Dholes (Cuon alpinus) are a species of wild dog  found across Central, South, Southeast and East Asia. They share their habitat with Tigers (Panthera tigris) and are reputed to be very aggressive in their interactions with the big cats. Stories of Dhole packs hunting down Tigers in the forests of India have become part of Indian jungle lore. While many of these stories might be old wives’ tales, biologists do have evidence showing the small canids standing their ground when confronted by Tigers. When it comes to Leopards (Panthera pardus), Dholes have been observed mobbing and forcing them up trees. The English name for this iconic Asian species might come from a Dravidian language, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It traces the etymology to a Kannada (a language spoken in the South Indian state of Karnataka) word ‘tola’ (meaning wolf), and says that the first known usage of the term goes back to 1827. However, an even more earlier occurrence of the word is to be seen in the book ‘Oriental Field Sports: Wild Sports of the East’, Volume 2 by Thomas Williamson, which was published in 1808. Once again, the book focuses on interactions between the wild dog and Tigers.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons is taken from ‘Dogs, Jackals, Wolves, and Foxes: A Monograph of the Canidae’ (by St. George Mivart), and shows a Southern Dhole (Cuon alpinus alpinus). The illustrations were done by by J.G. Keulemans (a Dutch artist).

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