Posts Tagged ‘small-eared dog’

short-eared dog full body

The answer to yesterday’s “Name the Species”  is the short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis). As far as I know, it is the only naturally occurring species of water dog. These animals have very webbed feet, which much more webbed than any domestic breed used in the water.  One way to think of this animal is as a cross between an otter and a dog. It spends a lot of time in and near the water, and its diet includes lots of fish, frogs,  and crabs.

Now it looks like a leggier version of the South American bush dog. However, its closest relative is the crab-eating fox(Cerdocyon thous). If the small-eared dog is the otter-dog, then the crab-eating fox is the mink-dog. It eats animals that appear along the banks of the rivers. In Venezuela, it is a creature of the Llanos, where it can be seen catching crabs in the floodplains.

Now the crab-eating fox is quite common. Native peoples know this animal well, and many have domesticated them and kept them as pets. South American wild dogs are closely related to the genus Canis and its allies, and the crab-eating fox is rumored to have crossed with a domestic dog. That’s far more likely than the a domestic dog crossing with a vulpine fox.

The short-eared dog, by contrast, is not well-known even by native peoples. It is not widely hunted, nor is it widely described in native folklore. Where it does exist, it exists at very low densities. As a result, we know very little about them.

The dogs give off a musky odor and can raise their hackles. The bitches are 1/3 larger than the dogs and do not have hackles or the musky odor. In all other dog species in existence, the bitches and vixens are smaller than the dogs.

What I find more interesting is that the short-eared dog can be rather short-haired. When nature creates a creature that can live in or near the water, evolution created a short-haired animal. This photo really shows the texture of the short-eared dog’s coat. Shorter hair is more practical in the water, for it doesn’t get bogged down, allowing the animal to swim more efficiently.

So the short-eared dog was the identity of the last “What is the species?” post.

And it didn’t hurt that wordpress automatically generated a link to an earlier post of mine that features a rare video of the short-eared dog.

South America has the greatest diversity of wild dogs species in the world, and it is really amazing how many unusual dogs can be found there. The short-eared dog is certainly one of them.

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But here’s a video of one from the Refugio Amazonas in Peru:

I’ve always called them small-eared dogs, because their taxonomic species name is microtis (small-ear).

South America has a great diversity of wild dogs. It probably has the greatest number of unique species of dog living in such proximity to each other of any other continent. Where I live, we have only three species of wild dog; the red fox, the grey fox, and the Eastern coyote. The number of South American “zorros” (false foxes) is amazing.

The short-eared dog is one of these unique species. We know very little about them. They eat lots of fish and fruit in their diets. They have very webbed feet, more so than other species of dog, including domestic “aquatic breeds.”  They can be found only in lowland Amazon rainforest, where only one other species of dog can be found, the bush dog, which also has small ears but has short legs like a dachshund and hunts in packs. They are found in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, where this lowland Amazon forest exists. Where they are found, they exist only in very low densities. It is thought that canine distemper and rabies have greatly reduced its numbers. Again, we really don’t know much about this species.

You can read more about them here. I think the camera trap photo on this PDF really shows what an unusual animal this dog is.  The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Canid Specialist Group has a very good website that covers all wild dogs and their biology.  Interestingly, they don’t have much information on the grey fox.

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