Save the Dingo


1900 - 1949

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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

The late 1890s and early 1900's saw a period of severe drought, with a complete failure of the monsoon in 1900 over the north of Australia. This prolonged drought became known as the "Federation Drought" as it occurred at the time of Australia's federation. The severity of the dryness caused the failure of wheat crops, many drought-hardy native trees died and the sheep population halved. Figures vary depending on whose accounts you read, the wool industry (or newspaper accounts) prefer to blame the dingo for killing the majority of the 50 million sheep lost in this period (nearly half the industry), others attributing the deaths to the drought. Considering dingoes are also subject to drought, it is highly unlikely they were to blame to the extent attributed. Being one of nature's scavengers, it is without doubt dingoes would have been seen feeding on sheep fallen to the drought which wouldn't have helped the dingo's image.


Carcasses of cattle at the Gum Holes, Bowra Station, ca. 1900

John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 36333.


The severity of the drought was such that many unusual and desperate attempts were made to make it rain. In Charleville, 1902, cannons were fired into the clouds to try and make it rain.


Man standing on the edge of the River Murray in drought

Murray River, man standing on edge during drought.

Photo Wilf Henty. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.


The early 1900's sees a plethora of newspaper articles - "The Dingo Pest", "Death to the Dingo", "The Dingo Menace", "The Dingo Invasion" and even one item stating dingoes are "simply wiping ... sheep off the face of the earth.", a claim still made by today's "experts" and still published in today's papers, almost 110 years later.

There is even an account by a 13 year old calling the dingo "a very savage animal, but it is a terrible coward." He calls the dingo a coward because it runs away when his father starts shooting a gun at it. We also see many of today's arguments in action; that a black dingo must be a domestic cross and a continuation of whether the dingo is indigenous or not. The media is lapping up any dingo story, with little regard for facts, e.g. "dingoes swarm in millions in that desert region" referring to the desert area of Cameron's, Haddon's and Poeppel's corner. This area, being one of the driest parts of the world, is obviously totally incapable of supporting "millions" of dingoes.

Bounties continue to be paid, with approximately 160,000 between 1901 and 1930 in NSW. Records do not distinguish between dingoes and domestic dogs gone feral. In 1901, more abuse of the bounty system by unscrupulous people is uncovered, forcing the Armidale Pastures and Stock Protection Board to lower the bounty they paid. The Armidale board had been paying higher than surrounding boards, so people from those districts were bringing scalps to Armidale for payment in order to receive more money. The extend of the abuse must have been widespread, as two years later, 1903 (and again in 1952), we still have newspaper reports of bounty abuse in Armidale. This abuse goes a long way towards dismissing modern claims dingoes were only targeted to protect sheep with monetary gain not being a motivating factor.

Four men with dingo scalps on fence

Four men standing beside a barbed wire fence on which are strung scalps of dingoes - c.1934.

Photo - Arthur Herbert Evelyn Mattingley, Courtesy State Library of Victoria.


In 1909, the Sydney Morning Herald reports the dingo extinct "so far as this State is concerned" and that "odd crosses between the dingo and the domesticated dog" may still exist. It further reports dingoes have reached "insignificant proportions, and the complete extermination of this species as a wild animal is not improbable". The article describes steel jaw traps, poisoning and how dingoes used to hunt in packs of "80 or 100". It also describes how dingoes follow travellers, at a safe distance, for many miles. A continuation of the middle-ages portrayal can still be seen - "but utters dismal howls, especially when darkness sets in, which make the night hideous... the many pairs of glistening, fiery eyes are all that indicate their presence."

Still, dingoes couldn't in reality have been all bad news, as indicated by an advertisement for dingo pups for sale in 1911. Whether these pups ended up as pets, as breeding stock for working dogs or just to abuse the bounty system is not known.

Dingo - mountain variety (canis dingo)

Part of "Ardath cabinet cigar box" cigarette card collection, [London] : W.D. & H.O. Wills, [19--?]

Courtesy National Library of Australia.


In addition to being poisoned, hunted and shot, the use of wolfhounds and steel-jawed traps is becoming common with adverts in the newspapers and the Western Australia Dept of Agriculture releasing guides in 1912 "Dingo trapping and how it is done" and another in 1921 - "The dingo : methods of trapping and poisoning, observations on its life and habits / by Bruce W. Leake". A newspaper item, 1939, describes a "notorious dingo...trying to bite off one of its legs which had been caught in a trap".

As a result of WW1, 1914 to 1918, Australian exports to the British Empire were hit very hard. The war had severely impacted the UK's savings and balance of trade, resulting in reduced demand for Australian imports in the 1920s - particularly sheep and wheat. The war is said to have directly cost Australia £400 million. This was immediately followed by the Great Depression, 1929 - placing further hardship on Australian primary production. Combined with continual drought, these hardships created more demand to cull dingoes, with scalpers calling for higher bounties. However, one seasoned scalper is also questioning whether higher bounties would lead to unscrupulous people deliberately breeding dogs, as it would be more profitable than raising cattle. He further states that "the dingo and fox do little or no material damage on cattle stations" and therefore cattle owners are likely to allow dingoes to "breed up in thousands".


Sheep Numbers in Australia
Year # Sheep
1788 44
1800 6,214
1860 20,135,286
1891 106,421,068
1895 90,689,727
1900 70,602,995
1905 74,540,916
1910 92,047,015
1915 69,257,189
1920 77,897,555
1923 78,803,171

Australia suffers from continual drought cycles. The sheep population plummeted to about 54 million after the 1902 federation drought. WW1 and the great depression also led to a huge reduction in demand for Australian Wool. The dingo is not as much to blame as is made out.



In the mid 1920's, farmers had a new "beast" to complain about - the German Shepherd dog, whose name had just been changed to Alsatian. "German" was removed from the name to disassociate the dog from the Germans, at that time despised due to the atrocities of WW1. Farmers so feared the Alsatian would breed with the dingo, creating an unstoppable super-villian, that the Federal Government introduced legislation on the 24th July 1928 banning the importation of German Shepherds. The new breed would be "as cruel as the native dog, and as big and powerful as the imported wolf known as the Alsatian, we shall have to fear for the lives of men and women, to say nothing of children, sheep and calves. The combination rendered possible... opens up the possibility of our having ... a wild beast comparable with the lion and tiger." This ban on German Shepherds continued through until the early 1970s.

German Shepherd Dog

The importation of German Shepherds was banned from 1928/9 to 1972/4, as Graziers feared a hybrid dingo-alsation.

Photo: Wikipedia


The constant attack on native species and the environment began to take its toll in the 1920s. In the 12 years to 1927, over 4 million koalas were killed - mostly in Queensland. This near act of specicide led to the extinction of the koala in South Australia.

May 1930, the last known wild Tasmanian tiger was shot, by Wilf Batty. The species is believed to have become extinct with the death of the last known Tiger in Hobart zoo, 1936. This tiger is said to have died of neglect. Despite years of warnings from scientists and conservationists, the Tiger was not afforded protection until just 59 days before its extinction. Some of these conservationists later went on to establish Healesville Sanctuary. The Tasmanian Devil was also persecuted, hunted to the brink of extinction, protected in 1941.

Wilf Batty - last wild tiger

Wilfred Batty of Mawbanna, Tasmania, with the last Tasmanian Tiger known to have been shot in the wild. He shot the tiger in May, 1930 after it was discovered in his hen house.

Source: Wikipedia


In 1935, yet another drought hits Australia, with an estimated 5 to 6 million sheep dying in Western Queensland alone. It is reported to be "the greatest setback to the pastoral industry that Queensland has ever experienced". By 1938, Western Australia had lost nearly 4 million sheep. This was followed by, or continued into, yet another big drought in 1940, said to be "the worst since the big drought of 1902". Despite all these droughts, by 1942 the sheep population was 125 million - said to be 25 million "more than the country could carry safely". Indeed, there were so many sheep that slaughtering restrictions were imposed. This phenomenal growth in sheep numbers, despite savage drought, would seriously make one question the extent of the "dingo menace" continually reported by the media.

1936 sees a "Slaughter in Zoological Gardens", Melbourne Zoo, where a dingo escaped from his enclosure and killed several wallabies. He was found, "exhausted... licking itself in one of the enclosures... Officials were puzzled today as to how the dingo escaped".

A very interesting letter appears in The Land newspaper, 1937, with the writer defending the dingo as "the only non-marsupial carnivorous animal native to Australia". What is of interest in the letter is the belief expressed that if the dingo were not native, "he reached Australia unaided, by man, across some vanished land route.". This belief coincides with that of the most recent mtDNA studies into dingoes conducted some 74 years later, indicating dingoes arrived naturally through land bridges during the last ice age, somewhere up to 18,800 years ago. The writer does, however, also proffer another theory - that the dingo is the progeny of the Tasmanian Tiger through the wolf.

In 1938, the media still hasn't lost its ability to let facts get in the way of a good story. A news item "DINGO ATTACKS MAN. Fierce Struggle in Creek" describes a cross-bred dingo (thus not a dingo but a dog) who attacked a man after he shot at the dog. Said dog then charged into a creek to attack the man - swimming into the depths whereby "Philip succeeded in drowning it". Regardless of the Australian media's sensationalist attitudes, dingoes were born in London Zoo on the 24th March of 1938 and visitors to the zoo were reported to be "thrilled to be close to the animals".

Also in 1938, the CSIRO commences field trials on Myxomatosis and rabbits - the first known attempt of biological control of a mammal anywhere in the world. This occurred at Wardang Island, South Australia. Initial trials were somewhat disappointing, with only half the rabbits dying in a 90 day period before the virus disappeared. By 1940, the CSIRO admitted "they had failed... [but] ... has not lost faith in the efficacy of the disease".

Rabbits - Myxo Trials - 1948

Rabbits around a waterhole at the myxomatosis trial enclosure on Wardang Island in 1938.

National Archives of Australia: barcode - 11145789, series accession number A1200/19.


1939 sees the start of World War II, going through to 1945. This period sees the Nazis experiment with Compound 1080 as a chemical warfare agent, recently patented in Germany as a moth-proofing agent. The Nazis deemed compound 1080 too dangerous for guards to carry with them. Another poison, Sodium Cyanide, was used in the gas chambers. Both these chemicals would later be used to poison dingoes. By 1948/1949, experiments were being undertaken with 1080, as a rat poison, where it is reported to be "too tough. It poisons everything... we don't know where it is going to stop. They say there is no antidote for it." The railway worker's account described probably Australia's first documented case of secondary poisoning by 1080 - the railway's ratter dog ate a poisoned rat and "died in agony". However, one Queensland council is calling it the "pied piper".

In 1946, Queensland experiments with aerial baiting, dropping baits poisoned with strychnine. The trials proved so "successful" it became commonplace in the following years. In 1947, over 1.2 million baits were aerial dropped.

Dingo bait Plane

Dingo Bait Plane, Eagle Farm, 1949.

Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 4224


However, in 1949, calls were made by the Central Coastal Gaziers Association of Queensland to have aerial baiting of dingoes discontinued because it "has proved totally ineffective... During the past two years baits have been dropped from the air in the Emerald, Clermond and Springsure districts, but not one poisoned dingo has been found. In fact, the only dogs found to have been poisoned by the baits were occaisonal valuable cattle dogs." Their calls obviously fell on deaf ears as aerial baiting continued.




Dingo in a trap at Dyliabing (c. 1900)


Photo of dingo caught in a trap

Dingo in a trap at Dyliabing, near Katanning, ca. 1900

Sourced from the collections of the State Library of Western Australia and reproduced with the permission of the Library Board of Western Australia. - 230084PD




The Dingo (1900)

The dingoes out about Tibooburra and S.W. Queensland (says an exchange) are simply wiping the drought-spared sheep off the face of the earth. A short time since the manager of Bransbury (S.W.Q.) mustered only 1090 head out of 5000 head put on the country but 12 months previously, 90 per cent of the loss being due to dogs. At Yandama, near Tibooburra, the manager says he is losing at least 450 head a week from the same cause ; and at Tickalara in four months the dingo loss was 4300 out of 9000. Other stations report equally severe losses. Hundreds of blocks across the S.A. line have been thrown up through continued bad seasons, and, there being few rabbits left, the dingoes are "working in" towards settled country to avoid starvation.




The Natural History of Animals (1901)

(Class Mammalia- Animals which suckle their Young), in word and picture.
By Carl Vogt and Friedrich Specht.

Old photo of dingo

[Page 144]

As representative of these degenerate breeds a figure is given of the Australian dog, the Dingo (Canis dingo), fig. 61. It is a wolf with long legs and bushy tail of the size of a sheep-dog. Dampier found it in a wild condition when he landed in Australia in 1699. It chased kangaroos in not very numerous flocks. From the earliest times the natives have tamed dingos which they have caught young, and have made use of them in hunting marsupials. After the colonization of Australia these dogs attacked herds of sheep by preference, committing great ravages amongst them, and they are hence relentlessly pursued by the colonists.

When tamed they are good watch-dogs, but they cherish a savage hatred towards other dogs and towards Europeans. The fur is a mixture of yellow and black. Hybrids with other dogs are not uncommon, and are esteemed for their strength and endurance.

[Page 234]

The geographical distribution of the Carnivora presents many characteristic features.

Two regions, the Antilles and Australia, possess no native carnivores. Doubts may be raised as regards the latter, which at the time of its discovery by Europeans was inhabited by a species of wild dog, the dingo. But it is almost certain that this dog does not originally belong to Australia, but that it was brought thither by the first settlers, the ancestors of the Australian savages, and afterwards ran wild.


Dingo Bonuses (1901)

At the last meeting of the Armidale Pastures and Stock Protection Board the Chairman said that much dissatisfaction had been expressed at the action of the board in reducing tho bonus for dingo scalps. He pointed out that such a course had been forced upon the board. They had been paying a higher price than surrounding boards, and, consequently, dingoes caught in other districts were brought to Armidale to gain the higher rate of bonus. The board, to protect local landowners from being taxed to pay for the destruction of dingoes outside their boundary, had reduced the bonus to 7s 6d, which had in a measure prevented further imposition. He instanced the case of hares as a further example, stating that the Armidale Board had paid for 40,000 scalps during the past six months, which he was sure were not killed in the Armidale district.




Bonuses for Dingoes (1903)

A telegram from Armidale states, "The Armidale Pastures and Protection Board, by way of cheeking the depredations of native dogs, which of late have been increasing, has adopted an entirely new method. In former years the board offered a high bonus for dog scalps, the result being that scalps were smuggled in from adjoining coast districts.  In order to guard against this nefarious practice the board reduced the bonuses materially, but the hunters became discouraged, forsook their quest of the dingo, and gave the pest a free run of the district. A medium bonus was then offered, but the hunters were still discouraged, and smuggling continued. The Board has now decided to subsidise the local associations by way of coping with the dogs, by this means ensuring payment of a large bonus for the scalps of dingoes actually killed in the district and at the same time preventing smuggling. Under the new conditions the Board has decided to pay £2 for each dog slaughtered through the agency of the local association, provided that the carcase of such dog has been actually viewed by a member of the association, and that a sum of not less than £1 has been paid to the hunter, thus ensuring a reward of £3 for each dingo despatched in the district.  



The Call Of The South, Louis Becke (1908)

Note: The following work of fiction typifies the persecution of the time towards Dingoes and indigenous people. The language in this story may offend some people.



We anchored under Cape Bedford (North Queensland) one day, and the skipper and I went on shore to bathe in one of the native-made rocky water-holes near the Cape. We found a native police patrol camped there, and the officer asked us if we would like to have a dingo pup for a pet. His troopers had caught two of them the previous day. We said we should like to possess a dingo.

"Bring him here, Dandy," said the officer to one of his black troopers, and Dandy, with a grin on his sooty face, brought to us a lanky-legged pup about three months old. Its colour was a dirty yellowish red, but it gave promise of turning out a dog--of a kind. The captain put out his hand to stroke it, and as quick as lightning it closed its fang-like teeth upon his thumb. With a bull-like bellow of rage, the skipper was about to hurl the savage little beast over the cliffs into the sea, when I stayed his hand.

"He'll make a bully ship-dog," I urged, "just the right kind of pup to chivvy the niggers over the side when we get to the Louisiades and Solomons. Please don't choke the little beggar, Ross. 'Twas only fear, not rage, that made him go for you."

We made a temporary muzzle from a bit of fishing line; bade the officer good-bye, and went off to the ship.

We were nearly a month beating up to the Solomons, and in that time we gained some knowledge of Dandy's character. (We named him after the black trooper.) He was fawningly, sneakingly, offensively affectionate--when he was hungry, which was nearly always; as ferocious and as spiteful as a tiger cat when his stomach was full; then, with a snarling yelp, he would put his tail beneath his legs and trot for'ard, turning his head and showing his teeth. Crawling under the barrel of the windlass he would lie there and go to sleep, only opening his eyes now and then to roll them about vindictively when any one passed by. Then when he was hungry again, he would crawl out and slouch aft with a "please-do-be-kind-to-a-poor-dog" expression on his treacherous face. Twice when we were sailing close to the land he jumped overboard, and made for the shore, though he couldn't swim very well and only went round and round in circles. On each occasion a native sailor jumped over after him and brought him back, and each time he bit his rescuer.

"Never mind him, sir," said the mate to Ross one day, when the angry skipper fired three shots at Dandy for killing the ship's cat--missed him and nearly killed the steward, who had put his head out of the galley door to see the fun--"there's money in that dog. I wouldn't mind bettin' half-a-sov that Charley Nyberg, the trader on Santa Anna, will give five pounds for him. He'll go for every nigger he's sooled on to. You mark my words."

In the fore-hold we had a hundred tons of coal destined for one of H.M. cruisers then surveying in the Solomon Group. We put Dandy down there to catch rats, and gave him nothing but water. Here he showed his blood. We could hear the scraping about of coal, and the screams of the captured rodents, as Dandy tore round the hold after them. In three days there were no more rats left, and Dandy began to utter his weird, blood-curdling howls--he wanted to come on deck. We lashed him down under the force pump, and gave him a thorough wash-down. He shook himself, showed his teeth at us and tore off to the galley in search of food. The cook gave him a large tinful of rancid fat, which was at once devoured, then he fled to his retreat under the windlass, and began to growl and moan. By-and-by we made Santa Anna.

Charley Nyberg, after he had tried the dog by setting him on to two Solomon Island "bucks" who were loafing around his house, and seen how the beast could bite, said he would give us thirteen dollars and a fat hog for him. We agreed, and Dandy was taken on shore and chained up outside the cook-house to keep away thieving natives.

About nine o'clock that evening, as the skipper and I were sitting on deck, we heard a fearful yell from Charley's house--a few hundred yards away from where we were anchored. The yell was followed by a wild clamour from many hundreds of native throats, and we saw several scores of people rushing towards the trader's dwelling. Then came the sound of two shots in quick succession.

"Haul the boat alongside," roared our skipper, "there's mischief going on on shore."

In a minute we, with the boat's crew, had seized our arms, tumbled into the boat and were racing for the beach.

Jumping out, we tore to the house. It seemed pretty quiet. Charley was in his sitting-room, binding up his wife's hand, and smoking in an unconcerned sort of a way.

"What is wrong, Charley?" we asked.

"That infernal mongrel of yours nearly bit my wife's hand off. Did it when she tried to stroke him. I soon settled him. If you go to the back you will see some native women preparing the brute for the oven. The niggers here like baked dog. Guess you fellows will have to give me back that thirteen dollars. But you can keep the hog."

So Dandy came to a just and fitting end.




On The Land (1909)



The dingo, or native dog of Australia, is, so far as this State, is concerned, practically extinct. There are still odd crosses between the dingo and the domesticated dog in unpopulated parts, and where it has not been found necessary to molest them, but oven these are comparatively few, and the country is well rid of them. In bygone days in the bush the dingo problem was almost as serious as the rabbit question is today, but with the encroaching of civilisation on the haunts of the dingo, amongst the hills of Monaro, and such localities, these animals decreased to such extent that their numbers have reached insignificant proportions, and the complete extermination of this species as a wild animal is not improbable. The overcoming of this enemy required no small amount of strategy, as is exemplified by the often-quoted term "the cunning of the dingo." In trapping one has to exert the greatest care. The very powerful-toothed jaw spring traps which took two pairs of hands and two feet to set were picked on as being the most efficient. These would have to be buried, so that the trap when set was within the level of the surface of the ground, and sprinkled over with earth to hide its presence. Care had to be taken in not handling this earth, or the wily dog would be suspicious of the human smell. When setting the traps a domestic dog would often be requisitioned, for its traces would act as a draw. The dogs when caught fight very hard for liberty, and there have often been instances where they have bitten their own leg off in order to get free. In some cases the leg would be snapped clean off through the impact of the closing of the trap. Sometimes the sheep used to get caught in these traps, but this did not often occur. Poisoning was also an effective method, and in this direction a freshly-killed bird would be poisoned while warm and hung to a sapling just within leap- ing distance. A bait would also be laid in the shape of a poisoned sheep. Another method of poisoning was to make a trail by means of aniseed on a sheep's liver, and then drop baits along the trail. After taking a bait the dogs would make immediately for water. That was the end. Once poisoning was commenced in a locality the dingoes would make off for fresh pastures.

Dingoes are great hunters, and when they were thick went in search of prey travelling in packs numbering sometimes 80 or 100, and running with head carried high, and ears erect. They killed, when opportunity offered, more than they could possibly use, hence it can be imagined what a mess they would make of a flock of sheep in a night. The dingo is about two and a half feet long and nearly two feet in height. The ears are rather large; and the tail brushy. The colour is most commonly of a tawny hue, "but it also varies from pale brown to black. The dog does not bark or growl in its wild state, but utters dismal howls, especially when darkness sets in, which make the night hideous. Tame dingoes placed amongst other dogs, however, soon learn to bark. The dingo is specially crafty and courageous, and its movements are always spoken of as being "as quick as lightning." Like the fox, the dingo is nocturnal in habit, spending the day in the den, which may be a cave, a hollow tree, or oven a burrow. A striking peculiarity of this animal is its tenacity of life. As soon as it finds itself in difficulties, it shams death, and doggedly sticks to the sham. The aboriginals domesticated many of the dingoes. The puppies are found in hollow logs and similar places, where the female dingoes make their lairs. They prove of great use to their masters in assisting them in finding possums, rats, snakes, lizards, etc., for food.

There has been much controversy as to the origin of the dingo. One contention is that it was of Asiatic origin, the theory being that it was brought to Australia by some of the first men who came here and had since become wild. This is partly borne out by the fact that it is not found in Tasmania or New Zealand, where the fauna is generally like that of our own country. But the occurrence of its remains intermixed with that of kangaroos, in strata and cavern deposits, seems to make any such idea untenable, though it is not impossible that the dingo may have been brought here by man when he first set foot on the continent. Like all animals, the dingo had a purpose to fulfil. The early stage of its extermination was followed by a great increase of grass-eating marsupials, upon which it preyed. But sportsmen seeking for furred skins have filled the gap in keeping down these animals in this direction, so that no such serious problem has cropped up as has done in connection with exterminating the rabbit by poisoning, which, owing to the cereal-eating birds "taking the baits," has resulted in the serious decrease of many of the most useful of the feathered tribe.

When travelling along a lonely bush road the dingo will follow the traveller at a safe distance for miles, Just in the same way as an eagle will soar high up in the air keeping pace with the traveller, which given a weird touch to the scene. The dingo's methods in this respect are probably similar to the wolves of other parts of the world. As the traveller pushes forward the number of dingoes on the trail increases, and as darkness sets in, looking behind the many pairs of glistening, fiery eyes are all that indicate their presence, but they are quite sufficient to send a cold thrill through one. As the pack increases, the animals draw nearer, but, unlike the wolf, have not been known to make an attack on a human being.



Dingo Pups (1911)

Lismore—With reference to your inquiry about dingo pups, will you please state the age of the ones you have, also what price you expect to get for them? I think I will be able to sell them for you, but they must be absolutely pure-bred, otherwise I would not care to offer them for sale. Very often some of the so-called dingoes are only half-bred, the progeny of stray town dogs. I cannot offer you a price for them, as I am not a buyer, but I will try to find buyers for you when I learn what price you expect for the pups.



Aboriginal Woman Carrying a Wild Dog (1915)


Aboriginal woman carrying a wild dog, Everard Ranges, Central Australia, ca. 1915.




National Geographic - March 1919

The dingo is the wild dog of Australia and may have been one of the ancestors of our domestic breeds. There is still some doubt about this, however, as it is not quite certain whether the animal originated in Australia or whether it is descended from the dogs of Asia and was introduced by man at some very remote time. In any case, it is a true dog and is easily tamed.

The native name for the animal is "warrigal," "dingo" being the name given by the natives to any domesticated dog of the settlers. The dingos I have seen were tawny brown in color and about the size of a smooth-coated collie, but of more stocky build and more powerful jaws. I once had a dingo puppy, a lovable ball of soft rich brown fur, but alas ! he died before I had a chance to study him.

In the wild state dingos hunt in packs, and formerly were so destructive to sheep that the stockmen began a war of extermination, aided by a government bounty of five shillings for every dingo killed. Strychnine was the principal weapon used, and it was so effective that the ranks of the wild dog were thinned to a point where they were no longer a menace.

Picture two dingoes - National Geographic 1919 - Louis Agassiz Fuertes

"Dingo" - Louis Agassiz Fuertes
National Geographic, P.202, March 1919.


On the Herbert River the natives find dingo puppies and bring them up with the children. A puppy is usually reared with great care ; he is well fed on meat and fruit and often becomes an important member of the family. His keen scent makes him very useful in trailing game, and his fleetness of foot frequently enables him to run it down. His master never strikes him, though he sometimes threatens to do so.

The threats often end in extravagant caresses. And he seems to respond to this kindly treatment, for the dingo is said to be a "one-man" dog, refusing to follow any one but his master. Nevertheless, the call of the wild, especially in the mating season, often proves too strong for him, and he will rejoin the pack never to return to his human friends.



(For illustration, see page 202)
Several fine dingos have been kept in various zoological gardens in this country, those in Washington being especially typical and well conditioned. The dingo is the most doglike of any of the wild members of the canine group, and the fact that they interbreed freely and produce regularly fertile progeny is further evidence of its proximity to the dogs of mankind.

He is a medium-sized animal, weighing 60 to 80 pounds, possessing all the dog's traits of character and of physique. He has a broad head, moderate-pointed ears, strong, wellboned legs, and a deep chest, which fit him for the long chase. His one wolfy characteristic is the quite bushy tail, which is about half-way between what a dog of similar coat would carry and the brush of a wolf.

Dingos untinctured by dog blood are selfcolored red or tawny and are very fine-looking animals. They are said to be readily tamable, and those the artist has known were as tame and companionable as any dog. They would come to the bars of their inclosure, ears back and tails wagging, and lick the hand of their keeper, and did the same for the artist if the keeper was present. Never having tried to force friendship nor made advances when alone, it is impossible for the writer to say how catholic their tolerance was (see also page 194).

[Download - The book of dogs - an intimate study of man's best friend.]




Howls of a Dingo, Australian Bush Rhymes, by "Aimsfeld" - 1919


Photo of book cover


'Tis the dingo's howl, in the pale moonlight ;
Like the moaning wind on a stormy night :
Over hill, and o'er gully, that weird eerie cry
Is a warning to sheep that a danger is nigh.

Startled ! they stand, then jump, and race away ;
Hunted by one who is eager to slay.
Snapping, tearing, in their blood he revels
"Sport!" for a dingo, is sport for devils.

But the shades of his victims, now so grim,
Have recorded his crimes, and beckon him ;
Outlawed, and wanted, if only his head,
His account is settled, and paid in lead.



The Dingo Invasion (1921)

Sir,--The more one reads of the dingo invasion as reported in the pastoral columns of the Press the more one is impressed with the ever increasing seriousness of the position of the wool industry of Australia. It is perfectly obvious that unless some definite step is taken towards the eradication of the dingo pest in the far West the sheep industry of Western Queensland and New South Wales will soon be something of the past. The continuous flood of wild dogs which is every creeping over wide areas of New South Wales and Queensland is constantly replenished from a great dingo reservoir which lies in the centre of Australia. This great empty space on the   borders of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and the Northern Territory makes an ideal ground for breeding dingoes. It is reported that dingoes swarm in millions in that desert region, and from there hungry dogs migrate to the sheep runs to begin their depredations on the flocks of New South Wales and Queensland. As the sheep owners are steadily retreating before the ever-incoming tide of dingoes, these once heavily stocked sheep stations are being   converted into neglected and lightly stocked cattle walks. This undesirable change is already costing, the Commonwealth millions, besides creating a source of unemployment and a serious depression in the development of the Western districts; it is unnecessary to dwell upon the facts that the sheep industry creates far more avenues of employment then huge half stocked cattle walks. I would like to suggest that one way to get rid of the dingo would be to attack him at his fountain head. If the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales could be induced to equip an expedition of smart bushmen to carry on a wholesale poisoning scheme into the desert country of Central Australia this, perhaps, would be one way of diminishing the dingo pest. What I would suggest is that the men engaged in the undertaking he supplied with strychnine and the material for furnishing bait. Besides being paid a weekly wage, I think they should receive a bonus on every scalp secured, and collected by a central board of control, with headquarters some where near the dingo infested districts.--

I am, sir, &c.,  





The Dingo (1923)

Sir,-Now that something is about to be attempted by way of checking the march of the dingo, the idea that a handsome bonus is going to be effective ought to be dispelled for all time. It is only an inducement to unscrupulous persons to go in for systematic breeding of dogs. This would be far more profitable at the present time than cattle raising. Of course, it would be very unwise at the present time to entirely abandon the bonus system, but if it was reduced to, say, 10/ for dogs and 5/ for foxes, it would be sufficient to encourage trappers to destroy them. A barrier fence may be all right for preventing them from coming in from the Northern Territory, and the outlying parts of the State, but the real source of trouble is the cattle runs. As one member of the deputation recently remarked, the dingo and fox do little or no material damage on cattle stations. It is quite evident, therefore, that the owners are never likely to do anything towards destroying them unless compelled to do so. The sheep men in the past are the only ones that have done their share in keeping the dingo in check; but they cannot cope with them if cattle stations are going to allow them to breed up in thousands. I fancy I can hear some of them saying that it is the sheepman's own lookout if he prefers to go in for sheep instead of cattle. But which is giving the most employment ? For every one that is employed in the cattle industry there are six employed in connection with sheep. Last year it cost the Federal Government £170,000 by way of subsidy in assisting the cattle industry, and probably it will require a like amount this year. If wholesale systematic poisoning was employed on cattle runs during the winter months, over 80 per cent of the dingoes could readily be destroyed, and that for a very small outlay. Some of them even regard the dingo as an asset in keeping the marsupials down, but all the good they do in that direction is merely an illusion. I am, sir, &c.

G. H. BUREY. Tareela, August l8.




Dingo-Fox Cross A National Impossibility (1924)

Pastoralists Need Have No Fear

    From the Far North comes word that a litter of animals, said to be the result of a cross between a dingo and a fox, had been discovered. In some quarters this matter is looked upon as having a serious aspect. It is thought that if the sheep killing propensities of the dingo and the fox are combined in one animal the result will be disastrous to the Australian pastoral industry.

    SCIENCE, however, does not support the possibility of the dingo-fox cross in a wild condition. A prominent Adelaide scientist was questioned on the subject. 'The crossing of a wild dingo and a wild fox is an impossibility,' he said emphatically. 'The natural habit of the dingo is to eat the fox, and if the 'two animals come in contact in their wild state that is what happens. The dingo "scoffs" the fox.

    "In captivity it is a different matter. Several authentic instances of dogs and foxes having produced progeny in a tame or semi-tame state are known. Country gentlemen in England have produced this cross. It is, however, only, after much care and effort that such a thing has been accomplished.
"Assuming that the dingo-fox cross is possible, is there a possibility of the product of that union becoming a menace to the pastoralist?

    "In the first place I will not admit the possibility, but even if such a thing did happen there is no danger at all of the mongrel increasing, as in all such crosses the progeny is sterile, and the product of such a cross dies out in one generation.

    "The mule is a good example. It, of course, is the result of the crossing of the horse and the donkey. The mule is sterile, and so it is with all such breeds.

    "There is a popular fallacy among Australians that cats and rabbits mate, and produce an animal half-cat, half-rabbit. Such a thing is, as I say, a fallacy. It is impossible.

    "To get results of this description the animals mated must be allied. The dog and the fox are not allied. The fox belongs to the genus vulpex, and the dog to the genus canis.

    "The possibility, of the fox-dingo cross producing an animal combining the fence climbing habits of the fox, with the ruthless sheep-slaughtering habits of the dingo, which will make the life of the pastoralist one continual nightmare, is preposterous. Bunkum!

Reported But Not Seen.
    Mr. Edgar R. Waite, director of the Adelaide Museum, was also asked to give his opinion. "It is frequently reported" he said, "that animals and birds kept in captivity are visited by wild animals, and progeny thereby produced."

    "Do you know of any specific instances?' Mr. Waite was asked.
    "No," he replied, "but as I say, such happenings have been reported."

    Mr. E. IX H. Virgo, secretary of the South Australian Stockowners' Association, had his attention drawn to the matter. "Frankly," he said, "I do not know whether such a thing is possible. All I do hope is that it is not. The pastoralist has enough troubles as it is. Dingoes, foxes, rabbits, blowflies — good heavens — no more please."




The Dingo, by Nan (1927)

The Dingo.
By "NAN."

I AM a dingo, and I live with my mate in a hollow log. When I was a puppy I lived with my brothers and sister in another hollow log. I had one sister and two brothers. My sister was strong and greedy. Her colour was black. My two brothers were small and weak; one was all black, and the other was black, with yellow legs. I am yellow. Every night our mother went out hunting, and left us by ourselves, and when she came home she always brought us something nice to eat.

One night, while she was away, my sister climbed out of the log and went off to explore, though we tried to stop her. She never came back, and our mother told us that she must have been killed. She made us promise never to leave the log while she was away. Our mother told us all about the humans, and how they tried to kill us. She also told us it was very hard to get food.

One night she brought us a nice little kid, and another the next night, but she said the humans had heard the kid bleating, and had fired a gun at her, so the could not get any more. When we got a bit older our mother would take us with her when she went hunting, and taught us how to hunt and kill. One night she went out hunting, and she never returned. Later on, another dingo told us she had been poisoned by the humans. After that we had to look after ourselves and get our own food.

One day some humans came along, riding on horses. After putting something on the ground they rode away. After they had been gone for a good while, and we felt safe, we went to see what they had been doing. There we found some lovely juicy meat. My brothers were so hungry that they started to eat it straight away, but I remembered what my mother had told me about humans putting poison in bits of meat to kill us, so I did not have any, although I was very hungry. I tried to stop my brothers, but they would not listen to me, and very soon after they had finished eating they both died.

As I was the only one left I set off to find some mates, and a place to live where I would feel safe. After a long journey I came to a lovely place, where I could always find plenty to eat. Here I met my mate, so we found a comfort able hole in a hollow log, and are very happy together.





Herbert Basedow Photo 1928

Women carrying large plaited baskets, Liverpool River, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, 1928.
Photographer: Herbert Basedow.
National Museum of Australia collection.




The Alsa-Dingo Menace (1930)

The argument against the use of the Alsatian dog in Australia does not rest entirely, or even principally, on the known savageness of that particular, but rather on its size and type.

All bush people know that dingoes will mate with tame dog's—and often will kill them immediately afterward. It is that cross of the dingo and the Alsatian that is the greatest menace: and it is a cross that can never be prevented if Alsatians are allowed outside the Metropolitan area. Given a new Alsa-dingo breed, as cruel as the native dog, and as big and powerful as the imported wolf known as the Alsatian, we shall have to fear for the lives of men and women, to say nothing of children, sheep and calves.

The combination rendered possible by the ill-advised breeding of Alsatians opens up the possibility of our having in the Australian bush in years to come a wild beast comparable with the lion and tiger. Is It worth it?




Drought in Western Queensland (1935)


Brisbane, May 7.  

It is estimated the bones of be- tween 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 sheep are bleaching in the dry creeks of the sheep raising plains between Charleville Tambo, Blackall, Long- reach, Barcaldine, Winton, Hughen- den and other back country towns. This is the greatest setback to the pastoral industry that Queensland has ever experienced. In Charleville district alone the railway records show that since the start of the drought 9857 cattle and 212,268 sheep have been sent to relief country. There is little prospect of the majority ever returning.




Dingo's Ravages (1936)

Slaughter in Zoological Gardens.

MELBOURNE, Jan. 13.— A young dingo killed 10 wallabies in the Australia section of the Zoological Gardens last night, four were killed outright, five died from injuries and the tenth, a baby in the pouch, had to be destroyed because its mother had been killed.

The dingo forced its way through an old wire fence and first attacked a number of Bennett's wallabies, killing three of the largest. Five terrified young ones apparently escaped under the back fence. The dingo then tackled the next enclosure, the abode of the red-necked wallabies, and bit and tore its way through the dividing wire. One of the wallabies was killed and another was badly mauled. The five young wallabies that escaped died later.

Shortly after dawn today, attendants found the exhausted dingo licking itself  in one of the enclosures. The animal escaped once before when it was first brought to the gardens and was placed in an enclosure with a chain wire fence, 9 feet in height. Officials were puzzled today as to how the dingo had escaped, but they will take steps to ensure that it does not cause any further trouble.




Dingo Claimed as Australian Native (1937)



Sir,—In a letter appearing above the name of S. D. Johnston in "The Land," June 4, my good friend states that:--"The dingo, like all other pests, is imported." S. D. Johnston should not play a confidence trick on himself by assuming, because of the animal's noxious habits, that the dingo is imported.

The dingo is the only non-marsupial carnivorous animal native to Australia, but this does not prove that he has been imported. We have such stranger animals here that it would be quite feasible to expect anything. Take for instance our peculiar mammals, the platypus and the echidna (or spiny ant-eater), both of which are monotremes, or egg-laying animals.

I will agree that A. Blakeney made an error in stating that the kelpie and barb originated from the dingo. These dogs came from a cross between a fox and a black, smooth-coated collie, and was made by a gipsy over a hundred years ago. The dingo, however, is responsible for our blue and red heelers (cattle-dogs), which are the only purebred cattle dogs in the world to- day. The dingo blood predominates in the red speckled and the merle in the blue speckled.

Fossil remains of the dingo have been found in many parts of Australia, which proves beyond all doubt that this has been its natural habitat for many centuries.

If the dingo is not indigenous, he reached Australia unaided, by man, across some vanished land route. He originated from the marsupial lion (Thylaccoleo Carnifex) through the "Wolf," and from these sprang the other two branches of carnivora.

Will our good friend tell us that the Tasmanian Tiger is not a native animal?

I respect the dingo, our primal red dog— a native of Australia.

Yours, etc.,

C. J. OLD.





Dingoes in London Zoo (1938)

LONDON, March 24--Extraordinary interest is being taken in five dingo puppies born in the wolf house at the Zoo, making a total of seven. The public is also greatly interested in two tame adult dingoes, which the Zoo authorities have placed in a special cage in which the public is allowed to pat them. Visitors to the Zoo are thrilled to be close to the animals, which are described as "wild dogs from Australia."




Dingo Attacks Man (1938)

Fierce Struggle in Creek.

BRISBANE, Oct. 17--Gordon Philp, of Wyaralong, in the Boonah district, had an unenviable experience today, when for ten minutes he was engaged in a fierce struggle with a big crossbred dingo which attacked him in a creek after he had broken his gun. Hearing a calf bellowing in the direction of a creek near his home this morning, Philp went to the scene with a gun loaded with small shot. He found a large dog mauling a small calf and fired at the dog, but the charge had little effect. Philp rushed forward, but the dog came at him and he stepped back and fell into the creek. As the dog reached the water's edge Philp struck at it with the butt of his gun, but missed and smashed the weapon. The dingo then followed him into the creek, and as it reached swimming depth Philp seized it by the neck and endeavoured to hold it under the water. The dog struggled violently for ten minutes before Philp succeded in drowning it.




Notorious Dingo Caught (1939)

Attempt to Bite off Own Leg.

BRISBANE. March 17--It was reported from Goondiwindi today that a ruthless dingo known as Billa Billa, a killer which has been raiding sections of the Bills Bills area for five months, and which carried a price of £50 on its head, had been killed. On one property alone this dingo caused the loss of 200 sheep. When found the dingo was so desperate that it was trying to bite off one of its legs which had been caught in a trap.



Spreading Rabbit Virus (1940)

Possible Use of Insect.

The Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is experimenting to discover whether the myxomatosis virus for the control of rabbits can be spread by an insect, says Sydney "Land" of December 29. Experiments concerning the spread of the virus were carried out among colonies of rabbits on Wardang Island, but the C.S.I.R. had to admit that they had failed. The council has not lost faith in the efficacy of the disease, however, and the results of the new series of experiments, using insects as the means of spreading the virus, will be followed with keen interest by all producers.




Sheep Population (1942)


Record of 125,000,000

SYDNEY, July 57.— Although they have experienced the worst drought for more than 20 years, Australian pastures are carrying the greatest number of sheep on record— 125,000,000.

Some experts said to-day that the figure was 25 000.000 more than the country could carry safely. Slaughter ing had declined because of restric- ted shipping space tor mutton and lamb. A solution of the problem would be the establishment of a nation-wide chain of mutton dehydrating centres. In 1937 sheep flocks totalled 113,000,000, which experts regarded as the limit tnat pastures could carry with safety. By the end of 1939 the number had risen to 119 000,000




Dingo Baiting (1947)

REPORTS reaching the Lands Minister (Mr. Jones) from graziers and departmental officers in the Cloncurry-Mt. Isa area, where the dingo baiting by aeroplane trials were conducted last year, indicate that the trials were successful.

Mr. Jones says he has had many requests from graziers to carry out further bait dropping later in the year, on a State-wide basis.




Dingo Baiting By Plane (1947)

BRISBANE, July 17--Over 160,000,00 acres of remote dingo breeding areas in Queensland will be systematically covered with poison bait from the air shortly. The campaign will occupy 81 days, necessitating 94 flights over an aggregate distance of 28,250 miles, and approximately 1,250,000 baits will be dropped.

Making the announcement to-day, the Minister for Lands said arrangements had been finalised for the distribution of baits from aircraft in remote dingo breeding areas west of the sheep country to the borders of the State, north to the 19th parallel of latitude and east of the Great Dividing Range for an average depth of 160 to 180 miles.

The campaign, which will be carried out with a Oragon Aircraft under charter from Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., has been organised with the assistance of the local authorities and field officers of the Lands Department.

The aircraft has been fitted with a special electrically driven machine, capable of distributing baits at the rate of 60 to 70 to the mile.

The efficiency of this machine has been proved by extensive tests carried out by Qantas in the presence of departmental officers and the Co-ordinating Board.

The Department has been preparing the campaign for some monts, as much detailed work was involved. Thousands of baits had to be sent to many remote areas, so that the plane would do the minimum of dead flying. In addition, many notices had to be prin- ted, notifying landholders over whose country the aircraft would fly of the approximate time and approximate localities where baits, would be distributed.

No baits will be distributed within 15 miles of any township or within five miles of any station homestead or other buildings, or within two miles of any watercourses, tank, dam or other water facility.




"1080" Was Too Tough (1948)

Ten-Eighty--the extra special American rat poison--was too tough for the Ipswich Railway Workshops in its first trial on Tuesday. One report was that it killed three rats, 14 cats, and one dog. Another, more official, report was that the fatality list was 15 rats, three cats, and one dog.

The dog was Terry, the gate-keeper's heavyweight fox terrier. He died in agony after finishing off a rat that had been poisoned by 1080. "He was the best ratter we ever had," said one of Terry's admirers sadly.

A funeral notice appeared at the workshops entrance yesterday morning--"The funeral of Terry, pet of many, will take place to-day at 12.15 p.m -- Undertakers."

Seventy baits were laid on Tuesday in and around the workshops, and care was taken that the meat (saveloy) baits were placed inside the shop sections. Other baits were apple segments soaked in 1080. When the casualty list was added up yesterday morning, action was taken to destroy all the baits.

One railwayman said that the death of cats would help the rat family to increase. Three kittens were taken out of the shops to save them from potential poisoning.

"This stuff is too tough," said one of the men who had the job of laying the baits. "It poisons everything. It may get rid of the rats effectively but we don't know where it is going to stop. They say there is no antidote for it."

N.B. (for ratepayers with complaints about bad roads): The City Council has applied for one (1) pound of 1080.




"1080" May be "Pied Piper" (1949)

The weekly death roll of the city's rats has led the City Inspector (Mr. R. C. Rogers) to believe that that problem is about the least worrying it has ever been. Average weekly kill at present is about 12, whereas 12 months ago the score was as high as 50 for the same period. It is believed that the super rat poison, "1080," has been responsible for sharply reducing the number of rats in the city. The City Council's health department has been using this poison for some time.




Interior of Dingo Bait Laying Plane (1949)


Photo of inside Dingo bait plane

Interior of the Dingo bait laying plane, Eagle Farm, c. 1949.

Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 4226




Graziers Meet at R/KHampton (1949)

ROCKHAMPTON, May 7--The annual conference of delegates to the Central Coastal Graziers' Association of Queensland decided to endeavour to have the aerial baiting of dingoes discontinued. "Aerial baiting has proved totally ineffective," said Mr. H. W. R. Donaldson, of Emerald. "During the past two years baits have been dropped from the air in the Emerald, Clermont and Springsure districts, but not one poisoned dingo has been found. In fact the only dogs found to have been poisoned by the baits were occasional valuable cattle dogs. I think that a stop should be put to this indiscriminate dropping of baits. It is not because the poison in the baits is no good, but that the dingoes will not eat the baits.