The Short-eared Dog,
also called Small-eared Dog, or Short-eared Zorro, is a species of very rarely-seen,
less-studied, and almost-threatened jungle dogs that are found in a limited range in South America. Based on the few
sightings of this little-known mammal,
the researchers have tried to learn about their lifestyle and behavior. Feral
dogs have always posed a direct threat to
the population of these canids, as also, facilitated in the spread of diseases among
the wild population, which includes rabies and canine distemper. Humans also contributed
in the degradation of their population by
destroying their natural habitats.
Size: An adult individual is between 72 and 100 cm (28 – 39 in) in length.
Weight: An adult
specimen weighs around 8.4 kg.
Body: The head is
elongated ending in a pointed muzzle with a pair of small rounded ears (that
give it its name). The legs are short, while the body is typically slender.
characteristic foxlike tail is long and bushy with a length of about 25 – 35 cm
(10 – 14 in).
Fur/Coat Color: The
coat is short, thick and composed of bristly hairs.It can bereddish grey
or dark brown with a tinge of a blue hue.
The abdomen is reddish, covered with scattered white hairs.
Teeth: The dentition is identical to the other dog species, with pointed tips, and two pairs of canines.
Sexual Dimorphism: No
visual differences except that the females of the species are approximately
one-third larger than the males.
The longevity of the short-eared dog is yet unknown. Two captive specimens, however, lived respectively for 9 and 11 years.
Short-eared dogs are found
in the tropical Amazon rainforest region of South America that covers Brazil, Peru,
Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. They also possibly exist in Venezuela.
They live in both lowland forests of the Selva Amazónica and terra firme forest, as well as in cloud and swamp forests, and in stands of bamboos.
Classification of Species
Two local subspecies of this rare canid have yet been recognized:
The short-eared dogs are timid, diurnal canids that get
intimidated very easily and avoid humans
in the natural environment. However, they have also been seen active after
sundown. They are mostly solitary animals, though occasionally hunt in pairs.
Interestingly, these dogs move gracefully, quite much like the
cats, unlike other wild dog species. Short-eared dogs are rare in the wild since
they need to compete for food with other wild animals including jaguar, bush
dog, and ocelot, wherein, Darwin’s
natural theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ holds good.
When excited, the male short-eared dogs spray a kind of musk
produced in a tail gland. The agitation in them
can easily be noticed from their raised hairs on the back.
Interestingly, unlike most other dog species (or even
domestic breeds), this wild dog is an omnivore.
However, its primary food is meat, or, more precisely, fish.
Because these semi-aquatic dogs prefer consuming a variety of fish, they are often seen hunting near the creeks. Here, they would often feast on frogs and crabs as well. Other than that, they also consume small reptiles and mammals, birds, insects, and a variety of wild fruits.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
The researchers could gather very little information about the
mating system and the reproductive behavior of these creatures except that the
short-eared bitches give birth in around May and June.
The puppies are taken care of
by the female, while the young babies spend the prime of their life inside
hollow logs, or in the burrows made by other animals.
The gestation period of these dogs is also not known. Biologists
believe that the juveniles reach the age of sexual maturity when they are
around one year old.
Unlike other dog species/breeds, these semi-aquatic wild dogs have developed a unique feature – partially webbed feet to assist them in swimming, as well as for movement on slippery grounds close to the water.
Their physical color pattern corresponds to their shy nature. The dark, gray and white colorations create a visual paradox to the predators/enemies when the dogs hide in the forest behind the bushes.
Predators & Enemies
As mentioned, feral and domestic dogs often attack and kill
these wild mammals. Also, large species of wild cats, like ocelots, jaguars,
and pumas, are the primary predators of the short-eared dogs.
The IUCN 3.1 has declared this canine as ‘NT’ (Near Threatened).
While ‘zorro’ is the Spanish word for fox, the dog gets its other name ‘small-eared zorro’ because of its morphological similarities with fox including elongated muzzle and bushy tail.