Live Science describes Jackals as a type of canine, animals that are related to dogs, coyotes, foxes and wolves. They look like a cross between a German shepherd and a fox. They have the fox’s small face, delicate legs and fluffy tail, with the German shepherd’s long, alert ears. If you’ve seen a Jackal, you won’t need Live Science’s description and fortunately for you, they have been recorded in the savanna plains of Uganda.
Basically, Jackals are small to medium-sized dogs associated with most savanna habitats. Although often portrayed as carrion-eaters, they are in fact opportunistic omnivores, hunting a variety of small mammals and birds with some regularity and also eating a substantial amount of fruit and bulbs.
The most widespread of the canid in Uganda is the side-striped jackal (C. adustus), which occurs in all four savanna national parks as well as in Bwindi and Mgahinga, and is most likely to be seen in the north of Murchison Falls.
Within Uganda, the similar black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas) is restricted to Kidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs, while the golden jackal (C. aureus), though it appears on the national checklist, has been recorded in no national park and is presumably a vagrant.
Jackals inhabit open country. They are nocturnal animals that usually conceal themselves by day in brush or thickets and sally forth at dusk to hunt. They live alone, in pairs, or in packs and feed on whatever small animals, plant material, or carrion is available. They follow lions and other large cats in order to finish a carcass when the larger animal has eaten its fill. When hunting in packs, they are able to bring down prey as large as an antelope or sheep.
Like other members of the genus, jackals sing at evening; their cry is considered more dismaying to human ears than that of the hyena. They have an offensive odour caused by the secretion of a gland at the base of the tail. The young are born in burrows, the litters containing two to seven pups; gestation lasts 57 to 70 days. Like wolves and coyotes, jackals interbreed with domestic dogs.
Side-striped Jackal (Canis adustus)
Timid and rarely seen the Side-striped Jackal is larger than the more common Black-backed Jackal. Grey to buff coloured body and with a darker back, the sides are marked with a white stripe with black lower margins. The dark tail is almost always tipped with white, whereas the ears are a dark buff colour.
Side-striped Jackals occupy a range of habitats, from game areas through farmland to towns within the broad-leaved savanna zones, including wooded habitats, bush, grassland, abandoned cultivation, marshes and montane habitats up to 2,700 meters.
The black stripped jackal is the most common in Uganda and occurs in Queen Elizabeth NP, Kidepo Valley NP and Lake Mburo NP, Bwindi Impenetrable, Mgahinga and is most likely to be seen in the north of Murchison Falls NP.
Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas)
Compared to other members of the genus Canis, the black-backed jackal is a very ancient species, and has changed little since the Pleistocene, being the most basal wolf-like canine, alongside the closely related side-striped jackal. It is a fox-like animal with a reddish brown to tan coat and a black saddle that extends from the shoulders to the base of the tail.
It is a monogamous animal, whose young may remain with the family to help raise new generations of pups. The black-backed jackal is not a fussy eater, and feeds on small to medium-sized animals, as well as plant matter and human refuse.
In Uganda the black-backed jackal is restricted to Kidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs
Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)
The golden jackal is the most northerly of jackal species, and also the most widely distributed. It overlaps biotopes only with the black-backed jackal in East African savannas. Golden jackals prefer dry open country, arid short grasslands and steppe landscapes. The species is very adaptable. As a generalist and opportunistic species, the Golden Jackal is capable of adapting to a wide range of habitats.
The body length of the golden jackal is 70 to 85 cm., with a tail length of about 25 cm. Its standing height is approximately 40 cm. The fur is generally coarse and not very long. Its coat is usually yellow to pale gold and brown-tipped, but the color can vary with season and region. On the Serengeti Plain in Northern Tanzania, golden jackals are brown-tipped yellow in the rainy season (December-January), changing to pale gold in the dry season (September-October).
In Uganda, the golden jackal has not been recorded in any national park but has been spotted wondering from place to place and some places eating away human gardens and small domestic animals.