AskDefine | Define dhole

Dictionary Definition

dhole n : fierce wild dog of the forests of central and southeast Asia that hunts in packs [syn: Cuon alpinus]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An Asian wild dog, Cuon alpinus

Extensive Definition

The Dhole (Cuon alpinus), also known as the Asiatic Wild Dog, Indian Wild Dog or Red Dog is a mammal of the order Carnivora, and the only member of the genus Cuon.



The Dhole bears many physical similarities to the African Wild Dog and the Bush Dog, most notably in the redundancy of the post-carnassial molars, though whether this is an example of convergence or close relationship is a matter of debate. The tail measures 40-45 centimeters (16-18 inches) in length. At 10 days their body weight has doubled, and body length is 340mm. Pups are weaned between 6 and 9 weeks. In captivity, weaning is sometimes recorded later on in the range. By 8 weeks, younglings are less quarrelsome and aggressive, and more vigilant. At three months litters go on hunts, though the pack may not be fully mobile until eight months. Young reach sexual maturity at about a year, and full adult size at 15 months.
After birth, a few other adults will help to feed the young of the dominant pair. The pups, as early as the age of three weeks, and the mother are fed regurgitated meat. When lone females breed, rearing the litters only results in limited success.


Dholes are in danger of catching infectious diseases when they come in contact with other animals, especially canines – including feral and domestic dogs. They have been known to suffer from mange, canine distemper, and trypanosomiasis. Canine parvovirus was recorded in Dhole populations in Hodenhagen, Germany and Chennai, India zoos. Sporadically, the Dhole is a health risk for human beings, since their excreta contain transmittable pathogens (e.g. Toxocara canis). Dhole waste has also been found to contain roundworm, cestodes, and other endoparasites. Like other canines, the Dhole can catch rabies; in the 1940s, rabid Dholes bit and infected villagers in the Biligirirangan Hills in India.



The Dhole is an ice age survivor like the Gray Wolf. During the ice age, the Dhole ranged across Eurasia and North America. A canid called the Sardinian Dhole (Cynotherium sardous) lived on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia during the Pleistocene, but it is not as closely related to the living species as its name would imply.


There are three recognized subspecies of the Dhole, although several others have been proposed and described, spanning different sizes and colors. Solitary Dholes usually limit themselves to small prey such as Chital fawns and Indian Hares, while a pair or trio of Dholes suffices to kill medium sized ungulates such as deer in 2 minutes. The Dhole manages to avoid competition with the Leopard and the Tiger by targetting smaller prey and hunting in daylight, unlike the nocturnal felids. The Dhole hunts by scent. It kills large prey in a manner similar to the African Wild Dog, disemboweling and eating the prey whilst it is still alive. The Dhole can eat up to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of meat in an hour, and will compete with one another over a kill through speed of eating rather than fighting. It typically consumes the heart, liver, eyeballs, rump and fetus first. The Dhole drinks frequently after eating, and will actively search for a water source once it has eaten sufficiently. Seasonal scarcity of food is not as much an issue to the Dhole as it is to wolves, so there is less of a rigid dominance hierarchy during feeding. Unlike some canids, the Dhole does not cache its food. Though the majority of its food is obtained by hunting, it will occasionally scavenge from Leopard and Tiger kills. The Dhole has on occasion been observed hunting with pariah dogs.

Population pressures

It is estimated that 2,500 mature individuals remain in the wild (mainly in wildlife sanctuaries and protected national parks) and the declining population trend is expected to continue.
One major threat to the Dhole is habitat destruction (and thus loss of prey which is aggravated by deer poaching). In India alone, over 40,000 square kilometers of forest has disappeared in the last 20 years. Also, in Vietnam, few natural forested areas over 50 square kilometers remain. The main factors in this were logging, firewood collection, flooding due to dam construction and agricultural expansion. Habitat deterioration fragments the Dhole population resulting in problems like disease (it is unclear whether this is a significant problem in Indo-China and Indonesia but definitely depletes the population in South Asia) and inbreeding, which have more permanent effects. Dhole habitat is also being transformed like in Sumatra.
Human persecution also contributes to the Dhole's decline (medicinal uses of the Dhole in areas such as China should be looked into). Indiscriminate snaring ("by-catch") and other non-selective hunting techniques have devastating results. The Dhole is regarded as vermin – on rare occasions, Dholes attack livestock at the cost of the owner, e.g. in Arunachal Pradesh - and has therefore been shot, trapped and poisoned (e.g. from strychnine). British colonial hunters also shot and poisoned Dhole-killed prey-carcasses because the canine was seen as a threat to local wild ungulate densities.
However, prejudice towards the Dhole still exists. Levels of persecution vary regionally depending on cultural principles, wildlife law enforcement and the intensity of livestock predation. Levels of persecution in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia are especially high. Upset farmers have been known to club pups to death at den sites (breeding and pup-rearing is sometimes inadvertently disrupted too).
Hunting and trapping for fur is not recorded as a significant contributor to the Dhole's decline perhaps because it is not numerous. In the 19th century, Dhole-fur was valuable in Ussuryisk Krai, and moving into the 20th century they were pricey in Manchuria. Now-a-days, the odd Dhole-skin is recorded as a curio. Currently, there is no known widespread exploitation of the pelts. Dhole mortalities as a result of road-kill are highest in India where many roads and trails cut through its habitat.
With suitable areas steadily diminishing and cattle being grazed within the forests, livestock occasionally fall prey to the Dhole. If protection is not rigidly enforced, stockmen retaliate by excavating the den and clubbing the pups to death. Generally, Dholes ignore domestic animals, but when its natural prey is diminished, it is led to starving. In India, farmers get compensated if there is definitive proof that their livestock has been killed by Dholes outside core protected areas.
The Dhole also sometimes preys on threatened species. For example, the Banteng numbers in Alas Purwo National Park (Java) were decreasing drastically due to Dhole predation. In the end, the Dhole population fell when Banteng were not numerous enough to support them. In Kanha, India, the Dhole preys on a rare, endemic subspecies of the Barasingha. Of course, it is primarily habitat loss that has pushed both these predators and prey towards endangerment and possible extinction.
Depletion of the Dhole's prey animal populations is another problem. In much of the Dhole's habitat, even in protected areas, ungulate populations are low. In Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, many species larger in size than a hare have been reduced significantly because of hunting. Muntjacs and southern serow are some of the few species that haven’t been severely affected. Prey numbers in Indonesia are also low.
Further pressures are applied by local villagers who steal the Dhole's kills for their own pot as Dholes do not attack humans and retreat at the sight of one. In this way, the Dhole has become an indirect food source for the people of the jungle. People who have been recorded scavenging Dhole-kills include Kuruma tribes of the Nilgiris in the south of India and at least one Mon Khmer-speaking tribe (Laos). In other regions such as Russia, poisons set out for wolves may be responsible for declines in the local Dhole population.


In India, bounties were paid for carcasses right up until when the Dhole was declared a Protected Species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Act of 1972 which prohibits the killing of wildlife except in self-defense; or if the Dhole is a man-killer – and, even then, permission is required. Hunting of the Dhole in the Soviet Union had been prohibited since 1971; it received the status of ‘protected animal’ in 1974.
In Vietnam, the Dhole is protected to a certain degree which limits extraction and utilization though levels of extraction and utilization are not quoted. In Cambodia, the Dhole is protected from hunting. A new forestry law is under preparation and a proposal to list the Dhole as a fully protected species is being discussed, although there appears to be no date set for its ratification. Also, large protected areas have been declared in Laos. The creation of Project Tiger Reserves has given some protection to the “dukhenesis” population. Project Tiger could potentially maintain Dhole prey-animal levels in Tiger-Dhole inhabited regions.
There are about 110 dholes in captivity (including in Dresden, Beijing, Winnipeg, and Howletts), with an even ratio of males to females. There are no current research programs investigating dholes. There have been no attempts to reintroduce the Dhole yet.

Fictional appearances

An award-winning Indian film called Wild Dog Diaries, photographed by the duo Krupakar-Senani portrays the behaviour of a pack of Dholes.
Dholes appear in Rudyard Kipling's 1895 children's story "Red Dog" (originally published as "Good Hunting", subsequently included in The Second Jungle Book) as a threat to Mowgli's wolf pack, appearing somewhat more aggressive in the story than in real life. The story was later adapted in Jungle Cubs with the Dholes being rather foolish and greedy.
In an episode called "Alpha" in season six of The X-Files, a cryptid Dhole from China is blamed for multiple killings.

Cited references

dhole in Bulgarian: Азиатско диво куче
dhole in Cebuano: Cuon
dhole in Czech: Dhoul
dhole in Danish: Dhole
dhole in German: Rothund
dhole in Spanish: Cuon alpinus
dhole in French: Dhole
dhole in Korean: 승냥이
dhole in Indonesian: Ajag
dhole in Italian: Cuon alpinus
dhole in Hebrew: דהול
dhole in Georgian: წითელი მგელი
dhole in Lithuanian: Raudonasis vilkas
dhole in Hungarian: Ázsiai vadkutya
dhole in Malay (macrolanguage): Anjing Hutan
dhole in Dutch: Dhole
dhole in Japanese: ドール
dhole in Norwegian: Asiatisk villhund
dhole in Polish: Cyjon
dhole in Portuguese: Raposa-asiática-dos-montes
dhole in Russian: Красный волк
dhole in Sundanese: Ajag
dhole in Finnish: Vuorisusi
dhole in Swedish: Asiatisk vildhund
dhole in Thai: หมาใน
dhole in Turkish: Asya yaban köpeği
dhole in Contenese: 亞洲豺犬
dhole in Chinese: 豺
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