Tigers and jackals seem to enjoy a peculiar relationship. The Bengal Tiger doesn’t need any help, being good enough to hunt down big game on its own. It is the Indian Jackal which makes the most out of the arrangement. Known as kol-bahl or bhalu, these hangers-on consume the left-overs of the big cat. Naturalists (as noted by R I Pocock in ‘The Fauna of British India: Mammals Volume II’, 1941) have reported jackals moving around tigers without much ado; a dangerous game to play, costing the little scavengers their lives at times.
The fate of The Blue Jackal in the Panchatantra reflects the deadly nature of this association. Some interpreted it as a sign of the Indian Jackal’s derring-do. Others, like Rudyard Kipling, were far less charitable. In ‘The Jungle Book’, Tabaqui is a jackal who accompanies Shere Khan and does his bidding. Hindu myth depicts the canid as a creature symbolizing greed, cowardice and misfortune. Irrespective of the nature of its portrayal, the jackal has furnished people with tales aplenty over the millennia. Something we must be thankful for.
Image Attribution: The image above is sourced from Wikimedia Commons and is based on an illustration from the book ‘Animals in action; studies and stories of beasts, birds and reptiles; their habits, their homes and their peculiarities’ (1901).