Dingoes Aren’t Australian

So where did they come from and who brought them here?

Dingoes aren’t as Australian as we all thought.

According to archaeological evidence, it wasn’t that long ago the dingo first laid foot in Australia. The dingo first came to Australia 4,000 years ago, much later than previously thought. Uncovering how the dingo inhabited Australia will shed light on human history around South East Asia and Australia as well.

There are many theories as to which group of settlers migrated with the dingo to Australia. From Indian Mariners, seafaring Lapita, to traders from Timor and the Philippines, Toalean hunter-gathers to Indonesians from the island of Sulawesi. By studying the genetic material and DNA from modern day wolves, wild dogs and dingoes the growing consensus is the animals originated from Asia, somewhere in China before spreading over South East Asia and Taiwan.

DingoImage: Dingo, Flikr

DNA and genetic studies seem to suggest that the animals arrived from Sulawesi and Borneo around 5,000- 12,000 years ago. A 2014 study examining the starch strains of a dingo’s stomach revealed that the animal is lacking copies of a starch digestion gene, something which wild dogs developed while living in agricultural colonies. The missing gene appears to indicate that the dingo was not living with any agricultural group. This seems to indicate the dingo was brought over by either the Lapita or the Toalean hunter-gatherer.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Lapita people landed in Australia at the same time as the dingo. For one, there are no traces of Lapita pottery or livestock such as chickens and pigs in Australia that the Lapita people have been known to travel with. It is also known that the Lapita people didn’t venture out of Asia till well after the dingo arrived in Australia, which was around 3300 years ago.

By process of elimination, the Toalean people appear to be the best fit. Researchers suggest that the Sulawesi hunter-gatherers from Indonesia brought the dingo to Australia around 4,000 years ago after procuring the animal from the people of Borneo. Specific tools that have been unearthed in South Sulawesi suggest hunter-gatherer people were capable of travelling long distances. Paul Taçon from the University of New England in Armidale explains:

There were strong currents which could have blown their ships to Australia.

Indeed the people of Sulawesi visited North Australia often until our government made it illegal in the 1900s.

More DNA and genetic research needs to be done before any real conclusion can be made about our beloved dingo’s origin.

Header: Geographic range of Canis lupus dingo, Wikimedia Commons

Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay