Creatures of the Amazon
Short-Eared Dog

By Mike Collis

Short-Eared Dog Atelocynus microtis

There are 2 distinct species of wild dog in South America this one known as the Short-Eared Dog and the other simply known as the Bush Dog.

Not many people know of the existence of wild dogs in the Amazon rainforest, in fact they were only discovered in 1987. Not to be confused with feral dogs (wild domestic dogs) they are very elusive and to see one in the wild is a very rare occurrence.

Also known as the Short-Eared Fox and the Short-Eared Zorro the Short-Eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis) lives in most parts of equatorial South America. Evidence of its existence (tracks etc.) have been found in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. It thrives in all parts of the rainforest but prefers not to be close to human habitations like villages or plantations etc.

Short-Eared Dog’s range

To this day not much is known about this wild dog. We do know it has short and rounded ears with thin short legs and slightly webbed feet. Like a fox it has a bushy tail and a fox-like nose. Weighing about12 lbs it has a body of about 33 inches and stands about 12 inches tall at the shoulders.. Its colour ranges from dark reddish grey to dark blue, coffee brown to nearly black. Its fur is bristly, thick and short and has a tail of approximately 14 inches long.

It has 42 long canine teeth some of which protrude when its mouth is closed. Females are usually about 30% larger than males. Males raise the hairs on their back when aggravated.

Short-Eared Dogs are mostly nocturnal and will eat almost anything they can catch. This means they are in direct competition with all of the rainforest cats and the Giant Otter for food.

One of the many threats to the existence of these wild dogs are feral dogs because they can spread canine distemper and rabies. The loss of natural habitat by humans is also a major threat to their existence. The short-eared dog is considered a “near threatened” species.

Males tend to live alone in the rainforest and avoid humans at all costs. Not much is known about their life cycle except that they reach sexual maturity at about 12 months old and that excited males spray musk from glands in its tail.

A pair of female Short-Eared Dogs caught on film in a camera trap.

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