Cape Jackal (Canis mesomelas mesomelas)
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Jackal Subspecies Map. See also: world species map.
Cape Jackal (subspecies), Black-Backed Jackal, Silver-Backed Jackal, Red Jackal
Southern Africa: Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, southern Zambia, southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique.
Note the size of the jackal in comparison to adult human hands. From artbandito@Flickr
This species is rather small -- individuals of the southern populations tend to weigh between 15 - 21 lbs (6.8 - 9.5 kg) for males, and 12 - 22 lbs (5.4 - 10 kg) for females. Shoulder height is between 15 - 19 inches (38 - 48 cm); they are usually 26.8 - 29.3 inches (68 - 74.5 cm) long. Their heads are proportionally small and elongated; they are more carnivorous than the Side-Striped Jackal and so they have teeth built for meat-eating.
They are typically tawny or yellowish in color, with reddish flanks and legs. The underbellies of Black-Backed Jackals are usually paler in coloration, ranging from creamy to almost white. They have a prominent black saddle -- unlike the Side-Striped Jackal, this typically does not contain white. Markings become bolder and more defined as the individual ages; youths under two years of age are unlikely to have clearly defined saddled patterns. Their tails are tipped with black, whereas the Side-Striped Jackal's tail is tipped white.
Canis mesomelas mesomelas, from pimgmx@Flickr
Black-Backed Jackals are far less social than most subspecies of the Gray Wolf. Even coyotes would be social butterflies in comparison to Black-Backed Jackals; intrapack relations are often tense and wrought with conflict. These small, aggressive canines are extremely territorial; intruders are not tolerated within the marked boundaries of their territory. Like the gray wolf, territories are held by an alpha male and female, the only pair to breed. Other canines allowed in the territory are typically grown children from the previous mating season; however, the mother jackal typically drives the children off when they are between six and eight months.
Only one or two older siblings stick around to help raise the next years' children, but unlike Golden Jackals, which demonstrate similar behavior, "the assistance of elder offspring in helping raise the pups of their parents has a greater bearing on pup survival rates." During the breeding season, the dominant pair will suppress the subordinate animals' breeding with violence if necessary; dominant jackals are known to harass the subordinate animals to keep them from mating and reproducing.
Black-backed jackals show a preference for open grassland and savanna rather than densely wooded areas; although they do share a range with both Golden jackal subspecies as well as the Side-Striped Jackal, these canines do not typically work together. Side-Striped Jackals tend to prefer densely wooded areas, and studies have revealed "Black-backed Jackals [have] displaced Side-striped Jackals from grassland habitats" where their ranges intersect.2 Black-Backed Jackals are smaller than Side-Striped Jackals and slightly larger than the subspecies of Golden Jackals which typically share their range; nonetheless, they are the most aggressive of the three species, capable of killing animals much larger than themselves.
Black-Backed Jackals are opportunistic creatures above all, much like the Coyotes of the Americas -- they are capable of adapting to various environments and conditions. They are omnivorous, capable of surviving on bugs and scavenging or hunting their own prey, sometimes as large as Thompson's Gazelles. They will also eat various types of fruit and berries.
Following the destruction of humanity, Black-Backed Jackals suffered somewhat -- many had adapted to living in agricultural areas in Africa, and of course, as humanity died, so did large portions of imported livestock. Jackals had to reconvert to their earlier survival tactics; this depression in population was brief, and the jackal numbers in southern Africa restabilized rather quickly. Many jackals have begun readapting to abandoned human spaces; while southern Africa is not yet as humanized as areas of Europe, lifestyles modeled after humanity are not altogether uncommon.
Most jackals are Luperci -- though of course, as anywhere else in the world it is possible to find populations that do not yet possess the ability to shift. Acquisition of the Luperci trait was interesting for jackals, as prior to this, their primary competition for food and land was the Spotted Hyena and the Leopard. As jackals gained the ability to shift, their competition with these predators increased, with jackals coming out on top more often than not.