The Dingo: A native dog?

White Dingo pup

White Dingo pup – Photo by John T. Patten

The Dingo (Canis dingo) is an animal which is shrouded in legend and many falsehoods. As a companion and hunting partner of Australia’s First Peoples, who are mythologised and misunderstood on an even greater scale, this lack of understanding shouldn’t be of any real surprise. Misconceived notions abound in all that preceded the coming of Europeans to the great southern land and the Dingo has proven to be no exception to that rule.

Commonly considered a native Australian animal, the Dingo may also be considered an introduced species depending on one’s perspective, having arrived in Australia between 3,500 – 18,000 years BP. The oldest evidence so far uncovered for the dingo in the Australian archaeological record has been dated at 3,500 BP. However, DNA evidence suggests that the animal descends from a wild south eastern Asian dog population, which may have been introduced to Australia by seafarers from Sulawesi in the vicinity of 4,000 years BP. [1]  Another theory suggests the Dingo may have arrived in Australia via land bridge from Papua New Guinea between 10,000 and 18,000 years BP, during the last ice age.

The Dingo plays an important role in the Australian ecosystem. As an apex predator they have helped to shape the Australian landscape and have traditionally kept pest and other predatory species in check. This has faltered since the arrival of non-Indigenous people, as many have viewed the Dingo itself as a pest species. In response to the imagined threat non-indigenous Australians have unnecessarily killed hundreds of thousands of Dingoes in order to protect their livestock. For every Dingo shot or poisoned with bait, a dozen or more Foxes will take their place, causing significantly greater damage to livestock and to the environment.

Many Creation Stories speak of the importance of the Dingo. Their story plays out as a constant companion to Koori people, an important aid in hunting, a friend to those who have been exiled and a warning system against intruders.

Dingoes are not a pack animal. Mating for life, they live as pairs or as a family unit, consisting of a mated pair and their young, until the juveniles are old enough to go their own way. [2]

Purebred dingoes are commonly mistaken for domestic dogs. This is due to a widespread misconception held by the Australian public that associates ginger as the Dingo’s only colour. However, purebred Dingoes are found in variants of ginger, black, sable, cream and white. Such variants are not the result of cross breeding with domestic dogs. [3]

Dingoes are highly intelligent and are able quickly solve problems that four year old children have proven unable to grasp, as has been evidenced in studies conducted by Harvard University. [4]

Cat-like in their physiology and in their behaviour in the company of humans, the Dingo’s intelligence and independent nature makes training them for specific tasks difficult. This however is offset by their affectionate nature, usefulness and general companionship.


  1. Fillios M. A., Taçon. 2016, Paul S.C.
  2. Watson, L. 2017, Dingo Discovery & Research Centre, Toolern Vale, VIC Australia.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.

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3 Responses

  1. Ella says:

    Hello 🙂 Do you know if the human/dingo relationship existed right across Australia? Or was it specific to certain regions?

    • says:

      Apologies for the delay in response, Ella – yes, the dingo was a companion to people throughout the continent.

  2. Ross Barker says:

    Im trying to fing a koorie name for a pup which is an border collie thanks

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