What Is a Jackal Animal and Can It Be Domesticated?
Jackal is a member of the dog family. Their are three small to medium-sized species and thirteen subspecies of the family Canidae. Three species live in Africa; one of them also lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Jackals look like small wolves, and they live in pairs, hunting rats, gazelles and other animals by night, but will also feed on carrion and fruit. Jackal is an opportunistic omnivore that takes much of its sustenance by scavenging. They hunt small mammals, bird, reptiles and amphibians, scavenge from kills made by larger animals, and will eat insects, fruit and plants.
Body of jackal is covered with golden, rust or silver-colored black fur. Jackals have bushy tail. Their bodies are usually about 30 inches long and their tails about 1/3 their body length at 10 to 12 inches long. They are mostly nocturnal animals that usually conceal themselves by day in brush or thickets and sally forth at dusk to hunt. A jackal can make its den in a variety of places. Often they will take up residence in the abandoned home of another animal. They are also known to dig holes in the ground to make their den or move into a hollow tree. Their den-making is driven by a desire to not be taken by surprise by any other animal or worst of all-man.
Jackals live singly or in pairs, and are sometimes found in small packs. Life in pack ensures protection against predators and ensures cooperative hunt which results in killing of the larger prey. But their most common social unit is a monogamous pair. Jackals are very territorial and monogamous pairs will fiercely defend their territory from intruders. Jackals are very vocal and communicate with each other using a loud yell or yap, growls and high pitched howls, particularly when prey is located.
In most parts of their territory, mating time for jackals is in the springtime. The female jackal is pregnant for between 57 and 70 days and usually bears a litter of 7 baby jackals called cubs. They are suckled and fed regurgitated food until they are about 2 months. By 3 months they no longer use the den, but start to follow their parents, slowly learning the territory and observing hunting behavior. By 6 months, they are accompanying their mother on her nightly hunting trips. Jackals have a lifespan of between 8 and 10 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity.
You can have a tame jackal, but it’s captive wildlife — not really a pet. Unless you like scars. Jackals are high strung animals, and tend to become wilder as they mature — tons of handling is needed to even keep them tame, and they don’t tend to take to more than one person, even so. There’s a reason they’re rarely kept other than in zoos. You wind up with a skittish animal that has to be kept in a zoo-type enclosure its whole life, and will probably bite you if startled, or just because. Not a pet.
As for domesticating jackals, you’d have to start with hundreds of jackals and selectively breed them for over 50 years to produce domesticated jackals. This was done in Russia with foxes. The resulting domesticated foxes still aren’t suitable as house pets, because they still mark like foxes, but they are at least actually domesticated and friendly toward humans as adults.
Like the fox in European folklore, the jackal is often represented in African folk tales as a trickster. Its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and its legendary stealth and cunning have inspired stories about the wily creature that dodges traps and avoids hunters year in year out. The jackal is reputed to be able to obliterate its tracks, feign death and rid itself of fleas by immersing itself in water, only exposing a tuft of sheep’s wool which it holds in its snout.