My son and I first learned about the Dhole (pronounced like Dole) from an episode of the Wild Kratts. These are wild dogs are found in various areas of Asia. They have many names too. Whistling dog, red dog, mountain wolf, Asiatic Wild Dog, Asian wild dog, and Indian wild dog are options besides Dhole. So, you may have heard them referred to without realizing it. Actually, the red dogs from ‘Jungle Book’ are the dholes, which makes people think they are very aggressive.
Dholes are pack animals and they resemble red foxes, but different. You can’t really see the differences since it’s mostly tooth and skull structure. One thing that does stand out is that they cannot be tamed. They will always be either shy or aggressive, so you can’t have a pet dhole like you could with a dog or fox. This is probably why they’re able to compete with tigers and leopards when it comes to food. Of course, they work in a pack and use numbers to help against the larger predators.
It’s unclear why their numbers have dropped below 2,500. There’s no market for them as pets or food. Their fur has a small market, but not a significant amount to explain the numbers going down. So, what are the theories?
- They were hunted by the British for sport long ago, but now they are sometimes killed to protect livestock. There used to be bounties on them in India, but it was stopped when people killed too many to maintain the reward. This is not as common, but it is thought that enough damage had been done to start the ball rolling.
- Deforestation is a big problem, which also leads to a lack of prey. Dholes need a lot of hunting space. They may need even more than tigers and leopards because the pack is feeding multiple mouths. So, they need to cover a lot of land for the best chance at finding prey. Less space means less food and more competition with the bigger predators. They’re also more likely to interact with people, who see them as vermin and start killing them.
- Diseases from domesticated dogs may have gotten into the Dhole population.
There are breeding programs at some zoos. Also, there is an odd fact for them, which is kind of gross:
Dholes urinate while standing on their front paws. So, they pee while doing a handstand.
Here are some pictures (from our latest Bronx Zoo trip) and videos from YouTube: