Imagine a typical canid for just a second. You probably think of a dog or wolf right? As it turns out there are about 35 species of canids in 13 genera. They include domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes, dingos, dholes, and jackals.
Most canids are solitary animals, hunting alone. However, there are four species that form packs: Wolf, African hunting dog, Asian dhole, and the bush dog. It is believed that humans and wolves engaged in cooperative hunting rituals around 15,000 years ago. This cooperation soon led to the domestication of the dog.
With few exceptions, canids forage for small game animals, like rabbits, squirrels, or small birds. Larger canids have been known to hunt elk, deer, and even moose. Jackals eat carrion on the African plains. The bat-eared fox eats large amounts of insects. Occasionally canids will even eat vegetable matter, although this is rare.
Many canids are endangered or have already gone extinct. In many of the cases where canids are threatened, the main cause is competition with humans. In particular, ranchers see canids as competition and have actively sought their extermination. The Faukland’s Wolf was driven to extinction in the 1870s in this manner. Coyotes were the target of state and federal control programs because of their threat to livestock. Even today, the wolf is endangered in the lower 48 states, only being successful in a few areas around Yellowstone National Park and in states bordering Canada, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Endangered canids include the Simien Jackal, Red Wolf, African Hunting Dog, and Wolf. If you want to help in canid conservation efforts, find a local activist group such as the predator conservation trust or the International Wolf Center.
There is great diversity within the canids. They range naturally in all continents except Australia (dingos were introduced some 4,000 years ago) and Antarctica. The following are species in the family Canidae: