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The Life & Habits of Black-Backed and Side-Striped Jackal

This blog about black-back and side-striped jackals was written by Jordan Grove. Special topic blogs are written by Bushwise students during their course, and all facts included are based on their research.

Read time: 3 mins

I will be sharing some interesting facts about both the black-backed and side-striped jackal. Both animals are found in various parts of the country, with the black-backed jackal being more prevalent. I will be focusing on the appearance, habitat, diet and breeding behaviours of each.


The black-backed jackal has a distinctive dark black patch on the back, starting at the neck and running down to the base of the tail. The rest of the body has a rusty, reddish colour which stands out more in thick grass, making them easier to spot. They usually weigh between 8–10 kilograms. And in terms of their call, they have a unique wailing call which is difficult to mistake for most other animals. 

In contrast to the black-backed jackal, the side-striped jackal has a more doglike appearance and is also larger, weighing up to 14 kilograms. They have grey-brown fur, with faint white stripes on their sides. Their tails are dark with a white tip. And their call is an almost owl-like hoot or a loud scream when threatened. 

Diet and habitat

Black-backed jackals are far from being picky eaters. Besides scavenging, they feed on almost anything, including insects, fruit, lizards, rodents and sometimes two jackals will form a pair to hunt larger prey such as impala. 

As a result of their widespread diet and being generally adaptable, they are found in many areas and habitats. The only areas that they do not thrive in are dense forests, as they prefer areas which are more open – possibly to give them more visibility of potential threats such as leopards or lions – when foraging and resting in these open areas.

Similarly to the black-backed jackal, the side-striped jackal scavenges for food. Being omnivores, their diet consists of small mammals like rodents, invertebrates like millipedes and other insects, and plants, mainly fruits. They are very opportunistic and will also scavenge from the kills of other animals. Hunting happens at night, either alone or in pairs, but they can be found in groups of up to twelve when they are in a good feeding area. 

Breeding habits 

The black-backed jackal forms a monogamous pair, sharing the same mate for life. After a gestation period of two months, a litter of between one and six pups are born, usually between August to October. 

The pups are generally born and raised in protected areas such as abandoned termite mounds, where they at first suckle from their mother and then feed on regurgitated food from their parents for the first three months of their lives. They stay in the same territory as their parents until they are old enough to establish their own territories. 

Side-striped jackals are territorial and can live in family groups or in some cases on their own. These family groups consist of up to seven jackals and are dominated by the breeding pair, who are also monogamous and pair for life. Side-striped jackals reach reproductive maturity at between 6–8 months. 

Breeding season for side-striped jackals depends on where they live, but it is usually between June and November. After a gestation period of around 57–70 days, 3–6 helpless pups are born and nursed by their mother for between 8–10 weeks. At 11 months, the pups will leave their home to establish their own territory.

And there you have it — nature's dynamic duo, the black-backed and side-striped jackals. Next time you're in their neck of the woods, listen for the echoes of their wails and hoots. 

Join us out here at Bushwise where the faces and calls of the African bush will soon begin to feel like old friends. 



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