As wolves are found throughout a large part of the globe it would seem natural that we would find them in Australia, either by way of natural historic migration over once connected land-mass or by human introduction. So you’d be forgiven for asking the question. Here we’re going to answer whether wolves inhabit Australia. First, the quick answer, then we’ll explain more.
Are there Wolves in Australia? At present, there are no official species of wolf found in Australia. Fossil studies indicate there has never been a true wolf ‘breed’ present in Australia. However, close relatives of wolves are currently present in Australia – by way of the Dingo species and in recent history, the Tasmania Tiger.
So there are no Wolves in Australia, but Australia didn’t totally miss out, there are signs of very near species. Let’s go on to explore what species there are that are the nearest equivalent to Wolves for Australia…
Wolf sightings in Australia
One would assume that if there are Wolves in Australia, then at some point, someone would be able to substantiate this. Australia is a large and mostly unpopulated space, but sightings are often the only clue we can look to.
So far there is no official, or unofficially confirmed sightings of Wolves in Australia, to date any suspected Wolf footage submitted for testing has returned results of large cats or dogs and so are unsubstantiated.
Those sightings which ‘may’ have been accurate have been largely played down by official sources – presumably through lack of real substantive evidence.
So if there are indeed no Wolves in Australia, what animals could we look to fill that place instead? What is the nearest Australia has to a Wolf?
The nearest equivalent to Wolves in Australia
Nature always looks to maintain a balance. To compensate for the missing niche of Wolves in Australia nature blessed Australia with a ‘Marsupial wolf’ equivalent – or Tasmanian tiger.
It was not a true wolf, neither a dog nor a cat. It was a somewhat mix type of predator that was perhaps more closely linked to a cat than to a dog. Unlike the behaviors of Wolves or Dogs, the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) was an ambush-style predator generally thought to hunt smaller prey like Possums.
Tests carried out on its jawbones indicate it wasn’t best suited to attacking larger prey, however, when in it’s prime, it may have hunted in packs which could have made larger prey more feasible.
The Tasmanian Tiger was a marsupial animal, endemic to Australasia region, and the Americas. With strong forepaws that were helpful for it in controlling its prey.
We say ‘was’ because unfortunately, this species is believed to have become extinct in 1936 (or soon after), when the last known member of this unique animal ‘Benjamin’ died at a zoo in Hobart, Australia.
There are several possible – and disputed reasons for the extinction of this marsupial ‘wolf equivalent’. Overhunting, sheep protection programs, the onset of disease, the introduction of Dingoes and even chemical pesticides (among a raft of other potential human interventions) could offer some possible reasons – or a combination of reasons for the Tasmanian Tiger’s extinction.
This, however, has created something of a mythological creature …although officially reported as extinct, like bigfoot, there are alleged sightings even to this day. Perhaps there’s hope for this species yet.
Dingo – Australias Wolf equivalent?
Canis lupus dingo or Dingo is probably Australia’s answer to the common wolf. The Dingo is a predator covering a large part of Australia – beyond the famous Dingo Fence.
It’s a medium-sized animal with a lot of characteristics related to a dog or indeed a wolf. It’s distributed throughout Australia but mostly present in Eastern and Northern areas of the continent.
Characteristics of the Dingo
Dingoes are not native to Australia, they were believed to be introduced to Australia 4000 thousand years ago.
Going back further than that, they originated from East Asian domesticated dogs. They have a wedge-shaped broad face, much like a Wolf or Dog. They weigh in at about 14-15 kg with a length of 48-49 inches, but reportedly up to 6′ including the tail.
More than 70% of dingoes have a pale cream color coat. However, they may also be of light tan or black color. Moreover, they have a bushy tail and erect ears, and a lifespan of about 5 to 6 years.
Misconceptions about Dingoes
Many people think that dingo is a type of dog but this is in fact not true. According to many, the dingo is likely a subspecies of dog and wolf or cross breed of other predators. Some people also think that they’re descendants of grey wolves, but, no conclusive evidence is available to corroborate its truth.
Latest research on Dingoes
According to new research in Australia led by the University of Sydney, the dingo is a pure breed which is contrary to previous ideas that they are cross of different canines. They also discovered that they are descendants of the cousins of wolves.
Examining its skull shows that it is very broad than other dogs and can easily be differentiated from other wolves and dogs. Their bushy flat tail and long snout are also different from other relatives. Moreover, their DNA tests show uncertain ancestry which is surely different from dogs and wolves.
To learn more about and/or get further information on Dingos, this resource from Amazon is a good resource which offers an insiders look into the life of a dingo, including its habitat, anatomy, diet, and behavior.
To learn more about Wolves, here’s a great resource for you. For the conservationists and animal lovers amongst us, this National Geographic book shares an insightful understanding of wild Wolves acquired over the six-year period that the authors spent living among Wolves.
I think if you asked an Australian if there were Wolves in Australia, they would naturally think of the Dingo as being the nearest match to that question. So we like to think there is a kind of ‘Wolf’ that Australia has – all to itself – unless the Tasmanian Tiger happens to still exist!
If you have anything to add to this, or if we need to correct something then let us know in the comments below.