A Dingo Ate Australia
January 14, 2014 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Australia’s prowling predator is either a vicious wild dog that attacks children and devours farm animals, or a loving and devoted pet as cuddly as a kitten. It just depends on whom you ask.
posted by Chutzler (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Dingoes can rotate their heads to look along their backbone

*holds up crucifix*
posted by Kabanos at 3:05 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hm. They don't bark, but it describes one of them as "chattering". That makes it sort of unclear what noise they make. Also, this: "Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinctions in the world, mostly due to the havoc caused by native populations of feral foxes and cats." I'm not sure what the word "native" in that sentence means; it contradicts the impression that you otherwise get that they mean introduced non-native.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:08 PM on January 14, 2014

I'm not sure what the word "native" in that sentence means;

posted by mhoye at 3:11 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fascinating piece; thanks for posting it. I had no idea they could be kept as pets (even if they're very demanding; I couldn't do it!). And they sound smart as hell:
"Pet dingoes maintain their free will. They resist following orders. Ask them to fetch or sit on demand and they give you a “Why should I?” look just like a person would. You are a peer, not a master. Forget about trying to train them. Their fierce intelligence means they are more likely to end up training you. It’s a privilege to know them, but forget thinking you ever truly own them.

"They are almost rational, sometimes intensely human, in the way they respond to situations. “Say you take a tennis ball to the park and throw it, they bring it back,” says Hutchings. “But if you throw it again they get confused and leave it, looking at you like ‘Well, if you don’t want it then I won’t give it to you again!’”
posted by languagehat at 3:17 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a guy sharing his home with a Carolina Dog (you don't really own a dixie dingo, per se), another pariah breed with the same genetic roots as the dingo, I'm always fascinated by the sort of deep time history of these dogs that are not native at all, and yet so much immersed in the cultures that rose in their presence.

The fact that mine can bite through a live orange utility extension cord without being bothered and can render an entire Ikea Klippan couch to a frame and an apartment full of various shreds of fluff in an afternoon made her late puppyhood a trial, but I've only rarely watched a more fascinating mind at work.

I still wonder how she was able to retrieve things I hid from her on the top of the refrigerator, but we've arrived at a more mature working relationship and I give her the benefit of the doubt that she did, in fact, just meditate on what she wanted until gravity stopped being an impediment.
posted by sonascope at 3:17 PM on January 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

“They make great pets, but it is conditional on the fact you are not going to get sick of them and give them away after five years. You are not going to take them overseas or do anything drastic. You need to commit to the fact that it is a long-term commitment,” says Hemberger.

You, lady, have unlocked the key to pet ownership, not dingo ownership.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:19 PM on January 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

such dinge

posted by turbid dahlia at 3:29 PM on January 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

So they're like, one step removed from cat "fuck you, feed me" ballaz
posted by lordaych at 4:56 PM on January 14, 2014

Oooh, that was a fun read.

My husband and I are pretty sure that the dog we adopted as a 2 year old from the pound 11+ years ago is all or mostly american dingo. Living with her is a joy and a challenge every day. And she's still the only dog I've ever seen who could catch squirrels and birds while not only a leashed but wearing a head collar as well.
posted by jburka at 5:30 PM on January 14, 2014

They sound like the worst clingy boy/girlfriend ever. That baby was probably all, dude I need some space, I feel like you want to consume me. So the dingo was like, that is the perfect solution, you will become a part of me.

That said. I have some friends who would LOVE themselves some dingo smother.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 5:35 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

And she's still the only dog I've ever seen who could

The first time mine climbed a tree in pursuit of a squirrel, I knew that she was not your normal everyday dog.

"Umm, Daisy," I said, as she looked down, propped between two tree trunks with her back against one and her paws on the other, "Did you think this through?"

She pivoted in place like a well-studied stripper, walked back down to the crotch of the tree in this posture, then stepped to the ground without a thump or a sound, as graceful as a leopard.

"Well, that was alarming, dog. I'm glad you're on my side."
posted by sonascope at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

My recently deceased pup (15.5 years) was a coy-dog mongrel from down along the border in the Rio Grande Valley. She has some coyote in her, by her looks and stalking behavior, but who knows how far back it was. She could bark, but only did it very rarely.
Other than that, her behavior was very much like this.
My wife had to earn the alpha-female position. Until she got old, greetings had to be long, social events. And if she felt abandoned, she could hold a grudge. For weeks.
It's how you knew she loved you!
posted by Seamus at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mention you are on your way to visit some “pet dingoes” and you are likely to get a shocked response followed by questions about the danger involved.

Nonsense. Maybe in the city, but few people in the country will bat an eye, and lots of people will know someone who has a mongrel with an awful lot of dingo in them - though it's true that purebreds are increasingly rare as dingo populations mate with feral dogs.

I dunno, I felt like this piece was like half good research, half ridiculous hyperbole and mythologising of dingoes. I say this as an Australian and someone who has interacted with dingoes. I can't help but feel that the author was either intentionally playing into a lot of stereotypes about Australia and dingoes, or as a city slicker, somewhat credulous about this.

Dingoes are wild animals, and people forget that at their peril. They are not domesticated in the sense that actual dogs are domesticated - and it would have been great if she'd had a chat to the RSPCA about the number "pet" dingoes that end up attacking their owners and having to be put down.

By the same token, the way those dog-owners and the breeders talk, it's just all romantic pabulum. To me, it sounds exactly the same - and exactly as nonsensical - as full-on dog breeders/fans sound about their own breeds all the time. They are wild animals, but they're not some alien creatures; they are still dogs, and they still act largely like dogs. Most of the stuff that Melbourne couple says is a load of cobblers in my experience/opinion.

Dingoes are, it's true: hard to train, avoid barking, and have a strong prey instinct that makes them much more likely to bite things and people. All this nonsense about "alphas" and having to be part of the pack. Sounds to me like a typical self-centred pet owner justifying their desire to have a particular pet and treat it a particular way. I dunno, I'm a bit cynical about people that insist on having exotic animals as pets: it's rarely about the animals, I find.
posted by smoke at 6:41 PM on January 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

I have to agree with everything smoke says, and I will add that dingoes are an absolute pain in the arse if your next door neighbour has one in the backyard. My parents live next door to a pair of fruit loops who have one as a 'pet', and it is never walked or exercised or entertained in any way. They've paved the entire backyard so the poor bloody thing doesn't even have grass to roll around on. Consequently, the only entertainment it gets is to yowl every time a car or pedestrian dares to come within 100 metres of their house.

Going to the toilet in my parents house involves opening the door as quietly as possible, hearing the dingo bound up to the fence no matter how quietly you opened the door, and by the time you've dropped your underwear, it has started yowling in that blood-curdling fashion. From about a metre away. Unsettling to say the least.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:32 AM on January 15, 2014

Not sure I could handle getting home from a hard day at work and having to avoid 'offending' the dingoes.
posted by colie at 3:58 AM on January 15, 2014

Okay, now I've RTFA, and I don't know where to start.

Dingoes. In Newtown. Inner Sydney. Words fail me. How fucking cruel to keep wild dogs - which, as the article says, cannot be 'tamed' as domestic dogs - in Newtown.

And Dr Wallach has 'yet to find a national park that isn't full of 1080'? I'm guessing Dr Wallach hasn't been to too many national parks. I could drive her to about five, within an hours drive from my hometown, which don't have 1080 flung everywhere. (Yeah, they're full of foxes and feral cats but that isn't the issue.)

And when Watson claims that farmers should accept there will be spoilage losses, same as any other industry, when a dingo rips out the throat or belly or a sheep? The thing is, dingoes attack for fun. For sport. Those same farmers who cry as they shoot their sheep because of the drought also cry when they go out at 5am and find their sheep with their throats or bellies ripped open, but not eaten. Sometimes still alive.

I value dingoes as a native animal, I think they should be protected as much as possible, but I also think that they're not bloody labradoodles and shouldn't be treated as cuddly misguided pets.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:03 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

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