Also known as the Asiatic wild dog, dholes, Cuon alpinus, live in very hierarchical and cohesive packs. Formidable hunters, they work together to hunt prey much larger than themselves.
Mammalia, Carnivora, Canidae
50 cm at the shoulder, 18 kg at the most
2 months, 2 to 6 babies
wet and dry forests, scrublands
deer, pigs, wild goats, reptiles, insects, berries
India, China, Nepal, south-east Asia
Way of life
A very social creature, the dhole lives in packs, which can sometimes be very large (more than twenty individuals), led by a dominant couple. Unlike wolves, more than one female can reproduce if her place in the hierarchy permits it; they raise their offspring together. All the members of the group take great care of the newborns: they feed them by regurgitation, watch them, clean them and play with them. At around three months of age, the young dholes begin to follow the adults when they hunt.
Dholes only hunt small prey but they get into groups of up to 30 to capture a deer or banteng: when one of the dholes spots one, it attacks and chases it, alternating with its fellow dholes, or it guides they prey towards other members of the group who are waiting to ambush it. Large packs are even capable of pestering a tiger in order to pinch its prey! Dholes are also good swimmers, and can drive their prey into the water.
Despite its physical appearance, the dhole is not a fox! And although their lifestyles are slightly similar, it isn’t a wolf either! Several features mean that it is deserving of its own genus classification, Cuon, its teeth being a prime example. While most Canids have 42 teeth, the dhole, like the African wild dog, only has 40: with one less molar in the mandible, it has a shorter muzzle, which increases the pressure of this outstanding hunter’s jaws!
With all the subspecies combined, in 2014 there were only 3,500 individuals in the whole of Asia. Although it does not bark, it has a repertoire of varied calls: growls, chuckles, yelps, whistles and whining noises.
The expansion of agricultural areas (for cultivating soya and palm oil, for example) has led to the destruction of forests and, as a result, less prey for the dholes. Increasingly frequent contact with cattle and dogs is exposing dholes to a whole host of deadly diseases (rabies, canine distemper, etc.).
Long a victim of persecution, the dhole has been protected in India since 1972, but its situation remains very worrying. By creating reserves dedicated to protecting tigers, India and Nepal have allowed dholes to remain in these last strongholds. A European breeding programme, which the Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche is part of, was launched in 2007.
Ces différentes naissances ont permis à l’équipe de la Réserve d’approfondir ses connaissances de cette espèce, très peu étudiée à l’époque. Cela a permis d’apprendre que les dholes ont un comportement reproductif qui se distingue de celui des loups : plusieurs femelles hiérarchiquement importantes peuvent se reproduire et non pas seulement la femelle dominante.
La meute se compose aujourd’hui de 27 individus, 10 mâles et 17 femelles, parmi lesquels Xanh, le mâle dominant âgé de 12 ans.