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Golden jackal

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Golden jackal
Temporal range: Late Pleistocene - Recent
Alone Ranger (cropped).jpg
Golden jackals howling
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. aureus
Binomial name
Canis aureus
Linnaeus, 1758[2]
Subspecies

Seven, refer to subspecies below

Canis aureus range.svg
Range of the golden jackal

The golden jackal (Canis aureus) is a canine native to southeastern and central Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East and South Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, due to its widespread range in areas with optimum food and shelter.[1] It is a social species, the basic social unit of which consists of a breeding pair and any offspring it might have. The golden jackal is very adaptable, being able to exploit many foodstuffs, from fruit and insects to small ungulates. In 2005, MSW3 recognised 13 subspecies, though genetic studies published in 2015 revealed that six supposed golden jackal subspecies living in Africa were members of a separate species, Canis anthus, reducing the number of actual golden jackal subspecies to seven.

Although similar to a small gray wolf, the golden jackal is distinguished by a more slender build, a narrower, more pointed muzzle, a shorter tail, and a lighter tread. Its winter fur also differs from a wolf's by its more fulvous-reddish colour. Despite its name, the golden jackal is not closely related to black-backed or side-striped jackals, being instead more closely related to gray wolves, coyotes, and Ethiopian wolves. It is capable of producing fertile hybrids with both gray and African wolves.

Golden jackals feature prominently in Middle-Eastern and Asian folklore and literature, where they are often described as tricksters analogous to the fox and coyote for European and North American tales, respectively. In contrast, in Europe it is largely viewed in a negative light as a filthy scavenger, whose presence is indicative of environmental degradation.

Etymology

The word "jackal" appeared in the English language around 1600 and derives from the Turkish word çakal, which originates from the Persian word šagāl.[3]

Taxonomy

The extant wolf-like canids
Caninae 3.5 Ma
3.0
2.7
1.9
1.6
1.3
1.1



Dog Tibetan mastiff (white background).jpg



Gray wolf Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate I).jpg




Himalayan wolf Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate III).jpg




Coyote Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate IX).jpg




African golden wolf Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XI).jpg




Ethiopian wolf Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate VI).jpg




Golden jackal Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate X).jpg




Dhole Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XLI).jpg




African wild dog Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XLIV).jpg




2.6

Side-striped jackal Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XIII).jpg



Black-backed jackal Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes (Plate XII).jpg





Phylogenetic relationships between the extant wolf-like clade of canids based on nuclear DNA sequence data taken from the cell nucleus,[4][5] except for the Himalayan wolf based on mitochondrial DNA sequences.[5][6] Timing in millions of years.[5]

The golden jackal (Canis aureus - "golden dog"), also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal,[1][7] or the Eurasian golden jackal,[5] was first recorded by the Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 publication Systema Naturae.[2] The mammalogist W. Christopher Wozencraft listed thirteen subspecies under C. aureus in the third edition of Mammal Species of the World that was published in 2005.[8] Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) passes along the maternal line and can date back thousands of years.[9] Therefore, the phylogenetic analysis of mDNA sequences within a species provides a history of maternal lineages that can be represented as a phylogenetic tree.[10][11] Commencing from 2011, two studies of mDNA from golden jackals indicate that on the phylogenetic tree the specimens from Africa are closer to those of the gray wolf than are those specimens from Eurasia.[12][13]

In 2015, a major DNA study of golden jackals proposes that the six C. aureus subspecies found in Africa should be reclassified under the new species C. anthus (African golden wolf),[5][14] reducing the number of golden jackal subspecies to seven. The phylogenetic tree generated from this study shows the golden jackal diverging from the wolf/coyote lineage 1.9 million years ago and the African golden wolf diverging 1.3 million years ago. The study found that both species shared a very similar skull and body morphology and this had confused taxonomists into regarding these as the one species. The study proposes that the very similar skull and body morphology is due to both species having originated from a larger common ancestor.[5]

Evolution

Three golden jackal-dog hybrids from Croatia.[15]

The Arno river dog (Canis arnensis) is an extinct species of canine that was endemic to Mediterranean Europe during the Early Pleistocene around 1.9 million years ago. It is described as a small jackal-like dog and probably the ancestor of modern jackals.[16] Its anatomy and morphology relates more to the modern golden jackal than to the two African jackal species,[17][18] the black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)and the side striped jackal (Canis adustus).

The oldest golden jackal fossil was found at the Ksar Akil rock shelter located 10 km (6.2 mi) northeast of Beirut, Lebanon. The fragment of a single tooth is dated to the end of the Last Glacial Maximum approximately 20,000 years before present (or YBP).[19] The oldest golden jackal fossils found in Europe are from Delphi and Kitsos in Greece and are dated 7,000-6,500 YBP.[20] An unusual fossil found in Azokh Cave, Republic of Artsakh in Transcaucasia dates to the Middle Pleistocene and is described as likely belonging to the golden jackal, however its classification is not clear.[18] The absence of clearly identified golden jackal fossils in the Caucasus region and Transcaucasia, areas where the species currently resides, indicates that the species is a relatively recent arrival.[21]

A haplotype is a group of genes found in an organism that is inherited from one of its parents.[22][23] A haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a single mutation inherited from their common ancestor.[9] The mDNA haplotypes of the golden jackal form two haplogroups. The oldest haplogroup is formed by golden jackals from India, and another haplogroup diverging from this includes golden jackals from all of the other regions.[24] Indian golden jackals exhibit the highest genetic diversity, and those from northern and western India are the most basal, which indicates that India was the center from which golden jackals spread. The extant golden jackal lineage commenced expanding its population in India 37,000 years ago. During the Last Glacial Maximum 25,000-18,000 years ago, the warmer regions of India and Southeast Asia provided a refuge when compared with the surrounding areas. At the end of Last Glacial Maximum and the beginning of the warming cycles, the golden jackal lineage expanded out of India and into Eurasia to reach the Middle East and Europe.[25]

Outside of India, golden jackals in the Caucasus and Turkey indicate the next highest genetic diversity,[24] while those in Europe indicate low genetic diversity,[26][27] which indicates their more recent expansion into Europe.[28] Genetic data indicates that the golden jackals of the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece and the Dalmatian coast in Croatia may represent two ancient populations that have survived into modern times. Golden jackals in the Balkans originated from those expanding from southeast Europe and from the Caucasus. Golden jackals from both the Balkans and the Caucasus are expanding into the Baltic. In the Middle East, golden jackals from Israel have a higher genetic diversity that those from Europe. This is thought to be due to Israeli jackals having hybridized with dogs, gray wolves and African golden wolves,[28] creating a hybrid zone.[5]

All species within the wolf-like canids possess 78 chromosomes and therefore can potentially interbreed.[29] Genetic analysis reveals that hybridization takes place between gray wolves and jackals,[30] creating a jackal-wolf hybrid. Hybridization also occurs between female golden jackals and male dogs which produces fertile offspring,[15] a jackal-dog hybrid. There was 11%–13% of ancient gene flow into the golden jackal from the population that was ancestral to wolves and dogs, and an additional 3% contributed from extant wolf populations.[31][32] Up to 15% of the Israeli wolf genome is derived from admixure with golden jackals in ancient times.[31]

Subspecies

Physical description

Skull, as illustrated by N. N. Kondakov.
Gray wolf and golden jackal exhibit at The Museum of Zoology, St. Petersburg – note the jackal's smaller size and narrower muzzle.
An albino golden jackal in southeastern Iran

The golden jackal is very similar to the gray wolf in general appearance but is distinguished by its smaller size, lighter weight, shorter legs, more elongated torso and shorter tail. The end of the tail just reaches the heel or slightly below it. The head is lighter than the wolf's with a less-prominent forehead and the muzzle is narrower and more pointed. Males measure 71–85 cm (28–33 in) in body length and females 69–73 cm (27–29 in). Males weigh 6–14 kg (13–31 lb) and females weigh 7–11 kg (15–24 lb). Shoulder height is 45–50 cm (18–20 in) for both.[49] The legs are relatively long in comparison to the body, with small pads on slender feet. Females have four pairs of teats.[7]

The skull of the golden jackal is most similar to that of the dingo. Its skull is more similar to the coyote (C. latrans) and the gray wolf (C. lupus) than it is to that of the black-backed jackal (C. mesomalas), the side-striped jackal (C. adustus), and the Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis).[50] Compared with the wolf, the skull is smaller and less massive with a lower nasal region and shorter facial region. The projections of the skull are strongly developed, but weaker than those of the wolf. The canine teeth are large and strong but relatively thinner and its carnassial teeth are weaker when compared with a wolf.[49] The golden jackal is a less specialized species than the gray wolf and these skull features relate to the jackal's diet of small birds, rodents, small vertebrates, insects, carrion,[51] fruit and some vegetable matter.[50] Occasionally, the golden jackal develops a horny growth on the skull referred to as a "jackal's horn", which usually measures 1.3 cm (0.51 in) in length and is concealed by fur. This feature was once associated with magical powers by the people of Sri Lanka.[52]

The fur is coarse and not long.[50] The fur's base colour is golden, although this varies seasonally from a pale creamy yellow to a dark tawny. The fur of the back is composed of a mixture of black, brown and white hairs, which sometimes gives the appearance of the dark saddle seen on the black-backed jackal. The underparts are a lighter pale ginger to cream color. Individual specimens can usually be distinguished by their unique light markings on the throat and chest.[7] Animals from high elevations tend to have buffier coats than their lowland counterparts.[42] Those golden jackals in rocky, mountainous areas they may exhibit a grayer coat shade. The bushy tail has a tan to black tip.[7] A dark colored coat caused by melanism occurs in some golden jackals and this was once considered to be not rare in Bengal.[53] Unlike melanistic wolves and coyotes that received their dark pigmentation from interbreeding with domestic dogs, melanism in golden jackals likely stems from an independent mutation, and could be an adaptive trait.[54] What is possibly an albino specimen was photographed in 2012 in southeastern Iran.[55]

The golden jackal moults twice a year, in spring and in autumn. In Transcaucasia and Tajikistan, the spring moult begins at the end of winter. If the winter has been warm then the spring moult commences in the middle of February or if the winter has been cold then in the middle of March. The spring moult lasts for 60–65 days, however if the animal is sick then it loses only half of its winter fur. The spring moult begins on the head and limbs, then extends to the flanks, chest, belly and rump, with the tail coming last. Fur on the underparts is absent. The autumn moult occurs from mid-September with the growth of the winter fur and the shedding of the summer fur occurs at the same time. The development of the autumn coat starts with the rump and tail, spreading to the back, flanks, belly, chest, limbs and head, with full winter fur being attained at the end of November.[56]

Behavior

Golden jackals exhibit flexible social organization depending on food availability. The breeding pair is the basic social unit. This pair is sometimes accompanied by its current litter of pups and older siblings. Pack size in India show distributions of one golden jackal 31%, two 35%, three 14%, and more than three 20%.[7] Family groups of up to 4–5 individuals have been recorded.[57] Scent marking through urination and defecation is common around golden jackal den areas and on trails they use most often. Scent markers is thought to assist in territorial defense. The hunting ranges of several jackals can overlapped. Jackals can travel up to 12–15 km (7.5–9.3 mi) during a single night in search of either food or more suitable habitat. Non-breeding members of a pack may stay near a distant food source, such as a carcass, for up to several days before returning to their home range. Home range sizes can vary between 1–20 km2 (0.39–7.72 sq mi) depending on the available food.[7]

Social interactions such as greetings, grooming, and group howling are common in jackal. Howling is more frequent between December and April when pair bonds are being formed and breeding occurs, which suggests howling has a role in the delineation of territory and for defense.[7] Adults howl standing and the young or subordinates howl sitting.[58] Jackals are easily induced to howl, and a single howl may solicit replies from several jackals in the vicinity. Howling begins with 2–3 low-pitched calls that rise to high-pitched calls.[7] The howl consists of a wail repeated 3-4 times on an ascending scale, followed by 3 short yelps that have been described as sounding similar to "Dead Hindoo, where, where, where".[46] They typically howl at dawn and in the evening, and sometimes at midday. Adults may howl to accompany the ringing of church bells, with their young responding to sirens or the whistles of steam engines and boats. With a change in the weather they will produce a long and continuous chorus.[59] Golden jackals give a warning call that is very different from that of their normal howling when they detect the presence of large carnivores such as wolves and tigers.[7][46] This howl is described as sounding similar to "pheal", "phion" or "phnew".[46] When hunting in a pack, the dominant jackal initiates an attack by repeatedly emitting a sound similar to "okkay!".[52]

Reproduction

Syrian jackal (C. a. syriacus) pup at the entrance to its den, park Yarkon, Israel.

Golden jackals are monogamous and will remain with the one partner until death.[60] Female golden jackals are monoestrus and have only one breeding cycle each year. Breeding occurs from October to March in Israel, from February to March in India, Turkmenistan,[7] Bulgaria, and Transcaucasia with the mating period lasting up to 26–28 days. Females undergoing their first estrus are often pursued by several males and these may quarrel among themselves.[60] Mating results in a copulatory tie that lasts for several minutes, as it does with all other canids. The timing of the births coincides with the annual abundance of food. Gestation lasts 63 days.[7]

The golden jackal will take over the dens of the Bengal fox and the Indian crested porcupine, and to use abandoned gray wolf dens.[7] Most breeding pairs are spaced well apart and maintain a core territory around their dens. Den excavations commence from late April to May in India, with dens located in scrub areas. Rivulets, gullies, road, and check-dam embankments are prime denning habitats. Drainage pipes and culverts have been used as dens. Dens are 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) long and 0.5–1 m (1.6–3.3 ft) deep, with between 1–3 openings. Young pups can be moved between 2–4 dens.[7] The male helps with digging the den and raising the pups.[60] In the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, the burrow is located either in thick shrubs, on the slopes of gullies or on flat surfaces. In Dagestan and Azerbaijan, litters are sometimes located within the hollows of fallen trees, tree roots and under stones on river banks. In Central Asia, the golden jackal does not dig burrows, but constructs lairs in dense tugai thickets. Jackals in the tugais and cultivated lands of Tajikistan construct lairs in long grass plumes, shrubs and reed openings.[57]

In Transcaucasia, pups are usually born from late March to late April,[60] and in northeastern Italy during late April,[21] though they are born at any time of year in Nepal.[42] The number of pups in a single litter varies geographically. Golden jackals the Transcaucasia give birth to 3-8 pups, Tajikistan 3-7 pups, Uzbekistan 2–8 pups, Bulgaria 4–7 pups, and in India the average is four pups.[60] The pups are born with closed eyes which open after 8–11 days, with the ears erecting after 10–13 days.[56] Their teeth erupt at 11 days after birth,[7] and the eruption of adult dentition is completed after five months. Pups are born with soft fur, which ranges in colour from light gray to dark brown. At the age of one month, their fur is shed and replaced with a new reddish colored pelt with black speckles. The pups have a fast growth rate and weigh 0.201–0.214 kg (0.44–0.47 lb) at two days of age, 0.560–0.726 kg (1.23–1.60 lb) at one month, and 2.700–3.250 kg (5.95–7.17 lb) at four months.[56] Lactation lasts for up to 8–10 weeks.[7] The pups begin to eat meat at the age of 15–20 days. Compared to wolf and dog pups, golden jackal pups develop aggression at the age of 4–6 weeks when play-fighting frequently escalates into uninhibited biting intended to harm. This aggression ceases by 10–12 weeks when a hierarchy has formed.[61] Once the lactation period concludes, the female drives off the pups. Pups born late remain with their mother until early autumn, at which time they leave either singly or in groups of two to four individuals. Females reach sexual maturity after 10–11 months but males at 21–22 months.[56]

Foraging

Pair of Sri Lankan jackals (C. a. naria) in Udawalawe National Park

The golden jackal often hunts alone and sometimes in pairs but rarely hunts in a pack. When hunting alone, it will trot around an area, occasionally stopping to sniff and listen. Once prey is located, it will conceal itself, quickly approach, then pounce.[59] Single jackals hunt rodents, hares and birds. They hunt rodents in grass by locating them with their hearing before leaping into the air and pouncing on them. They can dig Indian gerbils (Tatera indica) out from their burrows. They can hunt young, old, and infirm ungulates up to 4–5 times their body weight. In India, jackals search for hiding blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) calves throughout the day during the calving period, peaking their searches during early morning and then again in the late evening. Single jackals can hunt and kill blackbuck calves, jackal packs consisting of up to 2–4 jackals have better success.

When hunting in pairs or packs, jackals run parallel to their prey and overtake it in unison. When hunting aquatic rodents or birds, they will run along both sides of narrow rivers or streams, driving their prey from one jackal to another.[59] Pack-hunting of langurs is recorded, as is packs of between 5-18 jackals scavenging on the carcasses of large ungulates in both India and Israel.[7] Packs of 8–12 jackals consisting of more than one family have been observed in the summer periods in Transcaucasia.[59] In India, the Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) and the Pallid harrier (Circus macrourus) roost in their hundreds in grasslands during their winter migration. Jackals stalk close to these roosting harriers and then rush at them, attempting to catch one before the harriers can take off or gain sufficient height to escape. In regions of Bangladesh and India, jackals subsist by scavenging on carrion and garbage and cache extra food by burying it. Golden jackals cause damage to melon, peanut, grape, coffee, maize and sugarcane crops. They sometimes prey on lambs, kids, weak sheep, goats and poultry. The golden jackal will scavenge off kills made by the lion, tiger, leopard, dhole, and gray wolf.[7]

Cooperation

In South-eastern Asia, golden jackals have been known to hunt alongside dhole packs.[35] They have been observed in the Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar, India to follow Indian wolves (Canis lupus pallipes) when these are on a hunt and will scavenge off wolf kills without any hostility shown from the wolves.[7] In India, lone jackals expelled from their pack have been known to form commensal relationships with tigers. These solitary jackals, known as kol-bahl, will associate themselves with a particular tiger, trailing it at a safe distance to feed on the big cat's kills. A kol-bahl will even alert a tiger to a kill with a loud pheal. Tigers have been known to tolerate these jackals, with one report describing how a jackal confidently walked in and out between three tigers walking together a few feet away from each other.[62][63] Golden jackals and wild boar can occupy the same territory.[44]

Ecology

Habitat

The golden jackal's omnivorous diet allows it to exploit a large number of food resources and to occupy a range of different habitats. The possession of long legs in comparison with its lithe body allow the golden jackal to trot over large distances in search of food. It has the ability to forego liquids, and has been observed on islands that have no fresh water.[7] They are abundant in valleys, beside rivers and their tributaries, canals, lakes, and seashores but they are rare in foothills and low mountains. They avoid waterless deserts but can be found on the edge of these or in oases. They are found in dense thickets of prickly bushes, reed flood-lands and forests. They have been known to ascend over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) up the slopes of the Himalayas, they can withstand −25 °C (−13 °F) and sometimes −35 °C (−31 °F) but they are not adapted to snow and in snow country they must travel along paths made by larger animals or humans. They will occupy the surrounding foothills above arable areas,[64] will enter into human settlements at night to feed on the garbage, and have established themselves around hill stations in India at 2,000 m (6,600 ft) height above mean sea level.[7] Although they generally avoid mountainous forests, they may enter alpine and sub-alpine areas during dispersal. In Turkey, Caucasus and Transcaucasia they have been observed at heights of up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above mean sea level, particularly in areas where the climate supports shrublands in high elevations.[21]

Diet

The golden jackal is both a predator and a scavenger,[66] an omnivorous and opportunistic forager with a diet which varies according to its habitat and the season. In Bharatpur, India, over 60% of its diet consists of rodents, birds and fruit. In the Kanha Tiger Reserve 80% of its diet consists of rodents, reptiles and fruit. Vegetable matter forms part of the jackal diet in India they feed intensively on the fruits of Ziziphus species, Carissa carvanda, Syzygium cumini, and pods of Prosopis juliflora and Cassia fistula.[7]

In the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, golden jackals primarily hunt hares and mouse-like rodents, as well as pheasants, francolins, ducks, coots, moorhens and passerines. Vegetable matter eaten by golden jackals in these areas includes fruits, such as pears, hawthorn, dogwood and the cones of common medlars. It is implicated in the destruction of grapes, watermelons, muskmelons and nuts. Near the Vakhsh River, the jackal's spring diet consists almost exclusively of plant bulbs and the roots of wild sugar cane, while during winters it feeds on the fruit stones of wild stony olives. In the edges of the Karakum Desert, the golden jackal feeds on gerbils, lizards, snakes, fish and muskrats. Karakum jackals also eat the fruits of wild stony olives, mulberry and dried apricots, as well as watermelons, muskmelons, tomatoes and grapes.[66]

Indian jackal (C. a. indicus) feeding on chital carcass, Pench National Park.

In Dalmatia, the golden jackal's diet consists of mammals, fruits, vegetables, insects, birds and their eggs, grasses and leaves.[67] In Serbia, their diet is primarily livestock carcasses that are increasingly prevalent in Serbia due to lack of proper removal, followed by small mammals taken live. The ability of the golden jackals to change their diet to readily available sources has potentially led to the expansion of their wild population in Serbia.[68] In Hungary, 55% of the golden jackal's diet is composed of common voles and bank voles, and 41% is composed of wild boar carcasses.[69] Information on the diet of the golden jackal in northeastern Italy is scant but it is known to prey on small roe deer and hares.[21] In Israel, golden jackals have been shown to be significant predators of snakes, including venomous snakes; an increase of snakebites occurred during a period of a poisoning campaign against golden jackals while a decrease in snakebites occurred when the poisoning ceased.[70]

Competition

Painting of golden jackals and striped hyenas at a kill

In the past the tiger and the leopard were enemies of the jackal, with jackals feeding of the remains of the kills of leopards and tigers. In one case, jackals fed on a dead tiger. Leopards once hunted jackals, however today the tiger is extinct in the jackal's range and the leopard is rare. The jackal's competitors are the red fox, wolf, jungle cat, in the Caucausus the forest wildcat and the racoon, and in Central Asia the steppe wildcat.[56] Wolves dominate jackals and jackals dominate foxes. In Europe the range of wolves and jackals is mutually exclusive, with jackals abandoning their territory with the arrival of a wolf pack. One experiment that used loudspeakers to broadcast the calls of jackals attracted wolves at a trotting pace to chase away the perceived jackals. Dogs responded to these calls in the same way while barking aggressively. Unleashed dogs have been observed to immediately chase away jackals when the jackals were detected.[44] The jackal's recent expansion throughout eastern and western Europe has been attributed to the extermination of the wolf populations. The present diffusion of the golden jackal in the northern Adriatic hinterland seems to be in rapid expansion in various areas where the wolf is absent or very rare.[58][71]

Foxes can be found only at the fringes of jackal territory.[44] Red foxes and golden jackals share similar diets, with the jackal being three times bigger than the red fox. The red fox will avoid close physical proximity with jackals and fox populations decrease where jackals are abundant.[72] Striped hyenas prey on golden jackals and three jackal carcasses were found in one hyena den.[7]

Distribution and legal status

Range map of golden jackal subspecies.

In Southern Asia, the golden jackal inhabits Afghanistan,[8] Bangladesh,[8] Bhutan,[7] India,[7] Nepal,[7] Pakistan,[8] and Sri Lanka.[8] In Central Asia, it inhabits Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.[8] In Southeast Asia it inhabits Myanmar and Thailand.[8] Although there have been two reported sightings from Cambodia, three from southern Laos, and two from Vietnam – each sighting made only in lowland, open deciduous forest – no specimens were presented.[73] In the Middle East it inhabits Iran,[8] Iraq,[8] Israel,[8] Jordan,[8] Kuwait,[7] Lebanon,[8] Oman,[8] Saudi Arabia,[8] Qatar,[7] Syria,[8] Turkey,[8] United Arab Emirates,[8] and Yemen.[8] In Europe it inhabits Albania,[8] Armenia,[74] Austria,[7] Azerbaijan,[74] the Baltic countries,[71] Bosnia and Herzegovina,[7] Bulgaria,[7] Croatia,[8] Georgia,[74] Greece,[8] Hungary,[71] Italy,[8] Kosovo,[74] Macedonia,[8] Moldova,[74] Montenegro,[74] Poland,[71] Romania,[71] the Russian Federation,[74] Serbia,[71] Slovakia,[75] Slovenia,[8] Switzerland,[71] Turkey,[8] and the Ukraine.[71] It has been sighted in Belarus,[74] the Czech Republic,[76] Germany,[71] reported in the media in Denmark,[77][78] and reported in the media in the Netherlands but it is unclear if this jackal was an escapee from a private zoo.[79]

In Europe, golden jackals are not listed under the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora nor the 1979 Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. However, golden jackals in Europe fall under a number of international legal instruments. These include the 1979 Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, and the 1992 European Union Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Council Directive provides both guidance and limits on what participating governments can do when responding to the arrival of expanding jackals. These legislative instruments aim to contribute to conserving native wildlife, however some governments argue that the golden jackal is not native wildlife.[74]

The known legal status of golden jackals in European countries is: Albania fully protected; Austria variable (between different parts of the country); Belarus unprotected (with hunting not forbidden); Bosnia and Herzegovina hunted (within the law); Bulgaria hunted; Croatia hunted; Czech Republic unprotected; Estonia unprotected; Germany fully protected; Greece unprotected; Hungary hunted; Italy fully protected; Kosovo hunted; Latvia hunted; Lithuania hunted; Macedonia fully protected; Moldova unknown; Montenegro hunted; Poland fully protected; Romania hunted; Serbia hunted; Slovakia hunted; Slovenia hunted; Switzerland fully protected; Turkey variable; and the Ukraine hunted.[74]

In India, the golden jackal occurs in all of India's protected areas apart from those in the higher areas of the Himalayas. It is included in CITES Appendix III, and is listed in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 under Schedule III, thus receiving legal protection at the lowest level to help control the trade of pelts and tails.[1]

Diseases and parasites

Adult heartworm in the right ventricle of the heart of a golden jackal

Some golden jackals can carry diseases and parasites harmful to human health, including rabies and Donovan's Leishmania which, although harmless to jackals, can cause leishmaniasis in people. Jackals in southwestern Tajikistan have been recorded to carry 16 species of parasitic cestodes, roundworms and acanthocephalans, these being Sparganum mansoni, Diphyllobothrium mansonoides, Taenia hydatigena, T. pisiformis, T. ovis, Hydatigera taeniaeformis, Diphylidium caninum, Mesocestoides lineatus, Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala, Dioctophyma renale, Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina, Dracunculus medinensis, Filariata and Macracanthorhynchus catulinum. Jackals infected with D. medinensis can infect water bodies with their eggs, and cause dracunculiasis in people who drink from them. Jackals may also play a large part in spreading coenurosis in sheep and cattle, and canine distemper in dogs. In Tajikistan, golden jackals carry at least 12 tick species (which include Ixodes, Rhipicephalus turanicus, R. leporis, R. rossicus, R. sanguineus, R. pumilio, R. schulzei, Hyalomma anatolicum, H. scupense and H. asiaticum), four flea species (Pulex irritans, Xenopsylla nesokiae, Ctenocephanlides canis and C. felis) and one species of louse (Trichodectes canis).[80]

In Iran, some jackals carry intestinal worms (helminths)[81] and Echinococcus granulosus.[82] In Israel some jackals carry intestinal helminths[83] and Leishmania tropica infection.[84] In Romania, a jackal was found to be carrying Trichinella britovi.[85] In northeastern Italy, the jackal is a carrier of the tick species Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus, and the smallest human fluke Metagonimus yokogawai that can be caught from ingesting infected raw fish which can lead to metagonimiasis.[86] In Hungary, some jackals carry dog heartworm Dirofilaria immitis,[87] and some have delivered the first record in Hungary of Trichinella spiralis and the first record in Europe of Echinococcus multilocularis. The golden jackal is dispersing across Europe through rivers and valleys, bringing parasites into regions where these did not previously exist.[82]

Relationships with humans

In folklore, mythology and literature

Tabaqui (left) torments Father Wolf and his family, as illustrated in the 1895 edition of Rudyard Kipling's The Two Jungle Books.

Golden jackals appear prominently in Indian folklore and ancient texts, such as the Jakatas and Panchatantra, where they are often portrayed as intelligent and wily creatures.[7] One popular Indian saying describes the jackal as "the sharpest among beasts, the crow among birds, and the barber among men". To hear a jackal howl when embarking on an early morning journey was considered to be a sign of impending good fortune, as was seeing a jackal crossing a road from the left.[88] In Hinduism, the golden jackal is portrayed as the familiar of several deities, the most common of which being Chamunda, the emaciated, devouring goddess of the cremation grounds. Another deity associated with jackals is Kali, who inhabits the cremation ground and is surrounded by millions of jackals. According to the Tantrasara, when offered animal flesh, Kali appears before the officiant in the form of a jackal. The goddess Shivatudi is depicted with a jackal's head. In Buddhist tales, the jackal is regarded as cunning in a similar way as the fox in European tales[89] According to the flood myth of the Kamar tribe in Raipur district, India the god Mahadeo (Shiva) caused a deluge to dispose of a jackal who had offended him.[90]

In Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories collected in The Jungle Book, the character Tabaqui is a jackal despised by the Sioni wolf pack, due to his mock cordiality, scavenging habits and his subservience to Shere Khan the tiger.

Livestock, game and crop predation

The golden jackal can be a harmful pest, attacking domestic animals such as turkeys, lambs, sheep, goats, and domestic water buffalo calves, and valuable game species like newborn roe deer, hares, coypu, pheasants, francolins, grey partridges, bustards and waterfowl. It destroys many grapes, and eats watermelons, muskmelons and nuts.[91]

In Greece, jackals tend not to be as damaging to livestock as wolves and red foxes are, though they can become a serious nuisance to small stock when in great numbers. In southern Bulgaria, 1,053 attacks on small stock, mainly sheep and lambs, were recorded between 1982 and 1987, along with some damages to newborn deer in game farms. However, the damage by jackals in Bulgaria were minimal when compared to the livestock losses due to wolves.[44] Approximately 1.5%–1.9% of calves born on the Golan Heights die due to predation, mainly by golden jackals.[92] The high predation rate by jackals in both Bulgaria and Israel is attributable to the lack of preventative measures, and the availability of food in illegal garbage dumps that lead to jackal population explosions.[44]

Golden jackals are extremely harmful to fur-bearing rodents, such as coypu and muskrats. Coypu can be completely extirpated in shallow water bodies. During the winter of 1948–49 in the Amu Darya, muskrats constituted 12.3% of jackal faeces contents, and 71% of muskrat houses were destroyed by jackals, of which 16% froze and were unsuitable for muskrat occupation. Jackals also harm the fur industry by eating muskrats caught in traps or taking skins left out to dry.[91]

Hunting

Hunting Jackals by Samuel Howitt, illustrating a group of jackals rushing to the defence of a fallen packmate

During British rule, sportsmen in India[93] and Iraq[94] conducted on horseback with hounds jackal coursing using the golden jackal as a substitute for the fox hunting of their native England. Although not considered as beautiful as English red foxes, golden jackals were esteemed for their endurance in the chase: one pursuit lasted 3 12 hours. India's weather and terrain added further challenges to jackal hunters not present in England; the hounds of India were rarely in the same good condition as English hounds, and although the golden jackal has a strong odour, the terrain of northern India was not good in retaining scent.[93] Also, unlike foxes, golden jackals sometimes feigned death when caught, and could be ferociously protective of their captured packmates.[53]

Jackals were hunted in three ways: with greyhounds, foxhounds and with mixed packs. Hunting jackals with greyhounds offered poor sport, as greyhounds were too fast for jackals, and mixed packs were too difficult to control.[93] From 1946 in Iraq, British and Iraqi riders distinguished between three types of jackal: the "city scavenger" which was described as being slow and smelly that dogs did not like to follow; the "village jack" which was described as being faster, more alert, and less odorous; and the "open-country jack" which was described as being fastest, cleaner, and provided better sport.[94]

Some indigenous people of India, such as the Kolis and Vaghirs of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the Narikuravas in Tamil Nadu, hunt and eat golden jackals, but the majority of South Asian cultures consider the animal unclean. The orthodox dharma texts forbid the eating of jackals, as they have five nails (panchanakha).[89] In the former Soviet Union, jackals are not actively hunted, and are usually captured incidentally during the hunting of other animals by means of traps or shooting during drives. In the Trans-Caucasus, jackals are captured with large fishing hooks baited with meat, suspended 75–100 cm (30–39 in) from the ground with wire. The jackals can only reach the meat by jumping, and are hooked by the lip or jaw.[91]

Fur use

In Russia and the other nations of the former Soviet Union, golden jackals are considered furbearers of low quality because of their sparse, coarse and monotonously coloured fur.[91] Asiatic and Near Eastern jackals produce the coarsest pelts, though this can be remedied during the dressing process. As jackal hairs have very little fur fibre, their skins have a flat appearance. Elburz in northern Iran produces the softest furs.[95] Jackals are known to have been hunted for their fur during the 19th century. During the 1880s, 200 jackals were captured annually in Mervsk and in the Zakatal area of the Transcaucasus, 300 jackals were captured during 1896. During that period, a total of 10,000 jackals had been taken within Russia, and their furs were sent exclusively to the Nizhegorod fair. During the early 1930s, 20,000–25,000 jackal skins were tanned annually in the Soviet Union but could not be utilized within the country, and so the majority were exported to the United States. From 1949, they were used within the Soviet Union. Jackal skins are not graded to a fur standard, and are made into collars, women's coats and fur coats.[91]

Sulimov dog

European jackal undergoing training at Sheremetyevo Airport

The golden jackal may have once been tamed in Neolithic Turkey 11,000 years ago, as evidenced by a sculpture of a man cradling a jackal found in Göbekli Tepe.[96] French explorers during the 19th century noted that people in the Levant kept golden jackals in their homes.[97] The Kalmyk people near the Caspian Sea were known to frequently cross their dogs with jackals,[97] and Balkan shepherds once crossed their sheepdogs with jackals.[21]

The Russian military established the Red Star kennels in 1924 to improve the performance of working dogs and military dog research in general. The Red Star kennel developed "Laikoid" dogs, which were a cross-breed of Spitz-type Russian Laikas with German Shepherds. By the 1980s, the ability of Russia's bomb and narcotic detection dogs were assessed as being inadequate. Klim Sulimov, a research scientist with the DS Likhachev Scientific Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Protection, began cross-breeding dogs with their wild relatives in an attempt to improve their scent-detection abilities. The researchers assumed that during domestication, dogs had lost some of their scent-detection ability because they no longer had to detect prey. Sumilov crossed European jackals with Laikas, and also with fox terriers to add trainability and loyalty to the mix. He used the jackal because he believed that it was the wild ancestor of the dog, that it had superior scent-detecting ability, and because it was smaller with more endurance than the dog then it could be housed outdoors in the Russian climate. Sulimov favored a mix of one quarter jackal and three-quarters dog. Sulimov's program continues today with the use of the hybrid Sulimov dogs at the Sheremetyevo Airport by the Russian airline Aeroflot.[98]

The hybrid program has been criticized, with one of Sulimov's colleagues pointing out that in other tests the Laika performed just as well as the jackal-hybrids. The assumption that dogs have lost some of their scent-detection ability may be incorrect, in that dogs need to be able to scent-detect and identify the many humans that they come into contact with in their domesticated environment. Another researcher crossed German Shepherds with wolves and claimed that this hybrid had superior scent-detection abilities. The scientific evidence to support the claims of hybrid researchers is minimal and more research has been called for.[98]

Attacks on humans

In 2005, jackals were responsible for 1.7% of rabies infections in humans in India, coming in third place after dogs (96%) and foxes (3%).[99] During 1998–2005, 220 cases of jackal attacks on humans occurred in Chhattisgarh's Marwahi forest division, though none were fatal. The majority of these attacks occurred in villages, followed by forests and crop fields. In comparison, over twice as many attacks were carried out by Sloth bear in this division.[100] There are no known attacks on humans in Europe.[28]

The media in India and Iran cover purported attacks by jackals. In 2008, a rabid jackal attacked 36 people in five villages in Berasia, Bhopal district, four of whom died later. In 2012, the media in India reported that a jackal thought to be non-rabid injured 11 people, three of them seriously in Chincholi, Gulbarga district.[101] In 2014 a jackal attacked eight people, mostly children, in the city of Bajestan, Khorasan Razavi, Iran. They were treated in hospital. Each winter when food is scarce, jackals will enter residential areas searching for food.[102] In 2017, the media reported that three people had been injured in two separate jackal attacks inside the Indian Institute of Technology Madras campus in Chennai, India. Monkeys and deer walk about freely on the campus, which is adjacent to the Guindy National Park. In one incident, it is claimed that the animals bit a man hard and then tried to drag him into the nearby woods. In the second attack, another man and a security officer coming to the aid of the first man were set upon and bitten.[103]

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Bibliography

  • Heptner, V. G.; Naumov, N. P. (1998). Mammals of the Soviet Union Vol. II Part 1a, Sirenia and Carnivora (Sea cows; Wolves and Bears). Science Publishers, Inc. USA. ISBN 1-886106-81-9. 

External links

  • Golden Jackal informal study Group Europe (GOJAGE) (Updated information about the golden jackal in all European countries)
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