Origins of the Australian Dingo

A widely held misconception is that dingoes arrived in Australia with Aborigines.

In fact, Aboriginal people arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago while dingoes arrived just 5,000 years ago.

A family group.
A family group.
Evidence for the “recent” arrival of the dingo came in 2004 from DNA analysis of dingoes published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of scientists analysed DNA from 211 dingoes from all over Australia, 676 dogs from other continents, 38 Eurasian wolves, and 19 pre-European archaeological dog samples from Polynesia.

The analyses showed dingoes share a high proportion of their DNA with dogs from East Asia. Differences in the DNA between dingoes and East Asian dogs indicated the dingo arrived in Australia 5,000 years ago.

The scientists concluded that dingoes are descendents of domesticated dogs from East Asia. All Australian dingoes may have arisen from a small number of dogs, possibly just one male and one female, that arrived in Australia in a single event.

The East Asian dog and hence the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) probably descended from the Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). Studies of dingo skeletons suggest they are very similar to Indian pariah dogs and wolves. Australian dingo skulls are between those of dogs and wolves.

Dingoes appear to be somewhere between wolves and dogs. This makes it possible that dingoes are the descendants of one of man’s early attempts to domesticate wolves.