Bearing a close resemblance with foxes, jackals belong to a family of dog-like carnivores found primarily in Africa and some parts of Europe and Asia.
Jackals are omnivores despite being members of the carnivore family, and research by experts indicates that the earliest remains of jackal species date as far back as five million years.
Generally, jackals have coats of hair that vary between gold, brown, and yellow, which often change depending on the season.
The color of jackals helps them blend well into their surroundings, as they are commonly found in the African savanna, which has more light brown grasses and leaves.
This camouflage helps the animals stay hidden from predators and other smaller prey. Jackals are often called opportunistic omnivores, going after smaller animals.
When in a pack, usually consisting of between 10 and 30 jackals, these animals can take down even bigger predators like leopards or hyenas.
The modern use of the word “jackal” refers to three extant jackal species, which you will get to know below.
3. The Golden Jackal
The golden jackal, otherwise known as the common jackal, is native to Southeast Europe and several parts of Asia.
Various genetic studies revealed that the golden jackal evolved in India around 20,000 years ago, but its first ancestor is believed to have existed almost two million years ago.
Unlike other jackal species, the golden jackal shares more history with wolves and coyotes.
The golden jackal looks almost exactly like the gray wolf except for some physical differences.
On average, the golden jackal has long and pointed ears, and unlike the gray wolf, this species is smaller and does not weigh as much.
They also have shorter legs and a more elongated torso, and their foreheads are not as prominent. The average golden jackal measures between 27 and 33 inches long and weighs between 13 and 31 pounds.
The animal has a short, coarse coat that varies in color depending on the place and season, ranging from yellow to light gold with brown ends.
Golden jackals that live close to humans are strictly nocturnal, but those that live in other settlements with little to no human involvement are diurnal.
Most of the jackals’ activities are shared with their companions because they live in pairs.
The diet of these jackals, who are known to be predators and scavengers, varies depending on their habitat and the time of year.
The golden jackal can exist in various settings due to its omnivorous diet, tolerance of arid circumstances, and ability to eat various foods.
These jackals are widely distributed from North and East Africa to southeastern Europe and South Asia.
While uncommon in hillsides and low mountains, they are frequently found in lowlands and along rivers, lakes, canals, and seashores.
2. The Side-Striped Jackal
The side-striped jackal, or Lupulella adusta, is primarily found in central and southern Africa.
This jackal species is similar to the golden jackal in size. They also weigh between 14 and 31 pounds and have a total body length of around 27 to 32 inches.
One of the most noticeable differences between this species and the golden jackal is the color of their fur.
The side-striped jackal’s color is a shade of gray. Its underside is a shade of gray that is not as dark as the rest of its body, while its tail is black with a gray tip.
On the sides, faint white stripes span from elbow to hip. The intensity of the markings varies in different jackals, with adult markings being more clearly defined than younger ones.
The side-striped jackal is a highly adaptable omnivore whose dietary choices alter in response to seasonal and geographical differences.
They also tend to be less carnivorous than other jackal species. During the wet season, they primarily eat invertebrates, and during the dry months, they eat small mammals like springhares.
Like the golden jackal, side-striped jackals are also known scavengers. They commonly scavenge from campsites and the carcasses of larger predators.
Furthermore, they consume wild fruits, plants, and miniature antelopes.
Side-striped jackals are territorial and solitary but can live alone or in family groupings. A breeding pair rules each family group, which can have up to seven members.
They frequently hunt at night alone or in pairs. Africa’s central and southern regions are home to side-striped jackals.
While they may exist in many different types of habitats, they like to live in woodland, scrubland, savanna, grassland, agricultural regions, marshes, and even urban areas.
1. The Black-Backed Jackal
Also called the silver-backed jackal or Lupulella mesomelas, the black-backed jackal is native to eastern and southern Africa.
Compared to the other jackal species, the black-backed jackal is the smallest, but not by a lot. This species usually weighs between 13 and 29 pounds and reaches a length between 26 and 32 inches.
Several noticeable features tell it apart from other jackal species, the first being its head. The head of black-backed jackals is dog-like with their pointed ears and muzzles.
They also have a different fur color from the others, ranging from red to brown and tan.
The jackal’s saddle, which extends from the base of its bushy tail to the nape of its neck, is long, dark, and infused with silver.
Like other jackal species, the black-backed jackal is omnivorous. The animal feeds primarily on invertebrates, such as beetles and grasshoppers.
It also goes after smaller mammals like hares, rabbits, and baby antelopes. The diet of the black-backed jackal depends on its habitat choice as well as the dietary options available.
In regions where the larger side-striped jackal and the smaller black-backed jackal are sympatric, the side-striped species forces the black-backed jackal out of grassland habitats and into forests.
The black-backed jackal inhabits several habitats, including mountains, deserts, and coastal regions. However, they stay away from ponds and swamps and favor dry places.
Black-backed jackals are exceptionally resourceful and adaptive creatures. These jackals stay away from humans and do not attack larger animals.
They are also nocturnal and diurnal, depending on their proximity to areas primarily inhabited by humans.
This species is also very social and enjoys spending time in groups and families.