Australia’s traditional First Peoples buried pet dingoes

The Conversation (a website) commissioned a study on Australia’s famous dingo and whether this feted animal was domesticated and became wild or has always been a wild dog and how the aboriginal people of Australia (Australia’s First Peoples) interacted with the it.

The study is published on the Plos One website and is entitled: “Dingoes, companions in life and death: The significance of archaeological canid burial practices in Australia”.

This post is an attempt to summarise the study in reference to The Conversation website’s article.

Having read the abstract (summary) of the study and having read The Conversation’s article, my roundup would be that the wild dingo was domesticated by Aboriginal people in a rather unusual way and certainly not in a way typical of modern Western society.

The dingo was introduced into Australia in the late Holocene era which is from 4,200 years ago until the present. They were wild animals but outsiders observed Aboriginal people in the 19th and 20th centuries taking dingo pups from wild dens and raising them as companions. They were used as guard and hunting dogs and animals to keep them warm.

They became pets but we are told that the dingoes returned to the wild when they were a year old and didn’t return. Although that isn’t the complete picture because in some instances archaeological digs at the site of a rock shelter called Curracurrang, in the Royal National Park south of Sydney, indicate that pet dingoes were buried and that the remains confirm that some of the animals were at least 6-8 years old which is well past the age at which they would normally have returned to the wild to breed.

They found that the teeth were worn indicating a diet of large bones, probably scraps given to them by their human caregivers/companions.

Several of the burials were of young dogs which might have been born within the Aboriginal settlement but died at a young age and were then buried. And at this ancient settlement, it’s been concluded that dingoes lived to advanced ages alongside their human companions. And they bred and ate human food.

This indicates that dingoes were domesticated on occasions and to certain extent by Australia’s First Peoples.

The Conversation’s author makes it clear, however, that this does not mean that dingoes were domesticated generally in ancient times. Also, it doesn’t mean that the wild dingo that live in Australia’s outback nowadays originate from a domestic dog.

The conclusion I take is that the dingo is a wild dog and has been for the past 4200 years on the Australian continent but was occasionally domesticated by Aboriginal people in ancient times.

My research using artificial intelligence, tells me that the Aboriginal people of Australia continue to have a relationship with dingoes in the 21st century. The dog has a cultural significance to many Aboriginal communities. And the dingo has coexisted with Aboriginal communities for thousands of years.

The dingo is regarded as an “important totemic or spiritual animal”. And it has been “integrated into Aboriginal culture and mythology, featuring creation stories, ceremonies, and art.”

The dingo is described as a wild or semi-domesticated canid species. They behave differently to typical pet or wild dogs. They are protected wildlife in some regions of Australia with regulations on conservation and interactions with humans.

The importance of the dingo to Australia’s First Peoples needs to be recognised and respected.

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Post Category: Dogs > dog-human relationship > Dingo