What Is the Egyptian Jackal?

Lakshmi Sandhana

The Egyptian jackal is an animal native to Egypt and was thought to be a little-known subspecies of the golden jackal. In recent times, however, genetic analysis has proved that the jackal is actually a member of the gray wolf family. The species, known as Canis aureus lupaster, is not really a jackal at all but is more closely related to the Himalayan wolf. Now renamed as the African wolf, the Egyptian jackal is Africa's only wolf belonging to the gray wolf family.

Anubis is linked with Egyptian burial rituals.
Anubis is linked with Egyptian burial rituals.

The jackal is a well-known character in Egyptian mythology and holds great significance. Anubis, the God connected with mummification and burial rituals, has a head that bears a close resemblance to the jackal. He is often portrayed as having a black head with long ears and a pointed muzzle in many drawings. Though the jackal has had such a powerful influence in Egyptian mythology, in reality, this animal's numbers are quite low. Excessive hunting has reduced its numbers to the extent of it being considered an endangered species.

Egyptian jackals often take shelter in caves.
Egyptian jackals often take shelter in caves.

Looking like a fairly large dog in appearance, the Egyptian jackal has a reclusive nature and travels by itself or in pairs. Its diet consists of various domesticated animals, though some live on fish found in shallow waters. These animals are nocturnal and often take shelter in crevices and caves when on the move. They are larger in size when compared to other jackal species, and their skull shape is very similar to that of the Indian wolf.

Genetic research has shed more light onto the history of the Egyptian jackal, bringing forth more clarity. Previously, scientists were divided as to whether the animal was a wolf or a jackal because of certain physical characteristics. The research has confirmed that the Egyptian jackal, or the African wolf, has origins that are more ancient than wolves found in the northern hemisphere. The jackal is actually a type of wolf that broke off from the gray wolf family before they migrated to different countries.

There is some confusion as to whether this new wolf should be classified as a subspecies of the gray wolf or if it should be given the status of a unique species. Gray wolves are found in the Americas, northern parts of Asia, and Europe. The Egyptian jackal is the only wolf belonging to the gray wolf family to be found in the African continent. The revelation as to its true nature has caught the attention of conservationists because the animal is unprotected by law in Egypt at the time of this article's writing. It is hardly seen in the wild because it is hunted down as a pest that endangers livestock.

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