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Dingo, ancestor of all dog breeds - Wildlife Australia

Updated on October 5, 2014

The first Dingo to reach Australia

The mother of all dingoes was most probably a single pregnant female.

An intelligent animal, she trotted across the landbridge from Indonesia to Australia about 5,000 years ago and made a home for herself close to the people who inhabited the great Southern Land.

Her descendants are the last ancient living link between the wolf and the domestic pooch. Now they are threatened with extinction.

While the dingo may occupy a sacred place in the Dreamtime stories of indigenous Australians, much of the broader population still holds the view that it is a cunning creature, a cold-hearted hunter, merciless baby-snatcher.

This is a terrible unwarranted misconception.

Dingo, the first dog

Ancestor of all dog breeds

It was less than 15,000 years ago, near China, when someone tamed the first wolf, and 10,000 years later when the dog reached Australia. The Dingo is the ancestor of all dog breeds, the pure original dog before the intensive breeding by humans over the last 500 years.

But modern dogs have interbred and the pure dingo is becoming scarce. The modern breed called the Australian Cattle Dog owes much to dingo stock.

Today interbreeding domestic dogs with the Dingo is illegal. Much of Australian economy is dependent on cattle and sheep production and the Dingo is classified as vermin in his homeland.

Quick Dingo Facts

Australia's largest mammalian predator

Strongly territorial and highly intelligent

Do not bark, but howl

Are likely to be extinct within 20 years

Dingoes don't bark

Dingos seldom bark, instead they communicate with distinctive yelps, yodels and eerie howls.

What does a dingo look like?

The appearance of a real dingo - not cross breeds

Dingos are medium-sized dogs about the size of a small German Shepherd with short, gingery yellowish-tan fur that can sometimes vary from black to cream to brindle. It's most commonly ginger-colored with white points to the ears and tail.

They have very mobile ears and sharp light-coloured intense eyes that range from yellow to orange.

Mark Twain tells of the Dingo

" The oldest dog in the universe"

Mark Twain said of the dingo.....

"I also saw the wild Australian dog - the dingo. He was a beautiful creature, shapely, graceful, a little wolfish in some of his aspects, but with a most friendly eye and sociable disposition.

The dingo is not an importation he was present in great force when the whites first came to the continent. It may be that he is the oldest dog in the universe, his origin, his descent, the place where his ancestors first appeared are as unknown and as untraceable as the camel.

He is the most precious dog in the world for he does not bark, but in an evil hour he got to raiding sheep runs to appease his hunger and that seals his doom, he is hunted now just as if he were a wolf, he has been sentenced to extermination and the sentence will be carried out.....

Looking along the Dingo Fence

The Dingo Fence - Over 5000 miles of fence

When European settlers first arrived in Australia, the Dingo was tolerated, even welcomed, but that changed rapidly when sheep became an important part of the white economy.

Dingos were trapped, shot on sight, and poisoned.

In the 1880s, construction of the great Dingo Fence began. The Dingo Fence was designed to keep Dingos out of the relatively fertile south-east part of the continent (where they had been exterminated) and protect the sheep flocks of southern Queensland.

The Fence runs approximately 8500 kilometres, coast-to-coast from the Great Australian Bight to the east coast of Queensland through thousands of miles of arid country.

The Dingo and the Baby

The Tragedy of Lindy Chamberlain

In 1980, Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty of murdering her infant daughter.

She claimed a dingo had taken her baby from the tent in a camping spot in Uluru, central Australia. Her husband and fellow campers backed her claims, as did members of the Aboriginal community in the vicinity. International and local legal experts questioned whether she had been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and controversy raged. The result was two books, a film, interesting argument in the press and Lindy Chamberlain in jail.

Dingoes are Wild Animals

There have been three reported dingo attacks in 200 years, compared to about 14,000 reported domestic dog attacks in one year.

Tragedies can happen when humans come into close proximity with wild animals.

Dingoes are wild dogs, don't ever attempt to feed, or otherwise encourage, any wild animal.

A Cry in the Dark
A Cry in the Dark

The tragic and true story of Lindy Chamberlain, a woman who lost her baby in horrific circumstances, was paraded before an accusing nation for two painful years and finally jailed for a crime which had never happened.


A Tragedy

In 2001 two wild dingoes attacked and killed a nine year old boy at Fraser Island. There was an uproar in the media, graphic eyewitness accounts and little mention given to the dangers of approaching wild animals, any wild animals.

These attacks on humans were horrific and terrifying to the rest of the country, but the wave of dingo slaughter which followed the tragedy on Fraser Island was unwarranted.

Lindy Chamberlain is Pardoned

In 1986 a matinee jacket belonging to baby Azaria was found in a dingo's lair in arid country near Uluru. The jacket had been ripped by the teeth of a dingo and fragments of flesh which were still attached were those of a human infant.

Ms Chamberlain was pardoned in 1988.

An excellent resource on this topic is Evil Angels: The Case of Lindy Chamberlain

The Future of the Dingo

Extinction doesn't have to be inevitable!

Today Dingoes are under threat of extinction from one primary source.

In more settled coastal areas of Australia as well as the Outback, barriers between domestic dogs, both feral and urban, and the Dingo are being rapidly removed. Cross breeding is common and the pure Dingo gene pool is being swamped.

Already in the South-Eastern highlands about one third of the populations are cross-breeds or hybrids, and the extinction of the pure Dingo seems inevitable.

In 1993 the Dingo was recognised by the Australian National Kennel Council as an official dog breed and adopted as Australia's national breed.

Breeding with Domestic Dogs must be stopped

So what does the future hold for the Dingo?

Laurie Corbet, in The Dingo in Australia and Asia says ..

The Dingo has faced many battles for survival against man and nature, from fullscale eradication campaigns and enormous fences to unjustified victimisation and subversive genetic manipulations.

Although dingoes have won most of the battles, the cruel irony is that they are steadily losing the war, thanks to their evolutionary progeny, domestic dogs. In the end, their chances of continued survival in the wild will rest solely on the efforts of an informed public to stop contact between dingoes and domestic dogs, and to take pride in dingoes as native species.

Get your own Dingo!

Dingo Plushie
Dingo Plushie

Sitting Dingo Soft Plush Toy (40cm) - $ 25.60

We can't all go out and care for a wild dingo but here's the next best thing.

How about this large Sitting Plush Toy Dingo - the one and only wild Australian dog. Cheap to feed! To be honest, he doesn't eat anything at all.

His name is Ralph (although he doesn't say 'Ralph' when he barks - he doesn't bark at all). He sits at a huge 40cm in height - a quality gift of a native animal from Australia.

Add it to a dingo t-shirt for an extra special gift. Or just keep it for yourself

To Protect and Save the Dingo

To protect and save the dingo from extinction the situation for the dingo must be reversed.

  • The dingo must be recognised as Australia's top order predator
  • Australians must change the status of the dingo from pest to Native Fauna
  • Core habitat areas must be protected, and the gene pool must be conserved for the survival of the dingo.
  • 1080 baiting programs on dingoes must cease
  • Australians must stop the contact between domestic dogs and dingoes in all regions of Australia.

World Animal Day Walk - with Sampson, the Victorian Alpine Dingo

Some dingoes can be Pets

Sampson, the Victorian alpine dingo, and his owner, Sharon Rivett, took a four-kilometre walk around the city of Melbourne on October 4th for World Animal Day.

Not that it was all sunshine and tail wags. Sampson walked to raise awareness of the dingo as a threatened species in Victoria.

Currently fighting for their recognition as native animals - dingoes fall into the same category as exotic pests such as rabbits and foxes - Ms Rivett and her fellow members of the Dingo CARE Network fear that, unless moves are made to protect the dogs soon, Sampson may be one of the last chances we have to see a pure dingo in all his clever, nimble, bronzed glory.


Can I have a dingo as a pet in Australia?

If you live in New South Wales or Western Australia you can have a dingo as a 'pet'. In all of the other States and Territories a special licence is necessary.

Can I get a dingo in New South Wales or Western Australia and take it to another State?

You cannot move dingoes within Australia i.e. between States without the correct documentation and special licence provided by the government body in charge

Can I import a dingo as a pet to my country?

1. The export of dingoes is illegal.

2. Breeding domestic dogs with the Dingo is illegal.

However some cross-breeds have found their way into other countries, for example, USA. These cross-breeds are bred with other dogs and are often called Red Heelers or Australian Cattle Dogs.

Leave a Comment for the Dingo - Shake a paw! No need to bark ..

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    • BryanLSC profile image

      BryanLSC 5 years ago

      Thanks to your lens now I know the Dingo is the First dog!

    • Afteretc profile image

      Afteretc 5 years ago

      wow! i learned something new. i didn't know that Red Heelers or Australian Cattle Dogs were part dingos! very informative lens. Dingos look so cute, but i'm animal lover so anything with fur steals my heart.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Wonderful work and informative lens!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      Aspen, my Yorkie, insists the Dingo is not her ancestor no matter how far back you's pretty stubborn about it, but I love this and the pictures...I'll keep trying to convince her after I finish leaving this comment:-)

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      Very interesting lens and beautiful photographs. The resemblemce to modern dogs is amazing. I'm sorry to hear about thier plight and hope thye can be protected!

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