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What Is the Golden Jackal?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2014
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The golden jackal is a hardy member of the canine family with a fairly wide-ranging habitat, including parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. The animals, which are in the same branch of the canine family as wolves and dogs, tend to be about 10-inches-tall at the shoulders (25 cm) and weigh approximately 22 pounds (10 kg). They have speckled yellow fur, and they look quite a bit like a very small wolf with a shorter coat. The golden jackal generally survives through a combination of hunting and scavenging, a lifestyle that affords some measure of versatility, and which might be one of the reasons the population numbers for the species are relatively strong. In areas where their habitats overlap with people’s, they will take advantage of garbage as an extra food source.

According to experts, the golden jackal doesn’t feel comfortable in forested environments, and the animals are generally found in flat, grassy areas with hot temperatures. One of their main population centers is in India, but they are also found in places like Italy and certain parts of Africa. Generally speaking, they can handle heat and dry weather more readily than many other members of the canine family, and they’re found in places where they can take advantage of that ability.

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Golden jackals are omnivorous, eating various vegetarian food sources when they're available as well as hunting for small animals. When hunting, they generally work in groups of at least two, and sometimes the groups might be significantly larger. It’s typical for a golden jackal group to go hunting at night, taking advantage of darkness for the purpose of stealth and protection from larger predators. Like most members of the canine family, they have a keen sense of smell, great hearing, and a lot of intelligence; advantages that all help in the search for prey. Most of their prey animals are smaller creatures like rodents, and if they happen to find another source of food during a hunting expedition, such as a carcass or some human garbage, they will readily take advantage of it.

The golden jackal is a social animal, but jackal packs tend to be significantly smaller than a wolf pack, and often just include a male and female mating pair. When the female has a litter of pups, the family will grow temporarily, and young jackals may stay with their mother and father for more than a year before setting off on their own. The frequent influx of new pups in combination with older pups leaving means the family group will constantly change in size depending on the situation.

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