Australian Dingoes

Australia’s dingo has for a long time been considered an elusive yet intriguing creature of the Australian landscape. Feared by many, as well as admired by most, one question that has puzzled and intrigued people for hundreds of years is whether or not dingoes can be domesticated. While the dingoes themselves are incredibly intelligent, perhaps their independent and wild tendencies are too powerful to allow them to ever be truly domesticated. But is it really impossible?

Australian Dingo

Can Australian dingoes be domesticated?

A dingo, which grew up from a puppy with station and cattle and sheepdogs, learned to work sheep but went back to the sheep killer by night.

The pup became the pet of the children and grew up with station pups and dogs.

He was fed and trained like the other dogs, and was bedded down and chained up or left loose at night in the same way.

As the pup grew up, it was taken out into the paddocks with the sheepdogs, to watch and learn how to work sheep.

The dingo took to this work intelligently and became a splendid sheepdog.

It obeyed orders just like the other sheepdogs, and never showed any desire to bite or savage sheep.

The dingo also hunted with the station dogs, caught rabbits and hares with them, and was generally regarded as a fine, living exhibit of the perfectly domesticated and disciplined dingo.

So that when some sheep were found dead in a paddock one morning, it was hard to believe that this well-trained and well-behaved dingo could have been responsible.

Still, the experiment had not terminated—could not end, in fact, for the natural life of the dingo, which had to be suspect.

The dingo was tested by chaining and unchaining him on alternate nights.

It was found, that when the dingo was chained up, no sheep were killed, but when he was unchained, sheep were found dead in the paddocks.

That seemed to point to the apparently tamed and domesticated dingo as the killer, but to make doubly sure, a close watch was set at the station and out in the paddocks on another night, when the dingo had been left off the chain.

That night, when the dingo thought everything was quiet about the homestead, and everyone had gone to bed, it was seen to leave the yard, and move out across the paddocks in the direction of another watcher.

Some minutes later the dingo was found attacking sheep — caught in the act.

The dingo had proved a perfectly tame pet of the children, and a good sheepdog by day, but at night, the beast’s killer instinct got the better of years of domesticated training and discipline, and it went out to kill for killing’s sake.

Do dingoes eat kangaroos?

Yes, dingoes will eat kangaroos if they get the opportunity.

In the past, it was believed dingoes were exclusively carnivorous, but studies have shown that they will eat a wide range of foods, including human rubbish. The diet of dingoes is largely dependent on what is available in their current environment.

Dingoes mainly eat medium-sized mammals, but also consume birds, reptiles and insects. They will also eat fruits such as native figs and watermelons when available.

Kangaroos are an important prey item for dingoes in some areas, but not all. In areas where kangaroos are present in large numbers, they can be a major part of the dingo’s diet. But in other areas, they may not be eaten at all because there are other more common prey species available such as rabbits, wombats and hares.

Do dingoes eat humans?

Dingoes can be dangerous to humans, especially children. In some situations, close interaction between dingoes and humans, especially feeding dingoes, has led to dangerous habituation and attacks. The majority of attacks were caused by scavenging dingoes that had become dependent on human handouts, but isolated unprovoked attacks on children have also occurred.

Feeding dingoes makes them lose their natural fear of humans and exposes people to the risk of bites and scratches. Scavenging by habituated dingoes that have developed a taste for human food can be a major problem in populated areas. The Queensland Government advises against feeding or interfering with dingoes, particularly with misguided attempts to rescue pups.

Fraser Island is home to a large dingo population. The island has a long history of problems between native dingoes and human visitors. To protect visitors from potentially dangerous encounters with dingoes, it is illegal to feed any wild animal on Fraser Island. All young children must be supervised at all times, as they may attract dingoes with play-like movements.

Conclusion of the dingo as a pet

The dingo is not a domesticated dog. Although dingoes will bond with humans, they are still wild animals, and owners should be aware of their characteristics, as well as the risks.

The dingo is not suitable as a pet for everyone. Dingoes can be loyal and affectionate to humans, but they are opportunistic feeders that require constant supervision.

Dingoes are very powerful animals that will eat almost anything they can get their mouths around. They have been known to attack livestock and domestic pets.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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