Jackals are members of the canine family, which means that they are related to wolves, dogs and coyotes. There are three members of the jackal family: the black-backed jackal and the side-striped jackal (both found in sub-Saharan Africa) and the golden jackal (found in northern Africa, southeastern and central Europe, the Middle East and southeast Asia). Jackals have a similar appearance to coyotes. They are known for their longs legs, which are suited for long distance running. This trait, coupled with their powerful jaw and canine teeth, makes them a formidable opportunistic predator. They are not usually pack animals and prefer to hunt in pairs or alone. Let’s take a closer look at the diet of the jackal.
What do jackals eat?
Generally speaking jackals will prey on any small to medium sized animals that they can find. They can also commonly be found scavenging dead or dying animals, and in some cases will even take a kill from another animal.
More specifically the black-backed jackal is classed as an omnivore (eats plants and animals). They are known to eat a wide variety of foods from small insects and other invertebrates (beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions etc), mammals (rodents, hares, warthogs and even young antelopes), reptiles (lizards and snakes), animal carcasses and even fruits and berries. In coastal regions they will also feed on marine creatures and animals that wash up on the beach (seals, fish and mussels). They usually target smaller species, but they are known to tangle with larger animals and even other predators such as mongooses and polecats. They have even been observed harassing a crippled bull rhinoceros.
The side-striped jackal is also classed as an omnivore, and is less of a predator than the black-backed jackal. They are more of a forage species and will feed mostly on invertebrates and small mammals. They also commonly scavenge food from human sites and from the kills of other animals. They are also quite fond of fruits, and at certain times of the year fruit can make up to 30% of their diet. They are not known for taking game larger than themselves.
The golden jackal is found in many different areas and their diet tends to change depending on the availability of food. They are also omnivores and will forage for any available food. Common food sources include small mammals, birds, reptiles and fruit. This species is capable of attacking prey larger than themselves, but they are far more likely to target smaller prey.