Tuesday, 12 February 2008

dingoes, wolves and domestic dogs

I've been taking more notice of Penny's behaviours since I've been reading Vilmos Csanyi's book If Dogs Could Talk, which I wrote about on 5th February this year.
One behaviour that I hadn't consciously noticed until I read about it is the habit of waving her tail from side to side to let us know that she's attending to us - either listening to what we're saying or just greeting us after an absence.

In light of Csanyi's theory that dogs have evolved to live alongside humans I was interested to find an article about the dingo in the Australian dog magazine Dogs Life

The article quotes Barry Oakman, president of the Australian Dingo Conservation Association:
"Being a wild animal, the Dingo has got traits quite unlike a dog that has been domesticated," says Barry. "The Dingo went through a certain form of domestication many years ago, before it reached Australia. The Aborigines were quite nomadic and so was the Dingo, but finally, when the Europeans turned up, we persecuted the animal and it went wild again.
Csanyi's book notes that wolves or wolf-dog crosses can not be trusted to live with humans because they are genetically wired to be alert for chances to move up the status ladder and will seize any chance to attack a higher-status human who is seen to have a weakness, such as a sprained ankle, for instance.

It would be interesting to discover how the dingo fits into this theory, given what Oakman says about its having been domesticated to some degree by indigenous Australians before white settlement. I notice that the dingo is in the canis familiaris group, not canis lupus, as the wolves are.

There is an ironically sad comment on the site of Dr Ellen Rudolph regarding the fact that the dingo is regarded as possibly the ancestor of the modern dog:
"So what does the future hold for the Dingo? In its travels throughout the world the Dingo has faced many battles for survival against man and nature, from fullscale eradication campaigns and enormous fences to unjustified victimization 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 whether they be Thai or Australian."
I was surprised to learn that Australis is not the only place where dingoes are found. Dr Rudolph says they are also found in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand and southern China.

On Dr Rudolph's site there is a photo of part of the famous dingo fence, and there is some information about its 2,500 km length at a Queensland government site.


Sharon said...

I didn;t know there were dingos anywhere else either. Interesting stuff. I didn't know about the dingo fence either. I knew about the rabbit-proof fence, is that one and the same?

parlance said...

Sharon, from the look of it, it's a different fence. I saw a passing reference to the dingo fence being a wired extension on the top of the rabbit-proof fence, so in some places it must be the same, I think.
I was surprised to find dingoes elsewhere, too. I've read someone (Stanley Coren, I think - not sure) on the 'village dog' which he says is the ancestor of domesticated dogs and when I was reading it I thought they looked just like dingoes. It was a year or so ago and that's a long time for my fragile memory processes, but I think I've got the right author and the correct theory. I think the dogs he referred to were all around the world, so his 'village dog' may include these dingoes.