Jackals are small omnivorous canines related to the dog family, which includes domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes and wolves. There are three. Species of jackals, and the most common are the side-striped and the black-back jackals, though the golden jackal has been spotted.
Jackals are small omnivorous canines related to the dog family, which includes domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes and wolves. They look like a cross between a German shepherd and a fox, with a small face, delicate legs, a fluffy tail, and long, alert ears.
Jackals are carrion-eaters with opportunistic tendencies. They regularly hunt various small mammals and birds and eat a substantial amount of fruit and bulbs.
The jackal is usually a solitary animal but sometimes lives in pairs and is occasionally found in loose packs of related individuals where their behaviour is highly synchronized.
Jackals are among the few mammalian species which pair up and mate for life. Mated pairs are territorial, and the male and female will mark and defend their territory.
They give birth to an average of two to four pups, who will remain hidden in the burrows for the first few weeks of life. They will bring the litters out at about three weeks old for play and familiarisation with the outside world. The mother will change den sites every two weeks to avoid predators marking their home.
Jackal Species Found in Uganda
Uganda’s most widespread species of these savannah dogs is the side-striped jackal, found in all four savanna national parks and the montane forests of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Park. You will most likely see them in the northern parts of Murchison Falls National Park.
Within Uganda, the similar black-backed jackal is restricted to Kidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs, and the golden jackal.
Although the golden jackal appears on the national checklist, it hasn’t been seen in any of Uganda’s national parks and is presumably a vagrant.
Side-striped Jackal (Canis adustus)
Timid and rarely seen, the side-striped jackal is larger than the more common black-backed jackal. Grey to the buff coloured body, and with a darker back, a white stripe marks its belly sides and black lower margins. The dark tail is almost always tipped with white, whereas the ears are a dark buff colour.
Side-striped Jackals occupy a range of habitats, from game areas through farmland to towns within the broad-leaved savanna zones, including wooded habitats, bush, grassland, abandoned cultivation, marshes and montane habitats up to 2,700 meters.
The black stripped jackal is the most common in Uganda and occurs in Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable, and Mgahinga National Parks. However, it is most common north of Murchison Falls National Park.
Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas)
Compared to other members of the Canis, the black-backed jackal is a very ancient species. It is a basal wolf-like canine alongside the closely related side-striped jackal.
It is a fox-like animal with a reddish brown to tan coat and a black saddle that extends from the shoulders to the base of the tail.
It is a monogamous animal whose young may remain with the family to help raise new generations of pups.
The black-backed jackal is not a fussy eater and feeds on small to medium-sized animals, plant matter and human refuse.
In Uganda, the black-backed jackal is restricted to Kidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs.
Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)
The golden jackal is the most northerly of jackal species, widely spread, and very adaptable. Although, it prefers dry open country, arid short grasslands and steppe landscapes. The Golden Jackal can adapt to a wide range of habitats as a generalist and opportunistic species.
The fur is generally coarse and not very long, with usually a yellow to pale gold and brown-tipped coat, but its coat colour can vary with season and region. On the Serengeti plains in northern Tanzania, golden jackals are brown-tipped yellow in the rainy season (December-January), changing to pale gold in the dry season (September-October).
In Uganda, the golden jackal has not been recorded in any national park but has been spotted wandering from place to place, foraging from human gardens and hunting small domestic animals.