The Black-backed jackal is a canid species with long and thin body. Females are a bit smaller and lighter in weight. The head of jackal is dog-like with pointed ears and muzzle. On its back, the jackal has a long dark saddle, stretching from the nape of its neck to the base of its tail. The saddle narrows from shoulders to the base of the tail. These jackals have bushy tails, which are black in color. Their limbs and flanks are reddish. The under parts, lips and chest are white (though, sometimes the under parts are rusty color). The head, ears, back and basal third of the tail are deep russet-red in color with darker top of the muzzle and thighs.
The Black-backed jackals can be found in diverse habitats, living in coastal areas, deserts and mountains. They prefer dry areas, avoiding wetlands and swamps. The area of their distribution includes 2 regions of Africa. These are: the eastern part of the continent, reaching certain regions of Malawi and Somalia, and the southern part of Africa, including southern Angola.
The Black-backed jackals are very resourceful and extremely adaptable animals. These jackals are not aggressive to larger animals and avoid humans. They are both diurnal and nocturnal, though near urban areas they are usually nocturnal. They spend a lot of time looking for food. The Black-backed jackals are social animals, living in pairs and family groups. This jackal is a territorial animal, fiercely and aggressively defending its home range. Usually, unpaired adults, who are looking for mates, have larger home ranges than paired adults. The Black-backed jackals communicate, using scent marking and vocalization. They communicate with each other by means of growling, woofing, howling and yelping sounds.
The Black-backed jackals are omnivores. Their diet includes carrion, domestic livestock, rodents, gazelle, hares, young ungulates, lizards, birds, insects as well as fruit and berries. In addition, jackals living in southern part of Africa can also eat cubs of fur seal.
They are monogamous, living together until one of the mates dies. Mating once in a lifetime, they are very selective about their choice. A pair of Black-backed jackals is a strong social unit: they closely cooperate, building shelter and finding food together. The mating period is May-August with the gestation period, lasting 60-65 days. The female gives birth to 3-6 pups, usually in an abandoned burrow of aardvark. Over the following 3 weeks the female is constantly with its pups, protecting them, while the male provides them with food. When the pups are 1 month old, the parents start feeding them by regurgitating food. At the age of 3 months the youngster is weaned and after another 3-5 months it leaves to find its own territory. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 11 months.
Human is the major threat to this species’ population. These animals are considered to be vermin because of preying on sheep and young goats. Therefore people persecute them and catch them in snares to protect their livestock. On the other hand, road accidents lead to sharp decline of the Black-backed jackals’ population.
The total number of Black-backed jackals’ population is currently unknown but stable. In the IUCN Red List the species is classified as Least Concern (LC). These jackals are widely distributed and found in large numbers all over the area of their habitat.
The Black-backed jackal plays a vital role in the ecosystem of its habitat. In some regions, where larger predators have been eliminated, the jackals have become dominant predators of the area. They choose prey according to their own size, catching sick or weak antelopes and thus maintaining the health of the ecosystem. In addition, the jackals scavenge, when there are carcasses.