The Indian Wild Dog (Dhol)

Cuon Alpinus

Better known by its indigenous name, Dhole, the Indian Wild Dog is a fearsome predator. Lithe and agile, they hunt in packs of six or seven at a time.

They inhabit tropical jungles like Nagarhole and the Western Ghats, and deciduous forests in Central India like Pench and Kanha, as well as in the North East.

The Wild Dog has several subspecies and in India, we generally find the Asiatic Wild Dog. Their local name Dhole means ‘reckless’ or ‘daring’.

It’s appearance is almost fox-like, with compact tan-coloured bodies, pointy ears and bushy tails. They are a critically endangered species on the IUCN Red List, and today only about 3000 of them survive. Dhole are territorial animals and usually in clans. Unlike other dogs or even wolves, they neither bark nor howl. Instead, they have a high-pitched whistling shriek with which they communicate with one another, which gives them their nickname – Whistling Hunters.

They can take down an animal eight times larger than themselves, and they know no fear, often going head to head with tigers and leopards.

Unlike the tiger which goes for the jugular, the dhole first cripples the animal with a lethal bite to its limbs, and then the entire pack will start to feed off it, even before it has died. Watching these dogs while they hunt is a hair-raising experience. They move at lightning speed, surrounding their prey, which is generally a deer or an antelope, but could even be as large as a wild bison,(Gaur) and bring it down.