Black-Backed Jackal

Black-Backed Jackal

Silver-backed Jackal, Black-backed jackal

4 languages
Canis mesomelas
Population size
Life Span
8-14 yrs
Top speed
32 km/h
6-13 kg
38-48 cm
67-81 cm

The black-backed jackal (Lupulella mesomelas ) is a medium-sized canine native to eastern and southern Africa. These regions are separated by roughly 900 kilometers.

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One region includes the southernmost tip of the continent, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The other area is along the eastern coastline, including Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It is listed by the IUCN as least concern, due to its widespread range and adaptability, although it is still persecuted as a livestock predator and rabies vector.

Compared to other members of the genus Canis, the black-backed jackal is a very ancient species, and has changed little since the Pleistocene, being the most basal wolf-like canine, alongside the closely related side-striped jackal. It is a fox-like animal with a reddish brown to tan coat and a black saddle that extends from the shoulders to the base of the tail. It is a monogamous animal, whose young may remain with the family to help raise new generations of pups. The black-backed jackal has a wide array of food sources, feeding on small to medium-sized animals, as well as plant matter and human refuse.

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Not a migrant


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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.

Black-Backed Jackal habitat map
Black-Backed Jackal habitat map
Black-Backed Jackal
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Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

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.

Mating Habits

60-65 days
3-6 pups
6-8 months

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.


Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • In order to protect the babies from predators, the female changes location of the den every 2 weeks.
  • These animals react only to the calls of their family members, ignoring all other sounds.
  • The Black-backed jackals like having several exits in their dens.
  • The pups are born in underground abandoned burrows.
  • In order to escape the heat, the jackals dwell in vacated dens and crevices of rocks.
  • The Black-backed jackals have a distinctive and well known haunting call - a typical night sound of the African wilderness.


1. Black-Backed Jackal Wikipedia article -
2. Black-Backed Jackal on The IUCN Red List site -

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