Black-backed Jackal - Canis mesomelas

• Hedgehog - Atelerix frontalis • Bushbabies - Lorisidae • Greater cane rat - Thryonomys swinderianus • Baboons and Monkeys - Cercopithecidae • Pangolin - Manis temminckii • Antbear - Orycteropus afer • Hares - Leporidae • Squirrels - Sciuridae • Spring Hare - Pedietes capensis • Porcupine - Hystrix africaeausralis • Jackals and Foxes - Canidae • Weasels, Polecats, Badgers and Otters - Mustelidae • Civets, Suricates, Genets and Mongooses - Viveridae • Haenas - Hayenidae • Cats - Felidae • Hyraxes - Procaviidae • Pigs - Suidae • Antelope - Bovidae • Rhinocerus - Rhinocerotidae • Zebras - Equidae • Hippopotamus - Hippopotamus amphibius • Giraffe - Giraffa cameloperdalis • Elephant - Loxodonata africana •

Wild Dog - Lycaon Pictus | Cape Fox - Vulpes chama | Black-backed Jackal - Canis mesomelas | Bat-eared Fox - Otocyon megalotis | Side-striped Jackal - Canis adustus


Afrikaans Rooijakkals Zulu Mpungutshe Tswana Phokojwe Shangaan Impungutshe Shona Hungubwe

wpeC.jpg (10473 bytes)

5 cm


5 cm
Usually contains hair, insect fragments and bone chips

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

 The base of the tail brown but darkens towards the black tip. The tip of the tail of the side-striped jackal is nearly always white.

Habitat and Distribution

Almost any habitat but not thick forest. The Black-backed jackal is independent of water and is more common towards the drier west.


Eats a wide variety of food: rodents, hares, rabbits, small antelope and the young of larger species, sheep, small carnivores, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, carrion, fruit and garbage.  Frequently eats small portions of grass to aid digestion. Black-backed Jackals have such a wide dietary range that the most unusual meals are taken. Here a Kalahari jackal made a midnight snack of one of my boots. 


Litters of 2-8 (average 5) is produced after gestation of 60 days, of which 1 or 2 survive to 14 weeks. Pups are weaned at 8-10 weeks and begins foraging at 14 weeks. Black-backed jackals are full grown at just over one years and sexually mature at 11 months. They will not breed until paired up and established on a territory. Lifespan six years. They are occasionally killed by larger carnivores and regularly eaten by leopards and brown hyenas. Both parents bring food for the pups, regurgitating the stomach contents. As the pups mature food for them is carried in the mouth. Mature individuals may stay in the parents' territory. Jackals are canny: they very quickly become wary of traps and poisoned baits. The learn from one another to avoid them.

Behavior and Habits

Active at dawn and dusk with activity throughout the day and night. Black-backed jackals adapt well and become more nocturnal in farming areas where it is hunted. They normally shelter at night in holes and rest during the day in shade or suns in cold weather. Carrion is detected with nthe excellent sense of smell and carrion can be detected from at least 1 km downwind. The calls of large carnivores at a kill attracts jackals and they may follow large carnivores in anticipation of a kill.

Rodents are captured with a typical high-arching pounce and pinned down with the forefeet. They are swiftly bitten across the back and neck and killed. More resilient prey is shaken vigorously. Carcasses are ripped open at the flank. The softer and easier items such kidneys, liver, heart and tips of the ribs are eaten. When with large carnivores on a kill, jackals wait their turn or dash in and steal scraps of meat. They may pester hyenas so much that the hyenas will abandon part of a carcass. Quick enough to avoid lions and hyenas, the are careful of cheetahs. Surplus food is hidden or buried.

Black-backed jackals live in mated pairs but are nearly always seen alone although family groups of up to six can sometimes be seen foraging together. Mating pairs form at about three years old and stay together for life. If one partner dies the other will find a new mate. Mated pairs are territorial and males expel males and females expel females from the area. Territories can cover 1 800 ha in size but varies with habitat. Both sexes scent mark with urine.


The long-range contact call is a typical African night sound: a distinctive wailing 'nyaa-a-a-a'. Each jackal has an individually recognizable call. Large predators such as leopards are mobbed with a persistent sharp yapping. A sharp bark or a rumbling growl is an alarm signal given by adults to pups.

Field sign

Cylindrical droppings with tapered ends are 1-2 cm thick. The dung  usually contains hair, insect fragments and bone chips. Dung is very often deposited in a prominent position.

On sheep and lamb kills tooth marks are on either side of the windpipe spaced between 23 and 30 mm apart. Carcasses opened at the flank with kidneys, liver, heart and tips of ribs eaten and no large bones broken. Caracals leave claw marks and start feeding inside the back legs.


Safari Media Africa/C.A. Mitchell 2000-2012

Developed by