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    About dingoes

    The Dingo, Canis lupis: Breed: Dingo is a member of a group of primitive dogs characterised by short coats, erect ears, characteristic skull shape and teeth and, most importantly an annual breeding cycle.

    It is a medium built, elegant and active dog of great nimbleness and agility with a head and body length of 860 – 980 mm and tail length of 260 – 380 mm. Adults generally weigh between 10kgs and 20kgs. The “typical” colour is ginger with white feet, chest and tail tip, although animals of other colours including sable, black, and white are often found.

    Dingoes are predominantly carnivorous, but will eat a wide variety of foods including plant material and insects. Their annual breeding season commonly begins in earnest in autumn continuing into winter with litters averaging three to five puppies usually born April – August.

    Australia’s largest mammalian predator, Dingoes have been present in Australia for at least 3,500 years and perhaps as long as 11,000 years. They have an important ecological role, helping suppress populations of feral animals, and there is anecdotal evidence they help maintain populations of endangered species by excluding introduced feral predators like cats and foxes.


    Highly intelligent, strongly individualistic, affectionate, but cautious, Dingoes are highly-skilled, natural predators. Senses of sight, scent and hearing are highly developed.

    They are strongly territorial and form lifetime bonds with family, either Dingo or Human. Cat-like in their agility, Dingoes use their paws like hands, and like to survey their surroundings from a height. Although they seldom bark, Dingoes have a wide variety of vocalisations from melodious singing (howling), to the high pitched yodel, yelp, crow and purr.

    Breed Description

    General Appearance
    The general appearance of the Australian Native Dog is that of a medium built, elegant and active dog of great nimbleness and agility. It has a short straight back with distinct waist and cut-up, and gives the impression of being “high on the leg”. Aristocratic and graceful, the breed clearly displays its purity and nobility. The outward appearance varies considerably from the sinewy, single-coated, rippling muscled dog of the tropical far north, to the fox-like, or coyote-like dog of the colder southern mountain regions which has a thick double coat, or the smaller and finer dog of the arid regions. The coat is seasonal.

    The Dingo is strongly individualistic, highly intelligent, curious and affectionate, seldom slavish or demonstrative in its affection, and generally cautious.NB: Approach and handling of this breed must at all times be gentle. The hand should be extended to below the head and time given to accept. At no time should the dog be panicked by forceful handling. The breed seldom recovers from a frightening experience, or rejection.

    Head & Skull
    The skull is strong and impressive. Broad between the ears and moderately rounded with ample muscling; there is a distinct furrow extending down to between the eyes, the muscles on either side of the furrow being independently mobile.

    The forehead is slightly rounded. There is a distinct occipital peak, and a slight but distinct stop, the skull tapering to a strong, deep muzzle. The muzzle is strong, clean and deep, only slightly lessening in width and depth towards the nose. Length of muzzle is approx. equal to the length of skull. Viewed from the front, the head forms a wide triangle, the tapering of the muzzle accentuated by the highly developed jaw muscles.

    The jaws are powerful, clean and deep. The lips are tight fitting and black. The teeth are well developed, even, and meet in a scissor bite.The canines, being long and sharp, slender and sabre shaped are often damaged. This should not be penalised.

    The nostrils are large, well opened and sensitive. Usually black in colour, liver or pink noses are acceptable. In the young, short coated varieties in particular, there is often distinctive fine wrinkling on the forehead giving a frown effect. Faults: Skull lacking distinctive strength, lippiness, missing teeth, over or undershot jaws, gross or heavy muzzle.

    The Eye
    The eye is almond shaped, set obliquely, hazel or dark brown in colour, open, but not protruding, medium sized and expressive. Eye rims should be black and unbroken. Overall expression is one of softness and intelligence, far-seeing and cautious, giving impression of a dog with strong reasoning ability.

    The ears are distinctive, expressive and sensitive in their use, strong, slightly rounded at the tip, erect when alerted but can be carried folded back along the neck, set on top of the head, slightly hooded, fine in texture and forward pointing. A characteristic position is for one ear to be firmly pricked and the other to rotate sensitively to pick up sounds.

    Size is medium, but varies from the large lightly haired ear of the dog from the hot climates, to the often smaller but well haired ear of the dog from the colder regions. Ear placement is more important than size, but it is essential that they be hooded, forward pointing and set on top of the head.

    Faults: Low set or loose ears, or ears lacking the characteristic hooded and forward pointing qualities, large, soft ears.NB: Naturally, the ears of immature dogs may not exhibit the strength and mobility of the adult.

    The neck is impressive in its strength and development, strong, crested, fitting well into the shoulders accentuating the crest to give the head a lofty carriage. Faults: Weak or throaty necks.

    The chest is narrow to medium in width, the brisket deep, reaching to the elbows in mature specimens. The forelegs are straight with long forearms and distinctive musculation. The pasterns should be of good length, moderately straight, flexible, but vary from the shorter and thicker pastern of the mountain dog to the straight and more upright pastern of the northern dog.

    The shoulders are fine at the points, well laid back with good length of forearm. Feet may be slightly turned out, but equally so. Strength of bone varies but at no time should it detract from the strength and mobility of the dog.

    Faults: Weakness of any kind.

    The back is strong, straight and short with no suggestion of slackness, slightly rising over the loin. The ribs are well sprung, oval in shape, deep with plenty of heart room, deep brisket, short coupled and ending in a definite waist with well defined cut-up. NB: In this breed, the ribbing of bitches carries further back forming a much shorter coupling. Faults: Dipping back, slack loin, heavy body lacking characteristic waist.

    Strong, powerful and muscular, set under the body, well angulated and exhibiting tremendous drive and agility thus enabling the dog to turn quickly and spring in any direction.

    Thighs are thick, strong, well muscled, but vary from the moderately turned stifle of the mountain dog to the well turned stifle of the open range dog. The hindquarters may appear cow hocked when standing or gaiting slowly, but should move parallel when in full gait. Faults: Weak hindquarters, long rear pasterns.

    Leg & Feet
    The legs are clean, strong but not clumsy and must be of good length with sufficient slope of pastern to give flexibility. The ideal feet are medium sized, compact, round to oval in shape, with thick pads and arched toes. There is ample hair between pads. Faults: Weak and splayed feet.

    Like the ears, the tail is expressive, set on as a continuation of the spine, broad at the base, and tapering to a point. It has a moderate brush which varies from the full, fox-like brush of the heavier-coated varieties, to the tail of the shorter-coated varieties which is clothed all round in a short, dense coat. This gives it the rounded appearance of an otter-like tail, base plump as in dogs regarded as water dogs.

    There is a black dorsal spot about a quarter of the length from the butt, which denotes a scent gland. In older dogs it may be defined by dry, bristly hair. It is common for the tail to be seen held out from the body, dropping at a right angle just above the scent gland.Tail carriage varies from the low sweeping tail of the open range dog, to the curled on

    Cream, gold, red, black, sable, commonly with white or fawn markings are all acceptable and equally desirable.

    Is governed by terrain and varies considerably. At all times impressive, and must exhibit lightness, power, strength and agility. A) The dog from the plains has a swift swinging stride with tireless light running gait. B) The dog from the tablelands and open range country has a powerful gait with durability. C) The dog from the steep mountain regions has well developed hindquarters, capable of far reaching, effortless, light running springing gait whilst at the same time ready to change direction.

    Weight & Size
    The weight is dependent on the overall size and build, but varies from approximately 13.5 to 22.7 kilograms. At no time should the breed appear heavy bodied. Bitches are lighter built than dogs.

    The average height for dogs is 48 to 55cm, less for bitches, but can vary from 43.2 to 61.0cm, according to variety and seasons. Type and symmetry are more important than size.

    DNA Testing

    Genetic diversity in the dingo

    Research into origins and purity of Dingoes is being carried out at University of New South Wales in School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. By Dr Alan Wilton.

    The research was initiated in collaboration of Native Dog Conservation Society who were partners in a research grant funded by ARC 1998-2000.

    Aims of project:
    Develop methods of distinguishing between dingoes and dingo/dog hybrids based on genetics (DNA).

    Results of the project:

    • Tests have been developed that can identify most hybrids.

    • Twenty different DNA tests have been chosen where dogs are generally quite different from dingoes.

    • Identification of these dog types in any of the 20 tests for a sample suggests it has dog ancestry and may be a hybrid.

    • A score has been developed to encompass all tests in one number.

    • A group of dingoes in captivity have been used as a reference to determine the normal range. Samples giving results outside the range are considered hybrids.

    Can animals be tested for dingo purity?
    Samples can be sent to UNSW for testing. A contribution to the research of $50 per sample is requested on provision of results.
    Samples take at least 6 weeks to process. Testing material can be blood (~1 ml in EDTA tube), tissue or mouth swab. Swabs are available from UNSW. [Blood currently gives better results]

    What information needs to be supplied with the sample?

    • Animals name or ID

    • Parents information if born in captivity including origin of wild ancestors (if known)

    • Location of animal if sample from wild animal.

    What is being tested.
    Tests involve DNA fingerprinting or microsatellites which are like tests used in forensics for identification and paternity testing.

    Will the test detect all hybrids?
    Tests will detect most hybrids. The smaller the amount of dog ancestry the harder it is to detect. By chance some hybrids may have not inherited any of the genes tested from dog ancestor. More tests would have more power to detect but involve more work and cost.

    Can a pure dingo fail the test and appear to be hybrid?
    We are confident that the procedure gives reliable results. Samples may show rare types not seen in many dingoes and not in reference group, and produce a score just below the normal range. Laboratory errors are a rare possibility and retesting is recommended for any animal that failed the test but was important in a breeding program.

    Where have samples come from so far:
    We have over 2000 samples. A number of dingoes in captivity have been tested and most are passing test of purity. Samples from the wild a mainly from NSW through Wild Dog Control Program (Dave Jenkins), Rural Lands Protection Boards, NSW Forestry etc Other locations with considerable sample numbers are Victoria, Southwest Queensland, Townsville, Fraser Island, Pilbarra, Alice Springs.

    What is the future of testing?
    New technology will make it possible to test very small amounts of DNA. This will allow testing of teeth/bones to compare DNA testing to skull testing.

    Testing of faeces or hair, so collection can be done in wild without capturing or harming animals.
    Testing of ancient material from pre-European times to compare to reference group.

    Other results of research:

    • Few pure dingoes are left in wild, especially on east coast. In collaboration with NPWS maps showing location and purity of wild dogs are being produced.

    • Nearly all samples from Fraser Island test as pure. (retesting exception)

    • Dingoes are closely related to dogs of South East Asia

    • Dingoes have been in Australia about 5000 years.

    • New Guinea Singing Dogs are also very similar genetically to dingoes and different from dogs.

    Contact details:
    Professor Bill Ballard (Head of School)

    School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
    Biological Sciences Building
    University of New South Wales
    Sydney NSW 2052
    Phone +612 9385-2021

    Dingo DNA tests

    DNA tests developed from research performed primarily within BABS under the supervision of the late Associate Professor Alan Wilton are available to assess domestic dog introgression into dingoes, or dingo purity. This genetic testing is overseen by Professor Bill Ballard.

    Guidelines, Pricing and Payment, How to Book Tests  (from within Australia only)


    • For full details, please refer to the Dingo DNA Submission Instructions

    • We accept tissue samples, blood samples (in EDTA or on FTA cards) and buccal swabs. Scat samples are not accepted as we are not a PC2 facility.

    • All samples must be accompanied by a completed Dingo Sample Sheet for DNA Testing

    • Payment is required before DNA testing can be commenced (evidence of payment or a cheque must be sent with samples).

    • The average turnaround time for dingo genetic testing is 4-6 weeks.


    • The cost of dingo genetic testing per sample is $150.00 (GST included)

    • Bulk discounts may apply for large numbers of samples (multiples of 45 or 93). Please contact Professor Ballard for a quote and further information.

    Payment Options

    • By credit card when booking online – please print and send copy of online order page with evidence of credit card payment

    • By cheque after booking online – please print and send copy of online order page with your cheque

    Booking Tests
    All tests should be booked online as the first step.

    **Click here for online booking of Dingo DNA tests**

    Mailing address for submission of samples after booking online:
    Dingo Genetic Testing – Ballard Lab
    School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
    Biological Sciences Building
    The University of New South Wales
    Sydney NSW 2052

    Each sample must be accompanied by:

    • Completed Dingo Sample Sheet

    • Copy of online order confirmation page

    • Receipt/evidence of credit card payment, or cheque for full payment amount

    Please address all enquiries to Professor Bill Ballard: Phone +612 9385-2021

    Explanation & acknowledgements

    A Breed Standard is a description of the appearance and characteristics of a breed.

    In the case of the Dingo, we have an excellent opportunity to preserve a true record of a pure breed of dog as yet unspoiled by man. It is an unfortunate reality that the appearance and temperament of many breeds have been changed almost beyond recognition within a few generations to comply with a fashionable trend.

    The Dingo was a close companion of the original inhabitants of Australia. Forced into a feral existence following the European invasion, the breed has been naturally selected for its’ potential to survive in the wild. As has been said of the Canaan dog, the Dingo may have been fortunate in becoming a feral animal over the past two centuries, as it has been able to develop naturally into an incredibly efficient survival machine of beauty brains and health.

    The first breed descriptions were recorded as early as 1788. However, these were restricted to the dog that inhabited the Sydney area, where the first vocabulary of the local Aboriginal dialect gives the word ‘tingo’ for the native dog in that area. After this initial wave of interest, the Dingo was then relegated to the role of the ‘unwanted’.

    General ignorance of the breed left it vulnerable to greatly exaggerated stories of destruction and pure supposition.

    Later descriptions which reflected the general feeling for the breed, simply refer to it as being ‘a yellow dog with a bushy tail and evil expression’. As a result of Australia’s regional and climatic extremes, there are considerable variations to be found in the Dingo.

    The dog found in the tropical north with its short, single coat, very pliable skin and sinewy body, contrasts vividly with the fox or coyote-like dog of the cooler southern mountain regions which has a dense, double coat.

    Physical and behavioural characteristics also vary, as do hunting techniques. With the acceptance of this document, and hoped for approval for the legal and informed keeping of the Dingo by private individuals, the way will then be clear for the breed to participate in obedience trialing classes and trials run by various controlling bodies.

    Familiarity with the breed could be developed by non-competitive displays or parades at official functions.

    To protect its’ welfare it is recommended that the breeds participation in the Breed Ring be delayed until it is better understood.

    It is hoped that the Dingo, our National Dog, can be protected from becoming a fashionable pet. Only through education on the very special needs of this natural predator can this be accomplished.

    The Dingo is a highly skilled hunting dog, a supreme sight hound which also uses scent and hearing to hunt. Being extremely intelligent, independent, cautious and agile, with strong reasoning powers, it is not suitable for pet owners generally. Successful integration into the domestic environment requires understanding, patience and dedication.

    It is a commitment for the lifetime of the Dingo. Skeletal remains indicate that the Dingo has remained unchanged for over 3,000 years. Being Australia’s native dog, breeders have an added responsibility to ensure that the dingo of the future will be recognisable as the dingo of the past.

    A basic description of the Australian Dingo was first drawn up in May 1975 by Berenice Walters who later formed the Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW Limited. The document was revised in 1976, and again in 1978, then tabled at a Committee Meeting of the Society on 12th August 1978, following a Breed Classification Field Day held at Headquarters, Bargo on 17th June 1978. This event was attended by Mr Robert Curtis and Mr Peter Warby of the RAS Consultative Committee, All Breeds judges Mr W Spilstead and Mr F S Price and Obedience and Tracking judges Graeme Field and Lucille Dixon (Ellem).

    Those present had the opportunity to see some thirty Dingoes paraded along with Basenjis and Pharaoh Hounds. It was a most interesting and informative occasion. Chairman of the Society’s Consultative Committee, Mr F Wirrer, and Mr Warby then met to discuss the contents with Mrs Walters, and on January 5th 1979, with Mr Price in the Chair the revised document was further discussed.

    At the next meeting of the Society’s Consultative Meeting on 19 November 1979 attended by Mr Curtis, Mr Warby, Society Secretary the late Malcolm Tellesson, Society Vice President the late Mrs Felicity Maclean the revised document was discussed with Mrs Walters. After consultation with Society Veterinarian, Dr J Della-Vedova, Mr Wirrer, Mr Price, Mr C Walters and Mrs A Green, the document was again revised and tabled on March 22nd, 1980.

    Copies were sent to all members of the Committee and Society Consultants, requesting their further comments. We are greatly indebted to the late Dr H Spira B.V.Sc., MRCVS for his most valued assistance and comments in the drawing up of this final document.

    Dr Spira was a Councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society, and past Chairman of the RAS Kennel Control’s Consultative Committee and Judges’ Examination Committee.

    Wanting a dingo puppy?

    Now this is an entirely different subject. Best explained in this page…

    Dingoes in Domesticity