The Dhole: Asia’s Unique Species of Endangered Wild Dog

Image of a DholePhoto: law_keven

The Dhole is also called the Asiatic Wild Dog or Cuon alpinus. It is not closely related to any other canine, so it is a species apart from dogs, wolves, foxes or dingoes. This native of Southern Asia is an endangered species.

Dhole Facts in Appearance and Behaviour

Weighing between 12 and 18 kilograms (25 to 40 pounds), a Dhole is roughly as large as a border collie. The coat may vary from dark grey to sand-coloured yellow, but usually is as red as rust. White accents on the chest, belly and paws give it a “foxy” look, although the rounded ears detract from that comparison.

A pack of Dholes may number about ten, although sometimes four times that number have been reported in one group. A pack generally has only one breeding female; males usually outnumber females.

Many of us whistle to summon our dogs. The Dhole whistles too… to summon other members of the pack, if they become separated while hunting.

Dholes are predators that hunt in packs. In India, prey species include the Axis deer and the Banteng, a species of wild cattle.

Image of Grazing Axis DeerPhoto: OpenCage

The Banteng are wild and live in hillside forests in India. However, some are domesticated and known as Bali cattle.

Picture of a BantengPhoto: Silvain de Munck

Where Do the Dhole Live?
Dhole the Asian Wild DogPhoto: OpenCage

The Dhole seem to prefer dry or moist tropical forests, especially in India. They are also found in other regions, including dry thorn forests, grasslands with scrub trees, and, as the scientific name indicates, alpine steppe regions.

Outside of India, Dhole have been reported recently in Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, North Korea, Thailand, Tibet, and Viet Nam. They may be extinct in Bangladesh; they are, or were, native to several other countries including China and Mongolia.

Dhole in a Canadian Zoo during WinterPhoto: Mike Bowler

As these two images show, the Dhole also survive in captivity. The above photograph was taken at a Canadian zoo. Below is an image by OpenCage from Asia.

Dhole the Asian Wild DogPhoto: OpenCage

Why the Dhole are an Endangered Species

Sleeping DholePhoto: Kabacchi

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or IUCN, rates the Dhole as an endangered species. They estimate that only 2,500 mature individuals are extant in the wild.

Sometimes farmers in India protect their Banteng by snaring or poisoning any Dhole packs that venture out of protected reserves.

In Cambodia and Viet Nam, the Dhole’s prey species are becoming scarce; this puts serious pressure on the Dhole’s ability to survive. In much of South Asia, habitat loss and fragmentation are taking a toll on the Dhole’s ability to hunt.

Picture of a DholePhoto: bobosh_t

L. Durbin,, “Dhole Home Page“, 1997-2005, referenced April 30, 2011.
L. Durbin,, “Dhole Fact File“, referenced May 5, 2011.
IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, “Dhole (Cuon alpinus)“, copyright 2008, referenced May 5, 2011.
Durbin, L.S., et. al., IUCN, “Cuon alpinus“, referenced May 5, 2011.