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Home > Dogs > What Is a Dhole? Facts & Characteristics

What Is a Dhole? Facts & Characteristics

Beautiful dhole wild dog standing portrait on summer day

Dholes are fascinating mammals resembling foxes and are technically wild dogs. While Dholes are wild dogs, they differ significantly from our familiar, domesticated canine friend. They belong to the Canidae family, with foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Their behavior is very similar to a regular dog, such as their social nature, and their common names include Asiatic wild dog, red dog, and whistling dog. Though we colloquially refer to Dholes as dogs, these wild animals lead an entirely different life. They hunt and live in packs, with unique mating and breeding habits.

Read the article below to learn more about Dholes.


Dhole Characteristics

Scientific name: Cuon alpinus
Family: Canidae
Type: Mammals
Average size: 3 feet long
Average weight: 26 to 44 pounds
Life span in the wild: 10 years
Life span in captivity: 16 years
Conservation status: Endangered
Origin: Asia
Habitat: Mountains, forests, steppes


A Dhole is a large wild dog, around 3 feet long and weighing between 26 and 44 pounds. Their coat is thick and short, usually in a mixture of charcoal gray and sandy beige with reddish shades. Their tail is long and bushy, with a black tip resembling a fox’s. Their underside, including their feet and chest, is white. Their ears are big and rounded with white hairs on the inside.

close up of dhole looking at the camera
Image By: LMIMAGES, Shutterstock


A Dhole has a diverse diet, although most feed on hoofed mammals, such as wild goats, wild pigs, deer, and buffalos. Depending on their habitat, they will match their dietary choices to what they can find. In Siberia, Dholes can feed on deer, wild sheep, and even reindeer, while in Southeast Asia, they will feed on gaur, deer, and banteng. Dholes tend to hunt in packs when searching for larger prey, while they may prefer hunting alone when searching for smaller food, such as rabbits, insects, lizards, and berries. The diet of Dholes consists of around 70% meat since they are hypercarnivores.1


Dholes typically breed twice a year, and the breeding habits of Dholes are a bit strange since there is only one dominant monogamous pair in the pack. This pair will breed while the rest of the group will feed the litter by regurgitating it after a hunt. When the pups reach 6 months old, they can follow their parents in hunts. Once the pups mature at 3 years old, the females leave their current pack to join another one.

indian dhole puppy outdoors
Image By: Sadasiva-Pandava, Shutterstock

Dhole 101

A Dhole is a wild dog native to Asia, most genetically similar to an African wild dog. This canine is similar to a Border Collie or a German Shepard in size. They are incredibly adaptable to many environments, such as shrublands, high mountain steppes, and forests. These creatures are exceptionally social, living in packs of various sizes.

Dholes are considered an endangered species,2 with only between 949 and 2,215 mature dholes left worldwide. Dholes are threatened mainly through human impact, from developing palm and other plantations and infrastructure, isolating them further. While Dholes have little in common with the canines we live with, they belong to the dog-like family Canidae, along with wolves, foxes, coyotes, and jackals. Colloquially, we refer to Dholes and other animals of the same family as dogs because of their genetic resemblance.

Dhole Facts

Dholes are incredibly fascinating creatures with many skills and intriguing behavior.

Here are some unique facts about these animals:
  • A female Dhole can give birth to 12 pups in one litter.
  • After raising a litter, females leave while the males stay in the pack their entire lives.
  • A pack of Dholes can hunt and take down an animal 10 times their size.
  • Dholes can whistle, make high-pitched screams, and even “cluck” like a chicken!
  • Dholes are excellent swimmers, jumpers, and hunters.



After reading about Dholes, you’ll learn that while they are canines that belong in the same family as wolves, they have vast differences from domesticated dogs. They are wild dogs native to Asia that are superb hunters and resemble a fox with their rusty red coats. Besides being social creatures, they have bizarre behavior habits in their packs that make this animal similar to dogs, yet also very different.

Featured Image Credit: Photo Spirit, Shutterstock

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