Black Backed Jackal

© Karl Svendsen


Black-backed jackals [Canis mesomelas]


Black backed jackals are a widely distributed species that are known for their cunning and daring. They are often seen nipping in to steal a morsel from Lions on a kill. Mainly nocturnal but seen regularly during the day, this handsome animal has a call to remember. The Black-backed Jackal feeds on small mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, carrion and fruit. They do scavenge but are hunters in their own right.


Male black-backed jackals attain a height of 400 mm at the shoulder, and weighs seven to ten kg. The erect and pointed ears are a prominent feature. The fur consists of long, dark hair on top of the neck and back. Their flanks and face are beige-buff, sometimes rusty-reddish, they have a black tipped tail.

The black-backed jackal is one of two jackal species found in South Africa, the other being the side-striped jackal.

©Shem Compion


As an omnivore the Black Backed Jackal eats almost anything that is available including insects, lizards, rodents, plant materials and carrion. As such it assists in maintaining the ecological balance. It scavenges when carcasses are available. They co-operate in larger groups to subdue larger prey, such as impala and wildebeest calves.

They play an important role in removing sick and old animals from populations. Caches small chunks of meat when in abundance, for later use. They will also prey on poultry and small stock.

Vital Statistics

Weight (Female)
5, 5 - 10 kg
Weight (Male)
6, 8 - 11, 4 kg
Length (Female)
110 cm
Length (Male)
110 cm
Gestation Period
2 months
No of Young
1 - 6 pups


Mating occurs between June to August, thus the black-backed jackal is a seasonal breeder. After a two months gestation period, between one and six pups are born from August to October. Peak breeding season can vary regionally. Pups are suckled initially and thereafter fed on regurgitated food for up to three months, thereafter young are able to forage with the adults.
©Nigel Dennis


Socially monogamous, a pair of jackals bond for life. The young initially use their parents territory to gain survival experience and also to assist in raising more recent litters. Later in life they undertake wide ranging excursions until they find their own mates and territories. Black-backed jackals have a well-developed communication system.

Spoor Description

Neat, small, dog-like tracks 5 cm long.


Found throughout the country in open ground or light woodland. The black-backed jackal has a wide habitat tolerance, but is absent from dense forested areas.
©Roger de la Harpe

Where Black Backed Jackal Are Found

The Black Backed Jackal are widespread in east and southern Africa. In the north, it is found from the Gulf of Aden south to Tanzania. In the south, the population ranges from the Cape north to southwestern Angola and east to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari