This blog is about Dhole or “wild dogs” as they are more commonly called. The request to write about Dhole came from Adi, a sweet 5 year child. This is unusual and gratifying. Gratifying because its awesome to see young ones interested in wildlife. Unusual because he referred to them as dhole whereas most people know them as wild dogs.
Dholes are from the canid family, I think the same family as dogs. They are relatively small in size ranging from 15-25 kgs so about the size of a medium dog.
Their heads taper into a fox like snout. They are very commonly found in the jungles of central india like kanha, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba and in the nilgiri jungles like Kabini, Nagarhole etc. They are not commonly found in the northern jungles like Corbett.
Dholes are social animals living in packs of 10-15 and this really is their strength. Although individually small in size, they are vicious and successful hunters in a pack. At times, the Dhole pack has been known to steal prey even from Tigers. However at core, Dholes are scavengers. They will steal anything and everything and are capable of eating their prey down to the bones, in fact to the hoods. We actually saw this once, when a Dhole was happily munching on a the hoof of some poor deer and then it proceeded to eat it all, including the hoof.
The Dhole attack in a pack and harry the prey until it drops out of exhaustion. Two or three hunters keep attacking the prey from all sides while the other wait at the side. When the initial attackers get tired, the resting ones come forward and take their place and continue the attack. This is an unrelenting attack and the prey has no chance to escape.
Two Dhole related incidents come to mind. Interestingly, both were in Tadoba. While we were driving down the road in Tadoba, we saw a pack of Dholes sitting on the road. So we stopped to observe them. From the right hand side a gaur was approaching and this was a big male gaur. On hearing the movement, the dholes perked up and sat up as a pack. The gaur saw them but didnt seem afraid. It actually walked in their midst as if daring them to attack. It crossed to the left side , turned back and went back right through their midst again. There seemed to be a moment when the Gaur seemed to face off to the alpha dhole and the rest of the dholes seemed to wait for his move and attack. But the moment passed, the dholes and Gaur went their separate ways. It was a fascinating interaction.
Another time was when we were returning back to our hotel in Tadoba and we saw a spotted deer stag running past us like its like depended on it. Soon, it was followed by a pack of dhole. It was a small pack and had a number of small pups in it. What followed was incredible. A set of dholes kept attacking the stag who tried to defend itself.
It would point its antlers one way while others would snip in behind it and tear chunks off. They were literally eating it alive!!!
It was a horrifying sight. Unfortunately, it was very late and light was abysmal so I only got record shots. After a struggle of 15-20 minutes, one of the Dhole’s finally brought it down with a neck hold and that was it.
What an incredible experience!!
I have included a video of the encounter. Please excuse the poor quality. Please click on the link below. The video is of an actual hunt and is very graphic in nature so show to kids with caution.
In conclusion, although dholes are small in size, they get their strength from their numbers and their tenacity. They are amongst the fiercest hunters of our Indian Jungles.