Save the Dingo


1699 - 1799

Quick Links:




Information on this page portrays a historical representation of life in Australia at the dates and places mentioned. This page may contain derogatory terms, nudity and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to people including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Some accounts also depict scenes of unimaginable and intense cruelty towards the Dingo. These have been included as they represent accurate portrayals of early European persecution towards the Dingo, persecution which continues to this day.

Viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of




Summary of Period:

1699 sees the first European accounts of the Dingo, starting with William Dampier. Captain Cook returns to England taking a dingo specimen with him, later stuffed and becomes the subject for the first painting of a dingo.

The First Fleet arrived in 1788, bringing with them cats, dogs and small quantities of livestock including 44 sheep, 19 goats, 5 rabbits, 32 pigs and 291 poultry. The Second Fleet arrived a year later, it is unknown if any sheep arrived with them. A Third Fleet arrived in 1791 bringing another 2000 convicts. Food was in short supply.

In 1796 Australian sheep pioneer John Macarthur, under controversial circumstances, imported a few Spanish merino sheep from South Africa. At this time merinos were used as a human food source.

Painting of landing at Sydney Cove

"The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788" / Original [oil] sketch [1937] by Algernon Talmage R.A.

Courtesy - Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW - ML 1222


Dingoes are described as being either red or black in colour. Descriptions of the dingo being aggressive are already emerging. John White, Surgeon General, states the dingo "is very ill-natured and vicious, and snarls, howls, and moans, like dogs in common". Captain Trench, of the Marines, states Governor Phillip has adopted a pet dingo and they get on well, but in general, dingoes seem to dislike Europeans.

David Collins, Judge Advocate and Secretary of the Colony, describes an Aboriginal dance depicting dingoes, demonstrating the respect and importance shown by Aboriginals towards Dingoes. He further states dingoes were beaten by Europeans for eating their poultry. Thus the dingo's dislike of Europeans referred to above is likely a reflection upon European mistreatment rather than than innate dingo nature. Treated with respect by the Aboriginals, dingo got on well.

Governor Phillip reports that dingoes are fond of rabbits and chicken, but "will not touch dressed meat". He further states dingoes are aggressive towards other dogs and have been known to run down deer and sheep.

On the 22nd April 1788, dingoes are blamed, admittedly by Governor Phillip, without proof, of killing five ewes and a lamb. As of May 1st, 1788, there were 16 sheep in the colony. Governor Phillip left Australia December 1792 returning to England with health issues due to poor diet. At this time, the European population of NSW was 4,221.




William Dampier - A Voyage to New Holland (1699)

Picture of William Dampier

The first known European description of what is probably a Dingo comes from William Dampier in his book, A Voyage to New Holland (1699):

"I saw some lizards; and my men saw two or three beasts like hungry wolves, lean like so many skeletons, being nothing but skin and bones: it is probable that it was the foot of one of those beasts that I mentioned as seen by us in New Holland."

However, Dampier also stated he saw raccoons in the next sentence, which could lead some to question the accuracy of this testimony.




Portrait of a large Dog from New Holland (Dingo) - 1772

Portrait of a large Dog from New Holland (Dingo). George Stubbs, 1772.

Portrait of a large Dog from New Holland (Dingo). [cropped]
George Stubbs, 1772. (Click picture to see in full).


This is the first known painting of a Dingo by a Western artist, painted in 1772. It was commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks as a result of James Cook's "Voyage of Discovery", HMS Endeavor. Some sources claim the painting was based on stuffed animal skins whilst others claim it was based on descriptions and drawings. George Stubbs was recognised as the preeminent animal painter of the time.

It is currently disputed as to whether such significant works of art, the Dingo and its companion painting of a kangaroo, should belong in Australia or England.

They are currently in England with that country's government placing an export ban on the paintings.




Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales, by John White (1788)

A Dingo, or Dog, of New South Wales

This animal is a variety of the dog, and, like the shepherd’s dog in most countries, approaches near to the original of the species, which is the wolf, but is not so large, and does not stand so high on its legs.

The ears are short, and erect, the tail rather bushy; the hair, which is of a reddish-dun colour, is long and thick, but strait. It is capable of barking, although not so readily as the European dogs; is very ill-natured and vicious, and snarls, howls, and moans, like dogs in common.

Whether this is the only dog in New South Wales, and whether they have it in a wild state, is not mentioned; but I should be inclined to believe they had no other; in which case it will constitute the wolf of that country; and that which is domesticated is only the wild dog tamed, without having yet produced a variety, as in some parts of America.

Dog of New South Wales
Plate 57. Dog of New South Wales



John White was an English surgeon and botanist. He arrived in Australia in 1788 as Surgeon-General to NSW, building a hospital. Starved of medical supplies, he developed an interest in native plants for use in medicine. He was probably the first (Westerner??) to distil eycalytus oil, doing so in 1788.





A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1788)

Watkin Tench, Capt of the Marines, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, 10th July 1788.


Chapter XI - A Description of the Natives of New South Wales, and our Transactions with Them.

The only domestic animal they have is the dog, which in their language is called Dingo, and a good deal resembles the fox dog of England. These animals are equally shy of us, and attached to the natives. One of them is now in the possession of the Governor, and tolerably well reconciled to his new master. As the Indians see the dislike of the dogs to us, they are sometimes mischievous enough to set them on single persons whom they chance to meet in the woods. A surly fellow was one day out shooting, when the natives attempted to divert themselves in this manner at his expense. The man bore the teazing and gnawing of the dog at his heels for some time, but apprehending at length, that his patience might embolden them to use still farther liberties, he turned round and shot poor Dingo dead on the spot: the owners of him set off with the utmost expedition.




The Voyage Of Governor Phillip To Botany Bay (1789)

by Arthur Phillip


22 April 1788

Governor Phillip, on his return from this excursion, had the mortification to find that five ewes and a lamb had been killed very near the camp, and in the middle of the day. How this had happened was not known, but it was conjectured that they must have been killed by dogs belonging to the natives. The loss of any part of the stock of cattle was a serious misfortune, since it must be a considerable time before it could be replaced. Fish affords, in this place, only an uncertain resource: on some days great quantities are caught, though not sufficient to save any material part of the provisions; but at times it is very scarce. An account of the live stock at this time in the settlement is subjoined to this chapter.


Chapter XXII.

Supplemental Account of Animals


Dog of New South Wales. Peter Mazell, 1789. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.

Dog of New South Wales, Peter Mazell, 1789. [cropped]
Courtesy State Library of Victoria.
Click picture to see in full.


Peter Mazell, created a number of engravings and illustrations for natural history books. He was born in Ireland and worked in London between 1761 and 1797. The above picture was of a female captured by Governor Phillip and presented to the Marquess of Salisbury, England.


Genus XII. Canis.--Lin. Syst. Nat.
Genus XVII. Dog.--Penn. Hist. Quad.

The height of this species, standing erect, is rather less than two feet: the length two feet and a half. The head is formed much like that of a fox, the ears short and erect, with whiskers from one to two inches in length on the muzzle. The general colour of the upper parts is pale brown, growing lighter towards the belly: the hind part of the fore legs, and the fore part of the hinder ones white, as are the feet of both: the tail is of a moderate length, somewhat bushy, but in a less degree than that of the fox: the teeth are much the same as is usual in the genus, as may be seen in the top of the plate where the animal is represented.

This species inhabits New South Wales. The specimen from which the annexed plate was taken, (a female) is now alive in the possession of the Marchioness of Salisbury, at Hatfield-House, and was sent over as a present to Mr. Nepean, from Governor Phillip. It has much of the manners of the dog, but is of a very savage nature, and not likely to change in this particular. It laps like other dogs, but neither barks nor growls if vexed and teized; instead of which, it erects the hairs of the whole body like bristles, and seems furious: it is very eager after its prey, and is fond of rabbits or chickens, raw, but will not touch dressed meat. From its fierceness and agility it has greatly the advantage of other animals much superior in size; for a very fine French fox-dog being put to it, in a moment it seized him by the loins, and would have soon put an end to his existence, had not help been at hand. With the utmost ease it is able to leap over the back of an ass, and was very near worrying one to death, having fastened on it, so that the creature was not able to disengage himself without assistance; it has been also known to run down both deer and sheep.

A second of these is in the possession of Mr. Lascelles, of which we have received much the same account in respect to its ferocity; whence it is scarcely to be expected that this elegant animal will ever become familiar.



Natural history illustrations of Australian flora & fauna


1797 Dingo Drawing

Item 01: A wild Dog or Dingo of N.S. Wales, 1797 [cropped]

Courtesy - Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW – PXA 678/1


This dingo is seen chained with a savage looking face and fangs, hair standing on end.




An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Vol 1. (1798)

By David Collins, esq.



[Engraving] No. 1 Represents the young men, fifteen in number, seated at the head of the Yoo-lahng, while those who were to be the operators paraded several times round it, running upon their hands and feet, and imitating the dogs of the country. Their dress was adapted to this purpose; the wooden sword, stuck in the hinder part of the girdle which they wore round the waist, did not, when they were crawling on all fours, look much unlike the tail of a dog curled over his back. Every time they passed the place where the boys were seated, they threw up the sand and dust on them with their hands and their feet. During this ceremony the boys sat perfectly still and silent, never once moving themselves from the position in which they were placed, nor seeming in the least to notice the ridiculous appearance of the carrahdis and their associates.


Picture of dingo dance
Yoo-long Erah-ba-diang, No. 1


We understood that by this ceremony power over the dog was given to them, and that it endowed them with whatever good or beneficial qualities that animal might possess.

The dogs of this country are of the jackal species; they never bark; are of two colours, the one red with some white about it; the other quite black. They have an invincible predilection for poultry, which the severest beatings could never repress. Some of them are very handsome.