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Black-backed Jackal

Scientific name: Canis mesomelas

The Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas), also known as the Silver-backed Jackal is a species of jackal which inhabits two areas of the African continent separated by roughly 900 kilometers. One region includes the southern-most tip of the continent including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The other area is along the eastern coastline, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

How to identify a Black-backed Jackal

As its name suggests, the species' most distinguishing feature is the silver-black fur running from the back of the neck to the base of the tail. The chest and under parts are white to rusty-white, whereas the rest of the body ranges from reddish brown to ginger. Females tend not to be as richly colored as males. The winter coat of adult males develops a reddish to an almost deep russet red color.

The Black-backed Jackal is typically 14–19 in (36–48 cm) high at the shoulder, 45–90 cm (18–35 in) long and 15–30 lb (6.8–14 kg) in weight.Specimens in the southern part of the continent tend to be larger than their more northern cousins.
The Black-backed Jackal is noticeably more slender than other species of jackals, with large, erect, pointed ears.

Where to find the Black-backed Jackal

The Black-backed Jackal occurs in a wide variety of African habitats, such as open woodlands, scrubland, savanna, and bush. They can easily adapt to different habitats. They are quite common throughout their range, and have a low risk of endangerment.

In Uganda Black-backed Jackal restricted to Kidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs.

Diet and hunting

The Black-backed Jackal is a versatile feeder, and will alter its diet according to availability or interspecific competition. It typically feeds on small to medium sized mammals (such as murids, the Springhare and young ungulates), reptiles and birds. It will also scavenge on carrion and human refuse. Other food items include invertebrates, plants, fish, seals and beached marine mammals.

The Black-backed Jackal is a social feeder, and can sometimes be seen feeding on large carcasses in groups ranging from 8--10 individuals. Eighty jackals have been recorded to congregate at seal colonies on the Namib Coast, though this is sometimes accompanied by intraspecific aggression. The Black-backed Jackal may occasionally form packs in order to bring down large prey like the Impala and some antelope species.

The Black-backed Jackal may pose a danger toward livestock, especially lambs and kids.


The Black-backed Jackal usually lives together in pairs that last for life, each pair dominates a permanent territory. It is mainly nocturnal, but sometimes comes out in the day. Its predators include the Leopard and humans. Jackals are sometimes killed for their furs, or because they are considered predators of livestock.


The Black-backed Jackal has a 2-month gestation period. Each litter consists of 3--6 pups, each of which weighs 200--250 grams. At 8 months,the pups are old enough to leave their parents and establish territories of their own. Often, a young jackal returns to help the parents raise another litter. In these cases, the next litter is much more likely to survive. Like several jackal species, the Black-backed Jackal is typically monogamous.


Jackals can carry rabies and their close family units plus their aggressive response to intruders means that rabies is easily spread through the Jackal population. Jackals are responsible for a significant percentage (20-30%) of recorded rabies cases in Africa. Jackals can also carry Canine Distemper Virus, and Canine parvovirus - diseases that also affect lions and African wild dogs, and which can be transmitted to domestic animals.

This risk of disease transmission is another reason why Jackals are disliked and persecuted by many farmers.

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