New Guinea Singing Dog

Motu 4_cropped
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Taxonomic Name: Canis lupus hallstromi
Range: The island of New Guinea
Habitat: High elevation forests
Physical Characteristics: Average height is 17 inches at the shoulder.  Average weight is 25 pounds. Their coat color is a tan or golden red with white markings on the chin, belly and feet and a black muzzle. Although similar in appearance to the dingo, they are smaller and have wider cheekbones. They have a long bushy tail that is generally carried in an arch over the back.
Longevity: Average is unknown but the record is 20 years for a male in captivity.
Social Structure: They have not been studied in the wild so their social structure is unknown. Studies of captive animals indicate they are probably not pack animals. This is based upon observations of high levels of aggression among mature individuals of the same sex. They may form at least temporary family groups as males have been observed providing parental care such as regurgitation of food for their puppies.
Active Time: Again, unknown for sure, but the presence of a greater reflective surface in the eye, similar to a cat, allows for better nighttime vision. In captivity, they are active in the daytime when given enough stimulation.
Diet:    Wild Small to medium sized marsupials, rodents, birds and some fruits.
Zoo - Dry dog food, canine meat and canned dog food.
Behavior: They have a large repertoire of vocalizations including a special type of howl that includes extreme frequency modulation generally not heard in other canid howls. Although sometimes said to be barkless, they may bark when alarmed.
Reproduction: They have only one heat per year in August. If a female does not become pregnant, she will come into estrus again in 8-12 weeks, a pattern not recorded in other canids. Gestation lasts 63 days and a litter consists of 4-6 pups. Pups become independent at 4 months and females reach reproductive age at 2 years of age.
Interesting Facts:
  • First described by scientists in the mid-1950's.
  • Considered the most primitive "domestic dog", brought to New Guinea by early human immigrants from southeast Asia.
  • Never observed to perform the otherwise universal dog/wolf play bow where the rump is held high - singing dogs keep their entire body low during play initiation.
Relationship With Humans: They were used by Papuan natives as food, for hunting, and as a guard, but never kept in their homes. The dogs are allowed on the periphery of the villages and frequently chased away. Some are also kept as pets by very dedicated owners. These dogs have been traditionally classified as domestic dogs. There is much debate in the field if these dogs are truly wild or truly domestic. There has been recent genetic testing that has suggested that they are indeed wild dogs. This domestic classification has resulted in the species not being able to be granted any conservation status. They have not been seen in the wild since the 1950's and are very rare in captivity. One pair was taken to the Toronga Zoo in Australia and the decendents of this pair are the captive New Guinea Singing Dogs seen in captivity today. There are approximately 12 zoos in the U.S. that have NGSDs and only approximately 300 animals in captivity. At the moment, there is a push, with their re-classification, to work on conserving this species in captivity