|barrens, desert, rainforest,
savanna, steppe, woodland
|30 in. long
Golden jackals are wolf-like mammals inhabiting regions spanning from the Balkans to Southeast Asia. Compared to the larger grey wolves, jackals are smaller, with shorter legs, tails, elongated torsos and narrower, pointed muzzles. Their coat exhibits color variations, from pale creamy yellow in summer to dark tawny beige in winter.
They're commonly found near rivers, canals, lakes, and seashores, tending to avoid foothills and mountainous terrain. They typically live in family groups, comprising a breeding pair and their young, and often occupy areas where wolf populations are scarce or absent.
Golden jackals frequently pilfer from camps in search of sustenance, emitting distinctive howls during the night-time. This is occasionally confused for that of wolves unfamiliar with the distinction. They've been observed integrating into wolf packs, scavenging from wolf-hunted prey without provoking aggression from the wolves themselves. Notably, in select cases within India, solitary jackals have forged alliances with tigers, partaking in the consumption of the larger feline's kills. These jackals also serve as sentinels, alerting the tigers to imminent threats.
Anubis is a jackal-headed god of significant power, whose realm is that of mummification, death and the afterlife. In various folklores, notable Hindi, Greek, African and Native American, there are stories and beliefs about the jackal's ability to shapeshift or convey messages to the spirit world. In India, it's believed that the jackals that roam around cremation grounds are sacred to Shiva, being considered messengers of death.