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The Black-backed Jackal





The black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) are slender creatures, weighing 5 to 10 kg. Their sides, head and legs are a sandy tan to reddish gold in colour. Their back has a saddle from head to tip of tail that is black and white mixed hairs.

Often the edges of the saddle are framed in bright rust. They have a thick under coat for cold weather, which they shed in the spring.

These jackal are the most abundant and widespread of the larger carnivores in sub-Saharan Africa.

They are cunning creatures. Their senses are extremely acute and well-developed, especially their senses of hearing and smell. If startled, a jackal will retreat a certain distance and then circle back in a wide arc in order to interpret the scent of the disturbance.

They spent many thousands of years becoming an efficient sub-predator, adapting to and learning from the top predators around them. They tend to be territorial and will become aggressive only to defend the boundaries of their territories.

Black-backed jackals are active both during the day and night. When active, this species is usually out searching/scavenging for food. Normal movement is at a trot; when hunting an individual walks slowly with its ears pricked and alert.

The surviving success of the black backed jackals is greatly due to their highly adaptable nature. Their relatively small size, mobility, and lack of specialised food and habitat requirements mean that they can adapt to environmental change, which has decidedly affected the way they behave.

Consequently, they have expanded their ranges into agricultural areas and urban habitats in some localities, and also increased or maintained stable population sizes while many carnivores of similar size or greater have succumbed to human pressures such as persecution, encroachment, and habitat loss.

Because of their migrations towards agricultural areas; if you mention black-backed jackals to a sheep farmer in South Africa, he would probably reach for his gun.

This would be the worst thing to do. Jackals are normally seen as being wary of humans and are not considered "aggressive" towards larger animals like sheep. But when one of them kills a sheep, farmers take their vengeance by killing all the jackals in sight. The farmer may kill the alpha-male, and this puts in motion an evil cycle during which both the farmer and jackal become worse off.

The black-jackals, like all other jackals, are territorial and work in pairs. Without the alpha-male the territory is fair game and there are plenty of sub-males around, waiting to exploit the gap. Being less established, they may have had to become inventive in their hunting. Maybe they have learned to kill sheep. They'll take over the range and teach other youngsters their skills.

By dominating breeding cycles, alpha-females can keep whole territories unproductive. But the interlopers will generally chase her away once her mate is killed, and without her younger females will begin to breed. There will soon be more pups around, and lots of dumb sheep to feed them on.

This means a higher survival rate, which means more jackals. Pretty soon the farmer is losing considerable amounts of his flock. To him it seems like a vendetta-each generation is harder to trap, harder to poison, harder to fool and harder to kill.



Hi Joe. How does one actually train the dog not to kill non-target animals like eg. ear fox? Mine were easy enough to train in the kraal but I lost control when I put them out in the veld.

Posted by: Oloff

Mpumzi, you can rule out caracal as they do not touch the intestines etc. If the carcass is badly mauled and torn up, then it could be a dog but dogs will also eat muscle tissue. I would say jackal.

Posted by: Oloff

My sheep, 1 year old, was killed by what appears to be a carnivor (dog, jackal or caracal) while in the kraal last night. Surprisingly, only the soft internal organs were eaten, i.e. liver, intestines etc, but not the muscles. Could this be the work of a dog or jackal or caracal?

Posted by: Mpumzi Mququ

Oloff, I am glad to hear that the pack of hunting dogs are doing so well. With regards to the Anatolians (I have one myself), they have to be trained not to hunt just as they need to be trained not to play with the small lambs. This doesn't just happen magically, but it takes at least one year before these dogs become effective.

I am also currently doing research on caracal, jackal and leopard preying on livestock and the effectiveness of the different prevention methods.

Posted by: @Joe & Oloff

Lol @ Oloff~! I HAVE some sheep but no jackals. Perhaps not endemic so close to the coast?? Believe it or not I want to use THEM for pest control. I have done it before and provided you keep the jackal population small, while they have easy prey they will even leave sheep alone, but once they have sorted out the other pests, beware. ?

Yeah, I know, I am one of the weird people who believe in natural solutions, sorry. Come on you can just see me, my long red curls blowing in the wind, smiling, hugging my trees. Hahaha~! Ok I am not THAT bad, there is a time and place for all solutions, and I am not against hunting, the hunters I know are good at what they do, the animals do not suffer.

Not to be confused with the a-hole who for instance remove rhino horns while the rhinos are still alive. Please do not confuse the two. Professional hunters are just that: professional. Anyway I will try to find out if jackals are endemic and if so where I can get a pair or even a solitary one, or a similar predator~! ?

Posted by: Les

In response to Les. You have a small plot and you want to know where and how you can "buy" some jackals. I have good news for you - just buy a sheep, the jackals will come!

Posted by: Oloff

I live on a small plot in KZN and would like some jackals on it but where and how to buy??

Posted by: Les

@Willem, I agree 100% with you being a fellow hunter. I am off to the Karoo to help curb a rising problems there next week. I have hunted over 500 jackal on my farm in the last 4 years (have photos to prove it). The jackal move from other areas onto my farm when the alpha male has been removed.... 10 pairs of jackal and their offspring produce an average of 645 jackal in 3 years...

Posted by: Paul

It is horrible to kill or injure a living thing just to please yourself. Animals were on this earth first and all you (people) are doing are killing them. That is selfish. Get a better fence or solve the problem without killing.

Posted by: KT

I am a sheep farmer in the Karoo. I have suffered great losses over the past 12 years due to jackal and caracal. I made a move from gin traps and poison to the "greener" guard dogs and other non-lethal methods but encountered other problems which resulted in even more losses- some caused by the guard dogs themselves! This made me consider other options- with the result that I now have a pack of foxhounds and greyhounds which are taken out to actively hunt down jackals and caracal on an almost daily basis. The resuls are astounding- in a period of 8 weeks only one jackal was killed but all the others have moved off! We no longer find any tracks and no more losses!

What has happened here? The apex pradator (leopard, hyena) was replaced with a pack of foxhounds which have driven the jackals off the property. The dogs are trained to only hunt jackal and caracal thus other small game are safe (not the case with anatolians). The success rate of actually killing the vermin is low but who cares when they are driven off to go eat your "green" neighbour's sheep!

Posted by: Oloff

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