Learn More about Black-backed Jackal

The Black-backed Jackal, also known as Canis mesomelas or Lupulella mesomelas, is a canine species indigenous to eastern and southern Africa. This species presently lives in regions that are separated by approximately 900 km. Compared to other Canis species, the Black-backed Jackal is considered a very ancient species, having only minor changes in its physical characteristics since the Pleistocene age and being the most basal fox-like canine. This canine species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1775.

Back in the 1990s, Black-backed Jackals were hunted in South Africa for its meat. They are being killed primarily because of their reputation as a predator that slaughters sheep, poultry, and other domesticated livestock.

There are two subspecies of Black-backed Jackal:

Cape Black-backed Jackal – This species lives in Cape of Good Hope, Angola, Namibia, southern Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

East African Black-backed Jackal – This species occurs in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, and northern Tanzania.

Since it occurs in a wide range in Africa and their population appears to be in a continuous rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized this species as Least Concern.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

Species: C. mesomelas

The physical characteristics of a Black-backed Jackal

As its name hints, the main characteristic of the Black-backed Jackal is the black hair that is present from its nape to its tail. Its chest is white, and the majority of its underparts range from white to rusty-white. The rest of its body is reddish-brown or ginger in color.

An adult Black-backed Jackal stands around 38cm in shoulder length. Its head resembles that of a fox—with a pointed muzzle and pointy ears.

An adult male Black-backed Jackal develops a reddish to deep russet red color. An adult female Black-backed Jackal has duller colors. Both sexes have bushy tails with black tips. Their lips, throats, chests, and inner surfaces of the limbs are white in color.

The distribution and habitat of Black-backed Jackals

This species is common to eastern and southern regions of the African continent, particularly in countries such as Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.

Black-backed Jackals live in a wide range of habitats—from small cities to the suburbs of large cities to the Namib Desert. They are commonly found in dry areas that have lesser rainfall. Black-backed Jackals are also highly associated with open terrains as compared to dense forests and bushes. They scavenge in open areas where humans usually hunt for other animals.

The behavior of a Black-backed Jackal

The social organization of Black-backed Jackals highly resembles that of the Golden Jackals. Black-backed Jackals are active during day and night, except when they live in small cities and suburbs, they are usually nocturnal. During these periods, they form packs and search and scavenge for food.

While searching, the Black-backed Jackal perks its ears to stay alert. It has exceptional hearing and smelling senses. It is wary of humans and are not usually aggressive to animals larger than its size.

Black-backed Jackals are highly territorial. They become aggressive to those who intrude their marked territories. They mark and defend their territories by laying feces and urine on the boundaries of their territories. They are one of the few monogamous canines. The mating period occurs between May and August. Gestation lasts for 60 days. A female Black-backed Jackal gives birth to 4 pups, with only 1-3 pups surviving after a few days. It usually hides its litter underground with multiple entrances and escape holes.

Both male and female Black-backed Jackals will share responsibility in feeding and rearing the pups. The pups reach sexual maturity at 11 months. After a year of hunting with their family and other large packs, the pups will learn to live independently. They spend 14 years living in captivity and almost 8 years in the wild.

The diet of a Black-backed Jackal

Like most canines in the wild, Black-backed Jackals hunt in large packs. They hunt on domesticated dogs, young sheep, poultry, rodents, hares, and antelopes. They also scavenge the remains of other mammals such as large felines that have been killed by lions and leopards.