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Black-backed Jackal: Wikis


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Black-backed Jackal[1]
Fossil range: Pliocene[2] - Recent
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. mesomelas
Binomial name
Canis mesomelas
(Schreber, 1775)
Black-backed Jackal range

The Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas), also known as the Silver-backed Jackal is a species of jackal which inhabits two areas of the African continent separated by roughly 900 kilometers. One region includes the southern-most tip of the continent including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The other area is along the eastern coastline, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.[4]

The fossil record indicates that the Black-backed Jackal is the oldest living member of the genus Canis.[2]



As its name suggests, the species' most distinguishing feature is the silver-black fur running from the back of the neck to the base of the tail. The chest and under parts are white to rusty-white, whereas the rest of the body ranges from reddish brown to ginger. Females tend not to be as richly colored as males. The winter coat of adult males develops a reddish to an almost deep russet red color.[4]

The Black-backed Jackal is typically 14–19 in (36–48 cm) high at the shoulder, 45–90 cm (18–35 in) long and 15–30 lb (6.8–14 kg) in weight.[5] Specimens in the southern part of the continent tend to be larger than their more northern cousins.[4]

The Black-backed Jackal is noticeably more slender than other species of jackals, with large, erect, pointed ears.



The Black-backed Jackal's skull is similar to that of the Side-striped Jackal, but is less flat, and has a shorter, broader rostrum. Its sagittal crest and zygomatic arches are also heavier in build. Its carnassials are larger than those of the more omnivorous Side-striped Jackal.[6]

Scent glands are present on the face and the anus and genital regions. The Black-backed Jackal has 6-8 mammae.[5]


The Black-backed Jackal usually lives together in pairs that last for life, but often hunts in packs to catch larger prey such as the Impala and antelopes. It is very territorial; each pair dominates a permanent territory. It is mainly nocturnal, but sometimes comes out in the day. Its predators include the Leopard and humans. Jackals are sometimes killed for their furs, or because they are considered predators of livestock.

Diet and hunting

A pair of Black-backed Jackals scavenging on a Cape Fur Seal carcass

The Black-backed Jackal is a versatile feeder, and will alter its diet according to availability or interspecific competition. It typically feeds on small to medium sized mammals (such as murids, the Springhare and young ungulates), reptiles and birds. It will also scavenge on carrion and human refuse. Other food items include invertebrates, plants, fish, seals and beached marine mammals.[4]

The Black-backed Jackal is a social feeder, and can sometimes be seen feeding on large carcasses in groups ranging from 8--10 individuals. Eighty jackals have been recorded to congregate at seal colonies on the Namib Coast, though this is sometimes accompanied by intraspecific aggression. The Black-backed Jackal may occasionally form packs in order to bring down large prey like the Impala and some antelope species.[4]

The Black-backed Jackal may pose a danger toward livestock, especially lambs and kids.[4]


The Black-backed Jackal has a 2-month gestation period. Each litter consists of 3--6 pups, each of which weighs 200--250 grams. At 8 months,the pups are old enough to leave their parents and establish territories of their own. Often, a young jackal returns to help the parents raise another litter. In these cases, the next litter is much more likely to survive. Like several jackal species, the Black-backed Jackal is typically monogamous.


The Black-backed Jackal occurs in a wide variety of African habitats, such as open woodlands, scrubland, savanna, and bush. They can easily adapt to different habitats. They are quite common throughout their range, and have a low risk of endangerment.


There are two recognized subspecies of this canid:[1]

  • Canis mesomelas mesomelas
  • Canis mesomelas schmidti


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.  
  2. ^ a b Macdonald, David (1992). The Velvet Claw. p. 256. ISBN 0563208449.  
  3. ^ Loveridge & Nel (2008). Canis mesomelas. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 11 May 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Black-backed jackal". Retrieved 2007-09-13.  
  5. ^ a b "Black-backed jackal". Lioncrusher's Domain. Retrieved 2007-09-13.  
  6. ^ "Side-Striped Jackal". Retrieved 2008-11-13.  


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