Dog-jackal hybrids have been produced many times in captivity and are also common in a natural setting, particularly in India. Natural contact between golden jackals and dogs occurs in Africa, Asia, and southeastern Europe. Dog-jackal hybrids are partially fertile in both sexes.
The cross is reversible, but is more easily obtained when the mother is a jackal. Jackal characteristics predominate in F₁ hybrids. The fertility of these hybrids has been known at least since the time of Buffon. Darwin (1868, vol. 1, p. 32), too, mentioned their fertility.
The Sulimov, a breed of dog, is derived from this cross. Jackal-dog hybrids were bred together for seven generations to establish the breed. It was produced in Russia for Aeroflot airline security, which uses them in airports to sniff for explosives and drugs.
The breed was created by Klim Sulimov, Ph.D. of the Likhachev Scientific Research Institute in Moscow. Jackals were used because they are thought to have a better sense of smell than any breed of domestic dog. Sulimov says (in the National Geographic documentary The Science of Dogs), “The jackal has much better sensory organs to perceive things at a distance. You can approach a wolf, fox or other canine species, but you can’t approach a jackal. He can always smell you there.” Jackals, however, cannot be trained and do not easily endure cold weather.
To overcome these shortcomings, Sulimov crossed jackals with northern huskies. “We chose arctic dogs — reindeer herding huskies,” he said. “Northern dogs have a better sense of smell than all other dog breeds, since they are used under conditions of severe arctic cold.” Substances become non-volatile and therefore tend to lose their scent under low temperatures.
Generally, only jackals that have been raised by a dog will easily interbreed with dogs. The jackal then becomes sexually imprinted on dogs, which is particularly important if a male jackal is to be crossed.
To produce the Sulimov dog, in 1975 jackal pups were first obtained from a breeding nursery in Baku, Azerbaijan and brought to Moscow. These grew up and produced offspring, and their pups were given to a husky bitch to nurse. When mature, two of these imprinted jackals were then used to produce hybrids with two Lapland herding hounds, a small huskie-like breed, according to the National Geographic documentary.
Sulimov found that female jackals easily crossed with male dogs. According to a press release, Sulimov also managed to produce the reciprocal cross which is more difficult to obtain, (though already reported by others; see Flourens, Darwin, and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire).
The jackal-dog half-breeds turned out to have an extraordinarily sensitive sense of smell, but were hard to train. To overcome this difficulty (according to the documentary), Sulimov bred the first-cross dog-jackal hybrids back to other breeds of dog: a reindeer herding dog, a fox terrier, and a spitz. The resulting animals had good learning capabilities, as well as an excellent sense of smell. So no further backcrossing was carried out and subsequent breeding involved only the backcross individuals and their descendants.
Sulimov dogs were then used successfully at Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow. They are smaller than German shepherds, and therefore less intimidating to travelers, and can creep into narrow spots during aircraft inspections. In the documentary, it was stated that these dogs can detect, inside luggage, trace amounts of explosive smaller than a grain of sand. They have also been used to track down by scent airport thieves who break open baggage and wipe off their fingerprints. The dogs have an unusual feature: their tails, which normally curl up like a huskie’s, sag down when the animals are tired, a convenient signal that indicates their handlers should give them a rest.
A BBC news article (“Russian airline’s top dogs fight terror,” December 13, 2002) quotes Sulimov: “My dogs combine the qualities of Arctic reindeer herding dogs, which can work in temperatures as low as -70C, and jackals which enjoy the heat up to +40C. They’re perfect for our country.”
A recent genetic study (Galov et al. 2015) used genetic techniques to confirm that three wild-caught specimens from Croatia were all dog-jackal hybrids. The report provides photos of the three hybrids.
The following is a list of reported dog crosses discussed on this site. Some of these crosses are much better documented than others (as indicated by the reliability arrow). Moreover, some are extremely disparate, and so must be taken with a large grain of salt. But all have been reported at least once.
References: Ackermann 1898 (pp. 49-50); Bell 1837 (p. 198); Darwin 1883 (vol. 1, pp. 21, 23); Flourens 1845 (p. 122), 1854 (p. 144); Hunter 1787; Hurst 1933; Iljen 1941 (p. 405); International Zoo Yearbook 1978 (p. 383), 1979 (p. 362); Jerdon 1874 (p. 144); Kühn 1888; Raj 1953; Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1849 (p. 56), 1862 (pp. 177, 217); Waterhouse 1838 (p. 24). Information about Sulimov dogs, other than that attributed specifically to other sources, was taken from a Russian press release.
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