Jackals are cunning and
resourceful omnivores

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Jackal

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • There are 3 species of African jackal
  • Pups are independent at 6 months old
  • Jackals have 1 mate for life

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Common jackal (Canis aureus)
Side-striped jackal (Canis adustus)
Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas)

Weight

15 to 35 lb.

Size

15 to 20 in. at the shoulder

Life span

10 to 12 years

Habitat

Open and wooded savanna

Diet

Omnivorous

Gestation

About 2 months

Predators

Leopards, hyenas, eagles

Habitat

Where do jackals live?

The golden, or common, jackal lives in open savannas, deserts, and arid grasslands. Side-striped jackals are found in moist savannas, marshes, bushlands, and mountains. The black-backed—also called sliver-backed—jackal lives primarily in savannas and woodlands.

Tags: Kenya, Niger, Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, Maasai Steppe, Regional Parc W, Samburu, Virunga, East Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a jackal?

The three jackal species differ mainly in color and choice of habitat. The sandy-colored golden jackal prefers open, grassy plains, while the side-striped jackal lives along waterways with dense undergrowth. This jackal is drabber in color, has a white tip on the tail, and had indistinct stripes along the sides of the body. The black-backed jackal is recognized by the mantle of black hair on the back that contrasts with the rust-colored body. The tail is black­-tipped, as is that of the golden jackal. The black-blacked jackal is usually the most frequently seen, as it is more diurnal than the other two species.

Behavior & Diet

Jackals are cooperative, cunning hunters.

Jackals can best be described as opportunistic omnivores. They cooperatively hunt small antelopes and also eat reptiles, insects, ground-dwelling birds, fruits, berries, and grass. They will pick over kills made by large carnivores and even frequent rubbish dumps in pursuit of food.

They have family values. 

Jackals usually live singly or in pairs but are occasionally found in loose packs of related individuals. They are among the few mammalian species in which the male and female mate for life. Mated pairs are territorial, and both the female and male mark and defend their territory.

Litters average 2 to 4 pups. It takes about 10 days for the infants' eyes to open, and for the first few weeks of life, they remain in the thickets or holes where they were born. At about 3 weeks old, they begin to spend time outside playing with their littermates. At first, the games are clumsy attempts at wrestling, pawing, and biting. As they become more coordinated, they ambush and pounce, play tug of war, and chase each other. The mother changes den sites about every 2 weeks, so the young are less likely to be found by predators.

The pups are suckled and fed regurgitated food until they are about 2 months old. By 3 months, they no longer use the den but start to follow their parents, slowly learning the territory and observing hunting behavior. By 6 months, they are hunting on their own. Their parents, however, continue to feed, groom, and play with them.

Jackal pups are roped into baby-sitting younger siblings.  

Sometimes pups will stay with their parents and help raise their younger siblings. Most pup deaths occur during the first 14 weeks of life, so the presence of helpers increases the survival rate.

They are very vocal.

Jackals are noisy. Family or pack members communicate with each other by screaming, yelling, and yapping or a siren-like howl when a kill is located.

Gallery
  • Jackal Craig R. Sholley
  • Jackal Craig R. Sholley
  • Jackal Cardo Kleberg
  • Jackal Billy Dodson
Challenges

Humans are encroaching on jackals’ living spaces.

Increased habitat loss due to human population growth and resulting expansion of roads, settlements, and agriculture threatens the jackal.

Human-wildlife conflict is a growing threat.

As habitats are lost, jackals are increasingly infringing on human settlements, where they can be viewed as a danger to livestock and poultry and be killed as pests. 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting the jackal:

  • Prevent livestock loss.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with pastoralist communities to develop appropriate preventative measures that prevent loss of livestock. In Tanzania, AWF is building bomas for communities living in close proximity to carnivores. Bomas are predator-proof enclosures where livestock are kept to prevent attacks. By taking proactive steps, we are able to prevent both livestock and carnivore deaths.

  • Save land for wildlife.

    AWF engages local communities to set aside land for wildlife to live undisturbed. In the Laikipia region of Kenya—which has no formal protected areas—we brought the Koija community together with a private operator to construct the Koija Starbeds Lodge. Koija Starbeds creates jobs and income for the community members. The revenue is also reinvested into the community and into conservation, and the land is protected for wildlife, like the jackal. 

Projects

Will you show the jackal your support?

With your help, AWF can work on projects like providing constructing predator-proof bomas and conservation tourism lodges, like Koija Starbeds, to benefit local communities and their surrounding wildlife. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the jackal does not become an endangered species. 

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    Protecting habitat and communities near Kenya’s capital

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  • Maasai Steppe Predator-Proof Bomas
    Ending human-carnivore conflict in Tanzania

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