Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Serengeti Jackal

There are three species of jackal: the golden jackal, the side-striped jackal and the black-backed jackal. Modern research has shown that the side-striped and black-backed jackals are more closely related to each other than the golden jackal. They are more closely related to the African wild dog, while the golden jackal is more closely related to the coyote and the gray wolf. There are 12 subspecies of the golden jackal which is the only species to extend outside of Africa, including places such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula, India, Thailand, Myanmar and Nepal. 

We saw jackals in most of the areas we visited and I struggled with identification as the individuals we saw had quite a bit of variability. I've finally concluded that we did see a Serengeti jackal, one of the subspecies of the golden jackal, in the Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania. I've confirmed that all three species of jackal are found in the Ngorongoro Crater. The golden jackal is larger than the two other jackal species. 
Serengeti jackal in Ngorongoro Crater. Photo by John Mirau.
It eats rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, hares, and young Thomson's gazelles, duikers and warthogs. During the wildebeest calving season, it ill feed almost exclusively on their afterbirth. When capturing larger prey, it does not attempt to kill it. Rather, it rips open the belly and eats the entrails. Smaller prey is killed by shaking it, but they will eat snakes alive, starting from the back end. They will eat insects, including grasshoppers, termites and dung beetles. They find the dung beetles by turning over dung piles. 
Closer view of the same jackal. It looks very similar to the coyote. Photo by Mark Edwards.
The fur is golden, but varies seasonally from pale yellow to dark tawny. The fur on the back can be a mixture of black, brown and white which sometimes forms a dark saddle similar to the black-backed jackal's. the underparts and belly are lighter. The tail is bushy and has a tan or black tip. 


  1. This one without that strong black stripe down the back looks quite a bit like our California coyotes.

  2. They have quite the varied diet: live, dead, afterbirth, bugs, and animals. I think I'll stick with my McHamburger.

  3. mDNA-Science proved we need to use new names:
    The Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) is actually the one in Eurasia, NOT Africa.
    The one you refer to is the African Golden Wolf(Canis anthus), one of the three African species, together with Black-backed and Side-striped Jackal.
    It is not closely related to the Golden Jackal, but more to the Grey Wolf and Coyote.
    The one on your pictures looks like the African Wolf to me. I saw that one too in the Serengeti.