The Australian dingo: a wolf in dog’s clothing
How the dingo confirms Genesis
Here’s an animal that sure could use an ‘image makeover’ and public relations campaign.
For many years, the dingo was best known as the wild dog of Australia—the largest carnivore on the Australian mainland—and for being the scourge of the sheep industry. A single dingo can maul up to 50 sheep in one night, killing far more than it needs for food.1 (See box ‘Dingoes and sheep don’t mix’.)
No wonder many pastoralists would often mutter, ‘The only good dingo is a dead dingo.’
Then, as if the dingo’s reputation was not already bad enough, in 1980, a baby named Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from a tent at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia’s Northern Territory, amid cries that a wild dingo had taken the infant. (This was famously portrayed in the 1988 movie A Cry In the Dark, a.k.a. Evil Angels, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill). Then, in 2001, the dingo again made headlines when a nine-year-old boy was tragically attacked and killed by two dingoes on Queensland’s Fraser Island. His seven-year-old brother was also attacked, but survived.2,3 (See ‘Would you trust a dingo?’)
Yet, when European settlers first arrived in Australia,4 they found that many of these ‘wild dogs’ were not truly ‘wild’, but instead lived, ate and hunted with their human keepers. Aboriginal people highly prized the dingo, also known as the ‘warrigal’, as a domestic animal. Dingoes were bed warmers, camp cleaners, hunting companions and guard dogs.5
Originally wild or domestic?
The dingo is unmistakably canine—as was evident to the early European settlers, who eagerly crossed their imported herding dogs with the dingo in order to obtain breeds better adapted to the harsh Australian climate. The Australian cattle dog—a.k.a. the Queensland (blue) heeler—and the Australian kelpie are recognized dingo hybrid breeds.6 Like all other canines (jackals, coyotes and all domestic dogs), the dingo is closely related to the wolf—DNA studies point to all dogs being descended from some wolf-like ancestor.7–9
But are dingoes domestic dogs gone wild, or wild animals of which, like wolves, some were domesticated? The dingo’s close resemblance to domestic dogs in Asia, its association with Aboriginal people and the fact that it was the only large placental mammal (except humans) on the continent led many to say its ancestors were domestic dogs. But others disagreed—hence the lack of agreement on a scientific name for the animal. For years the dingo was categorized as a subspecies of the domestic dog: Canis familiaris dingo. But in 1982, some taxonomists recommended it instead be classified as a subspecies of the wolf: Canis lupus dingo.10 Others decreed it a species in its own right: Canis dingo.11
However, genetics seems to have resolved the debate, with a convincing demonstration that dingoes are descended from only a few domestic dogs introduced to Australia from South-east Asia, ‘as few as a single pregnant female’, and only turning feral later.12–14
But when? And who brought the dingo to Australia?
Here’s where it gets hazy. According to evolutionary ‘dating’, the dingo would have arrived some time between 3,500 and 12,000 years ago. This is because evolutionists date the oldest dingo fossil to about 3,500 years ago—and dingoes never reached Tasmania, which is supposed to have become separated from the Australian mainland 12,000 years ago.
So, given the widespread view that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 40,000 years,15 the dingo could not have arrived with them.16 Therefore, the researchers conclude that the first dingo(es) must instead have been brought from the islands of South-east Asia by people of the Austronesian culture.17 Later, Aboriginal people adopted the dingo as a companion animal.
The biblical timeframe
However, God has told us in the Bible that all people (including ‘Aborigines’) are descended from Adam and Eve. Nothing in creation existed until Creation Week, about 6,000 years ago. So then, how should Bible-believing Christians make sense of the dingo story?
A key event is the Flood (Genesis 6–9), around 4,500 years ago. Australia’s human and fauna population all arrived after that time. And when was Tasmania isolated from mainland Australia by rising sea levels? Most creationist researchers believe that the Ice Age (generated by warm seas and cold land masses in the aftermath of the Flood) ended roughly 3,800 years ago.18 That’s when water from melting ice poured into the oceans, inundating the ‘land bridges’ which had allowed animals such as the kangaroo to spread out beyond Asia all the way to Tasmania.
With Tasmania isolated from mainland Australia, and the mainland itself cut off from Asia, the scene was set for the arrival of people by boat, raft or canoe.
Dingoes were then brought by either the first or subsequent waves of human immigrants. Tribal stories of the Larrakia people of the Northern Territory speak of their ancestors arriving by canoe and of bringing their canine companion with them.
Dingoes are represented in rock-art sites,19 and feature prominently in Aboriginal stories—e.g. the Pleiades constellation (or Seven Sisters) is depicted as a flock of kangaroos being chased by Orion’s two dingoes.1
The big picture
What we know about the dingo today is just what we would expect if the Bible is true. We see
- That ‘a single pregnant female’ could have populated an entire continent—a nice demonstration that from a limited number of animals, a healthy population can be sustained, as per Genesis 8:17. So, next time you hear someone claim that the world’s land animals and birds couldn’t possibly have come from male/female pairs taken aboard the Ark, tell them about the Australian dingo!
- That the ready interbreeding of dingoes with other dogs (which continues apace today),20 along with the uncertainty in assigning species names, points to the creation by God of a single original dog ‘kind’ (Genesis 1:24–25). Rapid ‘speciation’ is not evolution, but just what we would expect from the biblical account.21
- That a ‘wild’ animal can be tamed by man (see James 3:7), reflecting the original created order—man to ‘rule over’ the animals (Genesis 1:28).22
- That the movement of dingoes and humans to this continent fits with the expected pattern of post-Flood dispersion from the Ark during the last 4,500 years. Interestingly, lice that live on kangaroos have also been found on Indonesian dogs. Some researchers suggest, therefore, that the Australian dingo must have been taken back to Indonesia (carrying the kangaroo lice north from Australia).12 But this evidence could also be interpreted to mean that kangaroos once lived in Indonesia (en route to Australia), later becoming locally extinct as the large carnivores (e.g. Asian tigers) arrived there after the end of the Ice Age, when the land bridge to Australia was severed.
- That an animal classed as a ‘carnivore’ can actually survive without meat (see box ‘Dingoes and sheep don’t mix’)—echoes of the way they were originally created … vegetarian (Genesis 1:30)! The presence of death, bloodshed and carnivory in today’s world is a consequence of the Fall (Genesis 3; Romans 8:19–22).
So, when one considers the dingo in the light of the Bible’s account of history, all begins to make sense. And no wonder—for the Bible’s claims are true, so the evidence, correctly interpreted, will inevitably fit with a true account of history.
References and notes
References and notes
References and notes
- O’Neill, T., Travelling the Australian dog fence, National Geographic 191(4):18–37, 1997.
- Authorities destroy dingoes suspected of fatal Fraser Island attack, ABC Online News, <www.abc.net.au/news/2001/04/item20010430131729_1.htm>, 18 October 2004.
- Wieland, C., Dingo days down under (again), Creation 23(4):6, 2001.
- The ‘First Fleet’ arrived in 1788.
- What are the origins of the dingo? Dingo Farm, <www.wwwins.net.au/dingofarm/02.html>, 18 October 2004. Return to text.
- Orchard, F. and Bloomfield, T., Wild dogs and dingoes in Victoria, Department of Primary Industries Information Series, <www.dpi.vic.gov.au/DPI/nreninf.nsf/fid/0690615EEDE4B91BCA256E7200257A8D>, 9 November 2004.
- Morell, V., The origin of dogs: running with the wolves, Science 276(5319):1647–1648, 1997.
- Vila, C. et al., Multiple and ancient origins of the domestic dog, Science 276(5319):1687–1689, 1997.
- Ham, K., Did God create poodles? Creation 25(4):19–22, 2003.
- The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Canis lupus dingo, <animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Canis_lupus_dingo.html>, 9 November 2004.
- The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, 4:102, 1992. Return to text.
- Dayton, L., On the trail of the first dingo, Science 302(5645):555–556, 2003.
- Savolainen, P. et al., A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101(33):12387–12390, 2004.
- Previously, it had been shown that domestic dogs in Eurasia, America and Africa had a common origin. This latest finding shows that applies to domesticated dogs on all continents.
- Tracing the road Down Under, Science 302(5645):555, 2003.
- Dingo, <www.brainyencyclopedia.com/encyclopedia/d/di/dingo.html>, 3 November 2004.
- It has been suggested that the dingo was more likely brought as a food source than as a pet. (In certain areas of Asia today, the cooking and eating of dog is common practice.) Wild dingoes descended from domestic dogs, <www.newscientist.com/news/print.jsp?id=ns99994207>, 9 November 2004.
- Oard, M., An Ice Age caused by the Genesis Flood, ICR, California, 1990. Return to text .
- Rudolph, E.K., Dingo: Canis familiaris, <www.drellenrudolph.com/featureanimals/dingo.html>, 9 November 2004.
- It has been suggested that the Australian dingo is actually heading for ‘extinction’—through hybridization with feral dogs. One estimate puts the Australian population of dingoes as being 80% hybrids. At present, Thailand is said to have the purest populations of dingoes (ref. 19). In Australia, conservationists want to preserve the Fraser Island dingo population’s relative purity, but there is no biological basis for this.
- Catchpoole, D. and Wieland, C., Speedy species surprise, Creation 23(2):13–15, 2001.
- Many people wrongly think that the dingo is difficult to train, but dingo owners have demonstrated otherwise. See, for example, the extract from The Goulburn Post, May 1995, reprinted at Dingo Farm, <www.wwwins.net.au/dingofarm/11.html>, 20 October 2004. Return to text.
Valuable input and inspiration from Paula Weston is acknowledged.