The Dhole, also called the Asiatic Wild Dog or Indian Wild Dog, is a species of canid. It is the only extant member of the genus Cuon, which differs from Canis by the reduced number of molars and greater number of teats. The dholes are classed as endangered by the IUCN, due to ongoing habitat loss, depletion of its prey base, competition from other predators, persecution and possibly diseases from domestic and feral dogs.
Dholes have relatively short, heavy and massive skulls, with shortened facial regions, widely separated zygomatic arches and well-developed sagittal crests. The frontal bone is inflated, and passes down onto the snout, giving the animals a convex rather than concave profile. The masseter muscles are highly developed compared to other canid species, giving the face an almost hyena-like appearance. The skull is broader, and has a shorter rostrum than that of domestic dogs and most other canids.
The species uniquely has six rather than seven lower molars. The upper molars are weak, being one-third to one-half the size of those of wolves, and have only one cusp as opposed to two to four, as is usual in canids, an adaptation thought to improve shearing ability, thus allowing it to compete more successfully with kleptoparasites. The canine teeth are slightly curved and short.
Their limbs are moderately long, and their thoraces are proportional. Along with African wild dogs, dholes are often referred to as "cat-like" canids, due to their long, fine limbs and backbones. They have great jumping and leaping abilities, being able to jump 3.0–3.5 m (10–12 ft) high, and leap 5– to 6-m (17– to 20-ft) distances in one leap with a running start. Their tails measure 16–17 in long, and are almost half the length of their bodies, nearly touching the ground when in full winter fur. They are smaller than African wild dogs. Weights range from 10 to 25 kg (22 to 55 lb), with males averaging about 4.5 kg (9.9 lb) heavier than females. This dog is 88 to 113 cm (35 to 44 in) long from the snout to the base of the tail, with the tail averaging 45 cm (18 in) in length. Shoulder height is 42 to 55 cm (17 to 22 in). Like African wild dogs, their ears are rounded rather than pointed. However, unlike the former species, male dholes do not have a clearly visible prepuce, thus making the sexing of individuals difficult even at close proximity. Unlike members of the Canis genus, females have 12–14 teats rather than 10. They are not as odorous as wolves, jackals and foxes, having a smaller number of anal scent glands. Their stomachs have been estimated to hold 6.5 lb (2.9 kg) of food.
The general tone of the fur is reddish, with the brightest hues occurring in winter. When in their winter fur, the back is clothed in a saturated rusty-red to reddish color with brownish highlights along the top of the head, neck and shoulders. The throat, chest, flanks, belly and the upper parts of the limbs are less brightly colored, and are more yellowish in tone. The lower parts of the limbs are whitish, with dark brownish bands on the anterior sides of the forelimbs. The muzzle and forehead are greyish-reddish. The tail is very luxuriant and fluffy, and is mainly of a reddish-ochre color, with a dark brown or blackish tip. The summer coat is shorter, coarser and darker. The dorsal and lateral guard hairs in adults measure 20–30 mm in length.
Prey animals in India include chital, sambar, muntjac, mouse deer, swamp deer, wild boar, gaur, water buffalo, banteng, cattle, nilgai, goats, Indian hares, Himalayan field rats and langurs. There is one record of a pack bringing down an Indian elephant calf in Assam, despite desperate defense of the mother resulting in numerous losses to the pack. In Kashmir, they may hunt markhor, and thamin in Burma. Javan rusas are hunted in Java. In the Tien Shan and Tarbagatai Mountains, dholes prey on Siberian ibexes, arkhar, roe deer, maral and wild boar. In the Altai and Sayan Mountains, they prey on musk deer and reindeer. In eastern Siberia, they prey on roe deer, Manchurian wapiti, wild boar, musk deer, and reindeer, while in Primorye they feed on sika deer and goral, too. In Mongolia, they prey on argali and rarely Siberian ibex. Like African wild dogs, but unlike wolves, dholes are not known to attack people. Dholes eat fruit and vegetable matter more readily than other canids.
Dholes are more social than wolves, and have less of a dominance hierarchy, as seasonal scarcity of food is not a serious concern for them as it is with wolves. In this sense, they closely resemble African wild dogs in social structure. Dominant dholes are hard to identify, as they do not engage in dominance displays as wolves do, though other clan members will show submissive behavior toward them. Intragroup fighting is rarely observed. They live in clans rather than packs, as the latter term refers to a group of animals that always hunt together. In contrast, dhole clans frequently break into small packs of 3–5 animals, particularly during the spring season, as this is the optimal number for catching fawns. Dholes are far less territorial than wolves, with pups from one clan often joining another without trouble once they mature sexually. Clans typically number 5-12 individuals in India, though clans of 40 have been reported. In Thailand, clans rarely exceed three individuals. Unlike other canids, there is no evidence of dholes using urine to mark their territories or travel routes. They may defecate in conspicuous places, though a territorial function is unlikely, as feces are mostly deposited within the clan's territory rather than the periphery. Feces are often deposited in what appear to be communal latrines. They do not scrape the earth with their feet as other canids do to mark their territories.
Dholes are primarily diurnal hunters, hunting in the early hours of the morning. They rarely hunt nocturnally, except on moonlit nights, indicating they greatly rely on sight when hunting.