Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"J" is for Jackal

Historically, Jackals have been given a bad rap. Europeans once believed that jackals hunted prey for lions, obsequiously giving the "lion's share" to the big cats before slinking in to feed on the scraps. Patently ridiculous. Jackals are small canids that live in pairs or small family packs. They may have the cunning, but have no where near the power needed to bring down the zebras and buffalos that lions traditionally feed on. Regardless, the term "Jackal" is defined in the dictionary as "a dishonest person who performs menial or degrading tasks for another." Hardly praise.

Egyptians had more reverence for the Jackal. Their ancient god of the dead, Anubis, is pictured as a man with a jackal's head. Anubis held sway over mummification and guiding the dead to the afterlife and is prolifically depicted on the walls of tombs and pyramids.

Jackals mate for life and will form small family packs, decreasing the mortality rate of new litters by letting the last litter help to rear the pups. All members of the family take part in defending territory, protecting each other and hunting. Yes, jackals do hunt, and are listed as carnivores. More appropriately they should be considered opportunistic omnivores as they will feed on carrion, garbage and have a penchant for corn and fruit. A jackal makes no attempt to hide the finding of food but lets the rest of the family know with loud yips and screams. Jackals are extremely vocal. The origin of their name—the Sanskrit word srgala—literally means "the howler."

No comments: