The dingo is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with one of the waves of human settlement thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to their wild Asian grey wolf parent species, Canis lupus.
At the height of its career as a heroic native animal the dingo played a significant role in the trial of Lindy Chamberlain in the 1982, a woman who was convicted of killing her newborn baby Azaria, but who always claimed she saw a dingo take the child from the family tent at Uluru. While there was a significant amount of evidence to suggest that dingoes were near the baby's tent at the time of her death and that dingoes were fully capable of carrying her away and consuming her with barely any blood spilt, this was systematically ignored.
The dingo is widely held responsible for a raft of extinctions in Australia in the 4000 years since it first appeared. Its appearance coincides with the disappearance of the thylacine on mainland Australia, for example, and is almost certainly the reason why the Tasmanian devil was confined to Tasmania. It also wreaked havoc with the pastoral economy, finally forcing the country into building the 10,000 kilometre "dog-proof" fence from Queensland to South Australia.
While dingos belong to the same family as dogs, there are differences. Dingos do not bark, they only breed once a year and they lack the distinctive ‘dog smell’ of domestic dogs.
Dingos are under threat from interbreeding with domestic dogs. There are very few pure-bred dingos left in Australia. They may also be persecuted by farmers as they are sometimes seen as a threat to livestock or accidentally poisoned when they eat baits left for wild dogs.
Dingos are social animals, living in family groups which defend their territory and sometimes hunt together. They have a home range of up to 8000 hectares, but their daily movements take in only a small part of that range. At the end of a day's roaming, dingos will return to the area they started the day in.
The dingo's origin is uncertain, though scientists now believe that it is related to Asian and Middle Eastern wolves that probably arrived in Australia between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago, transported by Asian seafarers. The scientific name of the dingo was recently changed from canis familiaris (domestic dog) dingo to canis lupus (wolf) dingo, to show its relationship to the white-footed wolf of South-East Asia.
It is believed that its ancestors arrived thousands of years ago in the [outback of Australia]. The dingo is very similar to the regular dog, but doesn’t live among people, so it can easily be distinguished among other canines.
Tests showed that wolves are very quick when they need to figure out the spacial problem in order to reach a treat, while regular dogs need help from people and even after several trials they still fail to impress. In similar situations, dingoes manage to grab the treat quickly without needing human help to solve their problem.
Dingoes are most active at dawn and dusk, when their prey is also active. They eat a variety of animals but the majority of their diet is wallaby and kangaroo. They are also known to prey on rabbits, possums, gliders, rats and mice.
Dingoes are found through most of mainland Australia, but are absent from Tasmania. Dingoes are found in all habitat types ranging from alpine, woodland, grassland, desert and tropical regions. There are many different cross breeds of Dingo/dog so it is very common to see Dingo-like dogs even in suburbia.