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Sub-Saharan AfricaBlack-backed jackal Canis mesomelas

Black-backed Jackal - © Chris and Tilde Stuart

Relevant LinksReports / PapersOther Names

English: Silver-backed Jackal; French: Chacal À Chabraque

Least Concern

The Black-backed Jackal is endemic to Africa, found in two separate subpopulations: one in East Africa; and one in southern Africa. The species is generally widespread. Black-backed Jackals are relatively unspecialized canids and well suited for an opportunistic lifestyle in a wide variety of habitats. The species is persecuted for its role as livestock killers and as rabies vectors. However, population control efforts appear largely ineffective and probably only succeed in producing a temporary reduction in local numbers.

Population trend:Increasing

(Black-backed jackal range map)
(Click on map for more detail)

Habitat and Ecology:

Black-backed Jackals are found in a wide variety of habitats including arid coastal desert (Dreyer and Nel 1990), montane grassland (Rowe-Rowe 1982), arid savanna and scrubland (Skinner and Smithers 1990), open savanna (Wyman 1967; Kingdon 1977; Lamprecht 1978; Moehlman 1983; Fuller et al. 1989; Estes 1991), woodland savanna mosaics (Smithers 1971; Loveridge and Macdonald 2002) and farmland. In general, Black-backed Jackals show a preference for open habitats tending to avoid dense vegetation (Pienaar 1969). In KwaZulu-Natal, they are recorded from sea level to more than 3,000 m asl. in the Drakensberg, and in localities receiving more than 2,000 mm of rainfall (Rowe-Rowe 1982, 1992). Where more than one jackal species occur in sympatry the habitat is partitioned. The trend is for Black-backed Jackals to use preferentially either the open grassland (when sympatric with Side-striped Jackal; Loveridge 1999) or wooded savanna (when sympatric with Golden and Side-striped Jackals; Fuller et al. 1989). In western Zimbabwe, habitat partitioning was mediated by aggressive encounters in which Black-backed Jackals displaced Side-striped Jackals from grassland habitats (Loveridge 1999).


Major Threats:

Black-backed Jackals are persecuted for their role as livestock killers and as rabies vectors. Population control efforts appear largely ineffective and probably only succeed in producing a temporary reduction in local numbers. There is no significant trade in jackal products, although body parts are used in traditional African medicine. .


Conservation Actions:

The species is not included in the CITES Appendices and has no legal protection outside protected areas. It is known to occur in protected areas throughout its range (see Sillero-Zubiri et al. (2004) for a summary).

Occurrence in captivity: Black-backed Jackals have been maintained in captivity for use in experiments testing rabies vaccine (Bingham et al. 1995).


Gaps in knowledge:

A large amount of research focusing on the behaviour and ecology of this species has been undertaken, particularly in the last 25 years. In the last decade, however, the emphasis has generally shifted to the role that the animal plays as a vector of rabies, and as a problem animal. The study of Loveridge (1999) may provide a model for future research, whereby funds and efforts are directed towards better understanding their role, for example, in disease transmission and livestock predation, and ecological, behavioural and other data are gathered concurrently. In many settled areas this species, together with the caracal Caracal caracal, represent the top predators in many ecosystems, yet their roles are poorly understood.