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What Is a Dhole, & Do They Make Good Pets? History & Facts Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dhole indian wild dog in the forest
Image Credit: Vinod V Chandran, Shutterstock

A Dhole, which is pronounced “dole,” is a member of the Canidae family, and is a wild dog found in parts of Asia. It is roughly the size of a German Shepherd but looks more like a fox. The carnivore hunts deer and rodents and may eat some birds, and typically lives in jungles and forests. It is a pack animal that can run at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

Although the Dhole was once found across half the world, it is now an endangered species and there are believed to be just 2,500 adults left in the world.

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The Earliest Records of Dholes in History

Although they were once found across Asia, Europe, and North America, Dholes were effectively driven out of many of these regions around 15,000 years ago. Today, they are only found in Asia and primarily in India and China. They are known to have considerable land requirements, which means that they demand a lot of space on which to prowl and hunt.

Unfortunately, because of these requirements and because of hunting and poaching by humans, and a loss of habitat and prey, there are thought to be less than 2,500 breeding adults left in the world today. That means there are fewer Dholes than there are tigers, but there is surprisingly little research and information on the breed, let alone conservation work to help save the depleted population of this wild dog.

dholes crossing a stream
Image Credit by: Independent birds, Shutterstock

Appearance and Behavior

Dholes are approximately the size of a German Shepherd. They weigh around 40 pounds and can measure up to 3 feet long. In terms of physical appearance, they have similar features and coloring to the Red Fox with amber eyes, auburn fur, and a black tail. They are closely related to African Wild Dogs.

The Dhole is a pack animal and can live in packs of between just two and ten members. They are fast runners and hunt in packs, regularly taking down deer. It has also been reported that packs of Dholes have been seen taking on tigers, and it is possible that they have managed to kill animals as large as this. The adult Dhole is a very fast eater, and it can also regurgitate food to supply other members of the pack with nourishment.

Although they are in the same family as dogs, Dholes don’t communicate by barking or howling, they chatter and whimper in a similar manner to foxes. They also whistle, hence the nickname of whistling dogs.

Dhole Conservation Status

It is believed that there was once a large population of Dholes across three continents: Asia, Europe, and North America. But something caused the range of this animal to be limited to just parts of Asia, about 15,000 years ago. As a result, the species is primarily found in China and India, today, and their existence in some of the most populated regions on earth is believed to be one of the reasons that numbers are in decline.

There isn’t as much research on Dholes as on other animals of the same region, like tigers. And because the Dhole needs such a large range to live on, it is especially susceptible to habitat loss as well as a loss of their prey. Today, there are roughly 2,200 breeding adults left and the species is in danger of being lost.

dhole puppy in the wild
Indian Dhole (Wild dog) puppy in beautiful light

Top 5 Unique Facts About Dholes

1. They Whistle

Dholes have an unusual method of communication, at least compared to other dog species. Their clicking, whistling, and chattering is closest to the noises made by foxes, rather than the howls of wolves or the barking of dogs.


2. They Run At 45 MPH

This predator uses speed as one of its primary weapons when taking down prey. Adult Dholes can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.


3. An Adult Can Eat a Kilogram of Meat in 4 Seconds

As well as being fast runners, the species is also a very fast eater, with an adult capable of eating a kilogram of meat in about 4 seconds. It can also regurgitate the food later, to feed and nourish other pack members.


4. They Will Attack Tigers

Dholes hunt in small groups, and by hunting in a group they are capable of taking down animals larger than themselves. They usually hunt hooved animals like deer, but they have been known to attack tigers and bears, with whom they compete for territory and prey in some areas.


5. Their Territory Can Be as Large as 34 Square Miles

One of the reasons that Dholes are struggling for numbers is because of a loss of habitat. They have one of the largest land area requirements of any land animal and can have a territory as large as 34 square miles. Considering they are found in some of the most densely populated parts of the world, this need for so much space can be a problem.

Does a Dhole Make a Good Pet?

The dhole is a breed of wild dog and even if it could be kept as a pet, most countries have strict laws about doing so. The breed is not considered a good pet and shouldn’t be kept as a pet, although we should do more to learn about the Dhole to help ensure that the species does not go extinct.

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Conclusion

The Dhole is a breed of wild dog that is found in parts of Asia. There is only a very small population of this predator left today, as its habitat and prey are in decline and the species has a very high land area demand. The Dhole is a wild dog and not kept as a pet, but this whistling, fast-running, fast-eating, member of the Canidae family is an intriguing story in itself.


Featured Image Credit: Vinod V Chandran, Shutterstock

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