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Short-eared Dog

The Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis), also known as the Short-eared Fox or the Short-eared Zorro, is a unique and elusive canid species endemic to the Amazonian basin. This is the only species assigned to the genus Atelocynus.

Other names

It has many names in the indigenous languages where it is endemic, such as: cachorro-do-mato-de-orelha-curta in Portuguese, El zorro de oreja corta in Spanish, nomensarixi in Chiquitano people, and ualaca in Yucuna. Other names in Spanish are zorro ojizarco, zorro sabanero, zorro negro.

Evolution and systematics

The Short-eared Dog's evolution is similar to that of other canids and placental mammals of South America. During creation of Isthmus of Panama in the latter part the Tertiary (about 2.5 million years ago in the Pliocene), dogs migrated from North America to the southern continent. The Short-eared Dog's ancestors adapted to life in tropical rainforests, developing the requisite morphological and anatomical features. Apart it's superficial resemblance to the bush dog, the short-eared dog seems to be close unrelated to any of fox or wolf-like canids . It is one of the most unique canids. The latest systematics classifies it as a species in the Canini tribe, and its closest extant relative is probably the distant taxa, the Crab-eating Fox (Cerdocyon thous ). It has 74 (2 x 36 autosomes + one pair of sex chromosomes) chromosomes.

Two subspecies of this canid are recognized:

Atelocynus microtis microtis

Atelocynus microtis sclateri

Occurrence and environment

The Short-eared Dog can be found in the Amazon rainforest region of South America . It lives in various parts of the rainforest environment, preferring areas with little human disturbance. It lives in both lowland forests know as Selva Amazonica and terra firme forest, as well as in swamp forest, stands of bamboo, and partly Cloud forest.


The Short-eared Dog has short and slender limbs with short and rounded ears. The Short-eared Dog has a distinctive fox-like muzzle and bushy tail. It ranges from dark to reddish-grey, but can also be nearly navy blue, coffee brown, dark grey or chestnut-grey until to black, and the coat is short, with thick and bristly fur. Its paws are partly webbed, owing to its partly aquatic habitat.

It moves with feline lightness unparalleled among the other canids. It has a somewhat narrow chest, with dark colour variation on thorax merging to brighter, more reddish tones on the abdominal side of the body. This species possesses a large elongated head and long canine teeth, protruding even when its muzzle is closed. Its back often has a dark streak, while a brighter stain is on its tail. Like all canids, it has 42 teeth.

Typical height at the shoulder is 25-30 cm. Its head and body length is about 100 cm, with a tail of about 30-35 cm. It weighs about 910 kg.


This wild dog is mainly a carnivore, with fish, insects, and small mammals making up the majority of its diet. An investigation led in Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Peru into the proportions of different kinds of food in this animal's diet produced the following results: fish 28%, insects 17%, small mammals 13%, various fruits 10%, crabs 10%, frogs 4%, reptiles 3%, birds 10%.

Reproduction and behaviour

This species has some unique behaviours not typical to other canids. Females of this species are about almost 1/3 larger than males. The excited male sprays a musk produced by the tail glands. It prefers a solitary lifestyle, in forest areas. It avoids humans in the natural environment. Agitated males will raise the hairs on their backs.

Lifespan and gestation period are unknown, although it is assumed that sexual maturity is reached at about one year of age.

Threats, survival and ecological concerns

The Short-eared Dog competes for food with the Jaguar, Cougar, Ocelot, Margay and Giant Otter, and competes for territory with the Bush Dog.

Feral dogs pose a prominent threat to the population Short-eared Dogs, as they facilitate the spread of diseases such as canine distemper and rabies to the wild population. Humans also contribute to the extermination of the Short-eared Dog via degradation of the species' natural habitat and the destruction of tropical rainforests. Scientists still have little knowledge of its biology.

Status of Conservation

The Short-eared Dog is currently considered near threatened by IUCN.

There isn't any comprehensive ecological and genetic research carried out on the species.


Two subspecies are recognized:

Atelocynus microtis microtis, Sclater, 1882.

Atelocynus microtis sclateri, J. A. Allen, 1905


M.R.P Leite Pitman and R.S.R. Williams. Short-eared dog;Atelocynus microtis .C-S. Zubiri, M. Hoffmann and D. W. Macdonald. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs - 2004 Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Publications Services Unit, 219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, United Kingdom, 2004.

Alderton, David. Foxes, Wolves and Wild Dogs of the World. Blandford Press: United Kingdom, 1998.

Nowak, Ronald. ''Walker's Carnivores of the World''. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 2005.

External links

IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group: Small Eared Zorro


Ecology and conservation of the short-eared dog by WildCru

Studies with a tame short-eared dog by Maria Renata Leite

Atelocynus microtis Research and Conservation by M. R. Pitman Leite

PHOTOS: Short-Eared Dog Caught in Camera Trap

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Short-eared Dog

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