Critter of the Week: Dhole

CONSERVATION STATUS

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM: ANIMALIA

PHYLUM: CHORDATA

CLASS: MAMMALIA

ORDER: CARNIVORA

FAMILY: CANIDAE

SUBFAMILY: CANINAE

TRIBE: CANINI 

GENUS: CUON

SPECIES: C. ALPINUS

BINOMIAL NAME: CUON ALPINUS

 

RANGE

 

Dholes are found in Central, South, and Southeast Asia; and are also known as red dog, whistling dog, mountain wolf, and other names. As there are 12 different subspecies of dhole, they can be found in forests, jungles, savannas, etc. Even though these critters look like foxes or dogs, they have a couple key differences such as a convex skull and different teeth. The males are larger than females and weigh from 22-44 pounds, growing up to 4.5 feet long.

 

The dhole’s appearance looks like a variety of species. Besides looking like a red fox or grey wolf, they’re known to have a cat-like appearance as well due to their long backbone and slender legs. Dholes have wide, huge skulls that hold their strong masseter muscles used for chewing. Not only are these muscles more developed in dholes as compared to other canids, but it gives them a hyena-like look.

Dholes have sophisticated communication systems. They usually live in groups of up to 12 dholes with mainly males and multiple females. They whistle loudly to help coordinate the pack through thick brush, but scientists don’t know how the sound is produced. Screams, whines, growls, and chattering are used for different reasons such as warning the group that there are predators in the area, or to try to get food. Unlike wolves, the dhole does not bark or howl, and will instead use body language to communicate.

 

Dholes are excellent predators. They are diurnal hunters that will hunt early in the morning; their diet consists mainly of larger mammals such as deer and goats. Dholes will hunt in large groups, usually herding their prey towards bodies of water that will slow the prey down. Even though dholes aren’t as fast as foxes or jackals, they can run their prey ragged by continuing a chase for hours at a time!

 

Dhole mating season differs depending on the environment. Clans will have one to two breeding females that will be monogamous with a strong male; the other members of the clan will be responsible for taking care of the mother and her pups once they are born. After mating, the mother will carry the babies for a little over two months and give birth to 4 – 8 pups. The pups will feed from the mother for two months, eat regurgitated food from the adults, and then eventually join the hunt.