I was seriously tempted to take him home. He had a kind look, was just the right size and seemed very smart and alert…but then I was reminded that bringing a dingo home as a pet might not be a great idea. Aside, his howling on the plane would have really annoyed the other passengers.
There has been a long-standing debate in the scientific community about the origin of Australian dingoes. What are they – dogs or wolves? Where did they come from and who brought them to the continent? What roles are the dingoes playing in the eco system?
Most scientists now believe the dingoes arrived on the Australian continent between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago. They seem to have been brought across the waters by Sulawesi (an Indonesian island) hunter-gatherers for whom the dingoes were semi-domesticated companions. Consequently, the dingoes are not indigenous to Australia but were introduced to the country many millennia ago.
Genetically, dingoes are a sub-species of the Asian wolf. While they are wild animals, the aborigines used them as companions, protectors and hunting dogs. It is also known that the native Australians cuddled up to their dingoes for warmth at night. When the first European arrived in 1778, they noticed dingoes living within the aboriginal communities.
The dingoes’ symbiotic lifestyle with the aboriginal Australians ended during the continent’s colonialization. Firstly, they got into trouble when they chased after the Europeans’ sheep and cattle. Being wild animals, the dingoes killed and ate a lot of their life stock. To minimize the dingoes’ access to the lambs and calves, the settlers built the longest man-made structure in the world: a 5,614 km (3,488 mi) long fence. It took 5 years (1880 to 1885) to construct the barrier and was quite successful. Secondly, the dingoes started to breed with dogs introduce by the Europeans. Some experts argue that the dingoes are distinct enough to warrant protection of the species. Already 1/3 of all dingoes in Australia are no longer genetically pure.
“What is the harm in that?” you might ask. We do know for a fact that free-ranging feral dogs are inefficient predators, do not form packs and do not breed cooperatively (as dingoes do). The result: as poor predators, hybridized dingoes are useless to the eco system. They are unable to keep the kangaroo, rabbit, cat and mouse populations in Australia under control.
If you checked the conservation status for dingoes, you’d find their status to be “vulnerable to extinction”. This is not because there are not enough dingoes, it is because of a rapidly decreasing number of genetically pure dingoes.
Before you take a couple of dingoes on the plane to breed them at home, let me advise you that dingoes get extremely attached and become very distraught every time you leave the house. When you come home, a dingo will ask you to perform the usual 15 minute-long welcoming ritual, which involves licking, hugging and kissing. Also, you can never let a dingo off a leash. It will attack other dogs or kill your neighbour’s beloved cat before your very own eyes.
Is it possible to keep a dingo as a pet? Yes, but be prepared to quit your job and ONLY pay attention to your dingo. In that case, say good-bye to your job and your marriage. ;-) Yes, dingoes are dogs – but very unique dogs.