurtunistic feeder with a diet which consists of 54% animal food and 46% plant food. They are very capable hunters of small to medium sized prey such as rabbits, rodents, birds, insects, fish and monkeys. Golden jackals use their highly acute hearing to identify small prey hiding in vegetation. They have been observed to hunt ungulates 4-5 times their body weight, though they will more commonly target young specimens. In the Serengeti, golden jackals are major predators of gazelle fawns, while in India, they often kill blackbuck calves. Although it is common for jackals to hunt alone, they do occasionally do so in small groups, usually consisting of 2-5 individuals. Working in a pack greatly increases the chances of making a successful kill. During the harvest season in India, the jackal feeds predominantly on fruits.
Golden jackals will scavenge given the oppurtunity, and will steal from the kills of other carnivores such as lions and tigers, usually waiting for the larger predators to leave before feeding themselves. Groups of 5-18 jackals have been seen frequenting large ungulate carcasses. Jackals living in some parts of India and Bangladesh will subside primarily on carrion and garbage.
Relationships with other predators
Along with the golden jackal, the red fox is a commonly occurring predator in Israel. Although the jackal is triple the size of a fox, their dietary habits are identical, and are therefore in direct competition with one another. Foxes generally ignore jackal scents or tracks in their territories, though they will avoid close physical proximity with jackals themselves. Studies have shown that in areas where jackals became very abundant, the population size of foxes decreased significantly, apparently because of competetive exclusion. In India, golden jackals have been known to appropriate the dens of bengal foxes.
Conversely, jackals are shown to vacate areas inhabited by the larger grey wolf. Wolves are often actively intolerant of jackals in their established territories and have been known to approach jackal-calling stations at a quick trotting pace, presumably to chase off the competitors. There are however occasions when jackals scavenged on wolf kills without evoking any aggressive responses from the larger canids.
Golden jackal remains have been found in spotted hyena scat.
Relationships with humans
In 1954, the Israeli government enacted the Wild Animal's Protection law, which extended protection to 17 native carnivores save for the golden jackal, which was considered vermin. The jackal was only added to the list after a disasterous eradication programme which resulted in the unintentional poisoning of other carnivores as well.
In southern Bulgaria, 1053 attacks on small stock, mainly sheep and lambs, were recorded between 1982???87, along with some damages to newborn deer in game farms. In Israel, about 1.5%-1.9% of the calves born in the Golan Heights die due to predation, mainly by golden jackals. In both cases, the high predation rate is thought to be the consequence of a jackal population explosion due to the availability of food in illegal garbage dumps. Preventative measures to avoid depredation were also lacking in both cases. However, even without preventing measures, the highest damages by jackals from Bulgaria are minimal when compared to the domestic animal losses by wolves.
The majority of attacks on calves in the Golan Heights occur within 2 days after delivery, and male calves are usually more likely to be attacked than females, due to the fact that they are heavier and more difficult to deliver. Female cattle giving birth are sometimes attacked along with their half born offspring, sometimes resulting in severe injuries to the vaginal area.
Hybridization with dogs
In Russia, Golden Jackal/Siberian Husky hybrids were bred as sniffer dogs on the pretence that Jackals have a superior sense of smell, though their lack of trust in humans and adaptability to cold climates made crossing with huskies necessary. As well as a superior sense of smell, important at low temperatures where substances are less volatile and therefore less pungent, the so called Sulimov Dogs are small sized and can work in confined spaces. The jackal hybrids were bred by senior researcher Klim Sulimov, Senior Research Assistant at the D.S. Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection in Russia. He claims that his creations combine the qualities of Arctic reindeer herding dogs, which can work in temperatures as low as -70C, and jackals which enjoy the heat up to +40C. Though the jackal hybrid breeding project begain in 1975, with 25 of the animals being currently on duty, they have yet to be registered as a working dog breed.
The Egyptian god of the dead; Anubis was portrayed as a jackal-headed man, or as a jackal wearing ribbons and holding a flagellum, a symbol of protection, in the crook of its arm. Anubis was always shown as a black jackal or dog, even though real jackals are typically tan or a light brown. To the Egyptians, black was the color of regeneration, death, and the night. It was also the color that the body turned during mummification. The reason for Anubis' animal model being canine is based on what the ancient Egyptians themselves observed of the creature - dogs and jackals often haunted the edges of the desert, especially near the cemeteries where the dead were buried. In fact, it is thought that the Egyptians began the practice of making elaborate graves and tombs to protect the dead from desecration by jackals.
The Greeks god Hermes and the monster Cerberus are thought to derive their origins from the golden jackal.
Some tribes in India believe in the existence of a horn-like growth called shiyal shingi which appears on the heads of some jackals. The possession of this growth is considered a sign of good fortune.
The jackal is mentioned frequently in the Bible, where it is portrayed as a sinister creature, most notably in Psalm 63:9-11 where it is stated that non believers would become food for the jackals. In his book Running with the Fox, David W. Macdonald theorizes that due to the general scarcity and elusiveness of foxes in Israel, the author of the Book of Judges may have actually been describing the much more common golden jackals when narrating how Samson tied torches to the tails of 300 foxes to make them destroy the vineyards of the Philistines.
As a species of Least Concern, Golden Jackals are considered common throughout their range and are not currently threatened.
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