10 Types of Wild Dogs

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: November 2, 2021
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For those of us who are used to domesticated dog breeds, it’s hard to think of dogs as wild. But they exist, and there are even several different breeds. With so many different types of wild dogs out there, here are facts about the most common, well-known, or those with extensive habitat ranges, plus facts about big, small, and rare ones. Read on to learn more about the different types of wild dogs from around the world.

African Wild Dog

Types of Wild Dogs
The African wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals and can be identified by its long legs and irregular fur patterns.

iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky

Also called the African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, or painted dog, its scientific name (Lycaon pictus) means “painted wolf.” It refers to its mottled fur color pattern. This canine species is native to the grasslands, forests, and deserts of sub-Saharan Africa, and is the only living member of the genus Lycaon. The African Wild Dog is the most efficient hunter of any big predator, with an 80% or higher success rate. Differing from the more common genus Canis, it has highly specialized teeth for a hyper carnivorous diet and no dewclaws. It is the largest wild canine species in Africa and the second-largest in the world. Prey-wise it targets several species of African ruminants, warthogs, hares, cane rats, and insects. Although now rare, it is one of the most dangerous wild dogs.

Bush Dog

Types of Wild Dogs
A captive bush dog at the Sables Zoo in Sables d’Olonne in France.

iStock.com/Christian Decout

A small Central and South American wild canine species, the bush dog is related to the Maned Wolf and the African Wild Dog. It is also the only living species of the genus Speothos. With long, soft, brownish fur and reddish tinges, a bushy tail, and a dark underside, it has short legs, a short snout, and small ears. Like the dhole and the African wild dog, it has a unique dental formula for its carnivorous diet, which consists of all big rodents such as capybaras, agouti, and pacas. It cannot breed with other canids to create fertile hybrids. The three recognized subspecies are the South American bush dog, the Panamanian bush dog, and the southern bush dog. It is one of the most dangerous wild dogs, although it is now rare.

Dingo

Types of Wild Dogs
The dingo (Canis familiaris dingo, Canis familiaris, Canis dingo, or Canis lupus dingo) is a legendary dog from Australia’s prehistoric lineage.

iStock.com/Andrew Haysom

An ancient dog lineage that is native to Australia, the dingo was introduced to the country by seafarers about 4,500 years ago. Although its scientific name is Canis lupus dingo, its taxonomic classification differs depending on the classification. There is no consensus as to whether it is a wolf, a primitive dog, a missing link between wolf and domestic dog, half-wolf half-dog, or a distinct species. It is also debated whether it is the true ancestor of modern domestic dogs. However, facts about genetic testing show it is related to the New Guinea highland wild dog and the New Guinea singing dog, with its lineage separating early on from that which led to modern domesticated dogs.

This medium-sized canine species has a fur color of cream, black, and tan, or tan, with a big, wedge-shaped head. 80% of its diet consists of wombats, rats, rabbits, possums, kangaroos, wallabies, goose, and cattle. For the indigenous Australians, the dingo was used as camp dogs, living hot water bottles, and hunting aids, with their scalps traded as currency, fur for traditional costumes, and teeth for decoration. Today, it is considered a pest by livestock owners and one of the most dangerous wild dogs. The Shiba Inu is similar to the dingo but whereas the Shiba Inu has been fully domesticated, the dingo has not.

Maned Wolf

Types of Wild Dogs
The maned wolf is the largest canid of South America and looks more like a long-legged fox than a wolf. 

Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

Another South American wild canine species, the maned wolf is actually not a wolf despite its name, and it is not a fox despite its coloring, making it unique. It is the only species of the genus Chrysocyon, which means “golden dog.” It is also the largest species in South America and the tallest in the world. In appearance, it has reddish for, a plumed tail, and long, thin black legs. Like some other wild canine species, it is crepuscular, but its diet is omnivorous rather than carnivorous, eating small and medium-sized animals along with fruit, sugarcane, and tubers. It makes its home in open and semi-open habitats, especially grasslands. The name “maned wolf” refers to the mane on the back of its neck. “Skunk wolf” is its nickname, which refers to the strong odor of its territorial markings. It is now rare.

Red Wolf

Types of Wild Dogs
A red wolf on the move at the Sewee Center in South Carolina.

iStock.com/cmicah

A native of the southeastern United States, the red wolf is a close relative of the eastern wolf. Physically, it is a cross between the grey wolf and the coyote, and there is no consensus on its taxonomic classification. Its original habitat distribution included the south-central United States and the northern United States and it went almost extinct due to crossbreeding with coyotes, habitat loss, and predator-control programs. It is now rare. The wild canine species was an important figure in pre-colonization Cherokee spiritual beliefs, and the Cherokee avoided killing it so as not to anger its pack-mates.

Grey Wolf

Types of Wild Dogs
Grey wolf from the Wapiti Lake Pack getting ready to cross the road in Yellowstone National Park.

iStock.com/mtnmichelle

The grey wolf is the wolf’s type species and has over 30 subspecies. It is native to North America and Eurasia. The largest canine species of the family Canidae is known for pack cooperation for hunting big prey, the pack structure of the nuclear family headed by an alpha male and an alpha female, and being the ancestor of the domestic dog. It is related to the golden jackal and coyote and can crossbreed to create fertile hybrids, such as the coywolf. In contrast, the Mexican wolf is a small species.

Arctic Fox

Types of Wild Dogs
The Arctic Fox has a keen sense of smell and can detect lemmings in their nests under the snow.

iStock.com/MikeLane45

Also called the snow fox, polar fox, or white fox, this wild canine species is native to the Arctic regions where it makes its home in the tundra, living in underground dens. The arctic fox is incredibly adorable and delicate-looking. However, it is tough enough to survive some of the coldest temperatures. Thick, fluffy fur, a fluffy, big tail, and a rounded body provide warmth and prevent loss of body heat, while its white coloring provides camouflage. Its diet is largely carnivorous, with the canine species eating waterfowl, seabirds, fish, ringed seal pups, voles, and lemmings along with carrion, insects, and other small invertebrates, seaweed, and berries.

Red Fox

Types of Wild Dogs
Red foxes have excellent hearing—they can hear rodents digging miles underground.

iStock.com/William Chua

One of the natural predators of the arctic fox, the red fox is the largest of the true foxes, of which there are 12 species, while the Bengal fox and fennec fox are small. Like other fox species, it lives in underground dens, has whiskers on its face as well as legs, and does not chew its food but tears it into smaller pieces. Dog-like features, a bushy tail, and high-pitched shrieking mating calls make it the most well-known of the foxes. As a nocturnal canine species, its main prey is small rodents, which it catches with a high pounce. It is a common target for pest control, fur, and sport, with its tail being cut off and used as a trophy, called a “brush.”

Jackal

Types of Wild Dogs
Black-Backed Jackal adult in the Savuti area of the Chobe National Park in Botswana.

iStock.com/StuPorts

The word “jackal” refers to either one of three subspecies: the golden or common jackal of Asia and south-central Europe, plus the black-backed or silver-backed jackal and the side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa. The golden jackal lives in arid grasslands, deserts, and open savannahs, the black-backed jackal lives in woodlands and savannahs, and the side-striped jackal lives in mountains, bushland, marshes, and savannahs. The jackal is related to the coyote. It can run up to 9.9 mph.

As a nocturnal predator, it is an opportunistic omnivore and eats small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, carrion, insects, fruit, and plants. Each jackal family has its own yipping sound, with the side-striped jackal being able to hoot like an owl. Like coyotes and foxes, this canine species is not only an opportunistic carnivore but is considered to be clever and magical in myths and legends. It is also in superstitions about death and evil spirits. Used as a literary device, the jackal symbolizes abandonment, loneliness, and desolation.

Coyote

Types of Wild Dogs
Opportunistic coyotes will take advantage of pet food, garbage, and other food left out by humans, especially in urban environments.

The coyote is a native North American canine species. It is smaller than its relative the wolf, eastern wolf, and red wolf, and larger than the golden jackal. Although it is more predatory than the golden jackal, its ecological niche is very similar. There are 19 recognized subspecies of coyotes. Mostly carnivorous, its diet consists of invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, rodents, hares, rabbits, and deer, with the occasional fruits and vegetables.

Although grey wolves are among its threats, it sometimes breeds with eastern, red, or grey wolves to produce the coywolf. It also sometimes breeds with dogs to produce coydogs. The name “coyote” comes from an indigenous word meaning “barking dog,” and it does have similar sounds to those of dogs, but about 12 distinct calls. It is a fast runner, able to run up to 40mph, and an excellent swimmer.

Not just living in the wild, it has adapted to urban and suburban areas. Like foxes, it is a pest, but can also aid in pest control of rodents. And like wolves, it has similar behavior, such as living in dens. It hunts alone for small prey or in packs for larger prey, going on tiptoe, and sometimes with badgers, which are great diggers to the coyote’s excellent sense of hearing. In Native American folklore, it is a trickster. The snow coyotes of Newfoundland are rare.

Wild Dogs Facts

  • Wild dogs are the second most dangerous predators after the big cat family.
  • The Honshu Wolf was the world’s smallest wild dog, but it has been extinct since 1905 due to diseases such as rabies.
  • The New Guinea Singing Dog exists only in captivity.
  • Wild Dogs are nomadic and this lifestyle has not only influenced their critical status, it also means no nature reserves can comfortably hold them.
  • They make strange noises, grin, and bow to each other.
  • Their hunting style is to tear their prey apart as a group.
  • They generally live in packs of 2 to 10, but up to 40 or more.
  • They can run at up to 44mph.

The different types of wild dogs are generally divided into dogs, coyotes, foxes, wolves, jackals, dingoes, and other canids. There tend to be several subspecies of each which differ depending on climate and geography. Some look quite primitive, while others look very similar to our modern pets and working dogs. Even so, they can never be fully domesticated.

Next Up: Types of Big Dogs

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