Emaciated dingo showing its usual "white socked" feet and scarring
The dingo is a dog that is native to Australia. The species name is debated: it is variously called Canis familiaris,Canis familiaris dingo,Canis lupus dingo, or Canis dingo. It is either a purebred, if breeding only in the wild, or a hybrid of a dingo and a domesticated dog. It is a medium-sized canid that possesses a lean, hardy body adapted for speed, agility, and stamina. The dingo's three main coat colours are: light ginger or tan, black and tan, or creamy white. The skull, the widest part of the dingo, is wedge-shaped and large in proportion to the body. It differs from that of the domestic dog by its larger palatal width, longer rostrum, shorter skull height, and wider sagittal crest.
The earliest known dingo fossil, found in Western Australia, dates to 3,450 years ago, which led to the presumption that dingoes came to Australia with seafarers prior to that time. Dingo morphology has not changed over the past 3,500 years: this suggests that no artificial selection has been applied over this period.
The dingo is closely related to the New Guinea singing dog: their lineage split early from the lineage that led to today's domestic dogs, and can be traced back through the Malay Archipelago to Asia. A recent genetic study shows that the lineage of those dingoes found today in the northwestern part of the Australian continent split from the lineage of the New Guinea singing dog and southeastern dingo 6,300 BC, followed by a split between the New Guinea singing dog lineage from the southeastern dingo lineage 5,800 BC. The study proposes that two dingo migrations occurred when sea levels were lower and Australia and New Guinea formed one landmass named Sahul that existed until 6,500–8,000 years ago. Seafarers from south-west Sulawesi in modern-day Indonesia may have brought the dingo to northern Australia.
The dingo's habitat covers most of Australia, but they are completely absent in the southwest, a strip on the eastern coast, and an area on the southwest coast (see map). Dingos prey on mammals up to the size of the large red kangaroo, in addition to birds, reptiles, fish, crabs, frogs, insects, and seeds. The dingo's competitors include the native quoll, the introduced European red fox and the feral cat. A dingo pack usually consists of a mated pair, their offspring from the current year, and sometimes offspring from the previous year.
The first British colonists who settled at Port Jackson in 1788 recorded dingoes living with indigenous Australians. When livestock farming began expanding across Australia in the early 19th century, dingos began preying on sheep and cattle. Numerous population-control measures have been implemented since then, with only limited success. The dingo is recognised as a native animal under the laws of all Australian jurisdictions. It is listed as a "vulnerable species" on the IUCN Red List due to declining numbers.
The only domestic animal they have is the dog, which in their language is called Dingo, and a good deal resembles the fox dog of England. These animals are equally shy of us, and attached to the natives. One of them is now in the possession of the Governor, and tolerably well reconciled to his new master.
The variants include "tin-go" for a bitch, "din-go" for a dog, and "wo-ri-gal" for a big dog. The dingo has been given different names in the Indigenous Australian languages, including "boolomo, dwer-da, joogoong, kal, kurpany, maliki, mirigung, noggum, papa-inura, and wantibirri. Some authors propose that a difference existed between camp dingoes and wild dingoes as they had different names among indigenous tribes. The people of the Yarralin, Northern Territory region frequently call those dingoes that live with them walaku, and those that live in the wilderness ngurakin. They also use the name walaku to refer to both dingoes and dogs. The colonial settlers of New South Wales wrote using the name dingo only for camp dogs. It is proposed that in New South Wales the camp dingoes only became wild after the collapse of Aboriginal society.