October 28, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

The Dingo Enigma

An Acknowledged Big Problem for Evolution


by Jerry Bergman, PhD



Dingoes look like dogs, but evolutionists say they are not. Pat Shipman writes, “Without question, most people from outside Australia first see a dingo and think, as I did, ‘That’s a dog.’”[1] A dingo looks like a dog, acts like a dog, and runs like a dog. But is not a dog – or so says Pat Lee Shipman in his American Scientist magazine’s cover story, “The Elusive Dingo.”[2] What is it, then, and why is it one of the few placental mammals on a continent full of marsupials?

When Charles Darwin visited Australia in 1836, he saw first-hand the ambiguity of the dingo’s origin. He wrote in 1868 the following, which expresses his instant confusion about this animal’s origin:

In Australia the dingo is both domesticated and wild; though this animal may have been introduced aboriginally by man, yet it must be considered as almost an endemic form, for its remains have been found in a similar state of preservation and associated with extinct mammals.[3]

Brady Smith remarked that the “Dingo is a relatively recent arrival to Australia, yet much of its origin and ancestry remain unclear. It is a topic that has generated much interest, and troubled many scientists and natural historians since the dog-like creature was first observed on Australian shores.” [4]

Fossil Record of Dingoes

Nonetheless, scientists have a good fossil record of its sojourn in its home country, Australia. One may wonder, if the origin of this dog-like creature has been well-documented by fossils dating back to its origin, why does it remain an enigma today? In addition, why do so many evolutionists pontificate with confidence about the evolution of birds, whales, monkeys and just about every other creature?

The answer is that a lack of fossil evidence permits much more freedom to invent just-so stories about the evolution of this or that animal. For dingoes, though, no fossil evidence of their presence exists outside of Australia, even though an enormous number of dingo fossils have been located inside the continent dating as far back as 4,000 years B.P. (before present).

Anatomist and anthologist N.W.G. Macintosh summarized the “situation quite well after failing to find any definite answer [of their origin] after decades of study.”[5] His conclusion is still true today: the “greatest problem in trying to write about the dingo is that one has no proof of the animal’s identification, ancestry, affinity, place of origin, or precise time of arrival in Australia.”[6]

History and Hypotheses

The first dingoes were discovered in Australia, and they show no evidence of evolution in the fossil record.[7] For this reason, scientists are constrained by the fossil evidence. The situation limits hypothesizing about its evolution from some primitive pre-dingo creature. One debated theory claims that dingoes descended from a pack of dogs brought to Australia by some of its first visitors.[8] Unless a large number of dogs had been brought concurrently, though, a genetic bottleneck would have occurred. This would have been a major problem for dingo genetic health. This theory also does not explain the many unique physical and behavioral traits manifested by dingoes today.

Some have noted that the oldest date for any dog remains in Southeast Asia are from Vietnam and are dated at about 4,000 years ago.[9] But to hypothesize that the dingo evolved from a dog that is very different from a dingo raises more questions than it answers. From what we know, when dingoes’ ancestors landed in Australia about 4,000 years ago, the only placental mammals on the continent were humans, rats that had escaped from explorers’ ships, and bats that presumably had flown there. Every other indigenous Australian mammal was a marsupial that raised its young in a pouch. Like humans, dingoes also must have been invaders, but from where?[10] No evidence for where and when exists.

Dingo (Wiki Commons)

Note: These pictures do not point out the many physical differences between dingoes and dogs. Many dingo/dog hybrids exist, which these pictures may be an example. The illustrations do not usually specify if they are hybrids, which they probably are because most dingoes living today are hybrids. Without genetic testing, this cannot be confidently determined.

The Many Differences Between Dogs and Dingoes

Dingoes and dogs differ in both physiology and behavior. Shipman contrasts them in his article. These differences are not absolute, especially due to interbreeding with dogs, but some differences stand out.[11] Physical differences include—in contrast to most dog breeds—the fact that dingoes have a broad, flattened skull; a long, pointed snout; erect ears and a very bushy tail. The dingo’s body is covered with short, sandy yellowish or reddish-brown fur with white markings. Dingoes’ once-a-year reproductive schedule means they breed less frequently than domestic dogs, most of which breed 2 or 3 times annually.

Dingoes have unusually acute senses of smell and hearing, even for a canid. This makes them extremely adept at finding water and prey. Unlike dogs, dingoes will eat anything consumable, even if barely edible, including garbage and waste.

They are also, unlike most dogs, very capable of climbing everything from trees to rocks to fences and other formidable obstacles. They have more shoulder and paw flexibility than do dogs or wolves. This makes them very adept at opening latches, doors, and other devices intended to confine them, to the consternation of Aussies. Unlike most dogs, dingoes dig dens, often by expanding abandoned rabbit warrens, in which to birth their pups. And like wolves, male dingoes usually help in caring for the young.

As for behavioral differences, dingoes rarely bark but frequently howl and whimper. Dogs, by contrast, rarely howl, but often bark. Dingo puppies may look extraordinarily appealing as pets, yet they are exceptionally difficult to train and, unlike dogs, have little innate desire to please humans. Dingoes cannot be “left alone or they destroy, out of anxiety, furniture, doors, appliances, windows, and anything else they can reach. Changing anything in the house—even turning a ceiling fan on or off—causes dingoes great distress.”[12]

And yet in spite of these differences, dingoes are genetically compatible with dogs. They show great alacrity in interbreeding with domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, and foxes. Furthermore, some genetic microsatellite combinations “can be used to estimate the degree of dingo and dog hybridization of any unknown individual, but there is no single trait that says ‘dingo’ or ‘domestic dog’ without ambiguity,” Shipman says.[13]


To evolutionists, dingoes are an enigma. This case history illustrates some of the problems evolutionists must confront when the evidence does not appear to support the Darwinian worldview. Probably the best Darwinian explanation (which is very problematic) is the supposition—without evidence—that all dingoes are descendants of some dogs that came to Australia 4,000 years ago. The fossil record is consistent with the creation view that dingoes were created as dingoes and have diversified somewhat since they were created about 6,000 years ago.

[1] Shipman, Pat Lee. 2020. “The Elusive Dingo.” American Scientist 108(5):292-297, September-October, p. 293.

[2] “The Dingo Enigma: Not Tame, Not Wild, Not a Dog.” American Scientist 108(5):Cover Story, September-October 2020.

[3] Charles Darwin. 1896. The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. New York, NY: D. Appleton.

[4] Smith, Brady, (ed.). 2015. The Dingo Debate. Origins, Behavior and Conservation. Clayton, Australia (in Melbourne, Victoria): CISRO Publishing.

[5] Smith, 2015.

[6] Macintosh, N.W.G., et al. 1975. The origin of the dingo: An enigma. In: The Wild Canids: Their Systematics, Behavioral Ecology and Evolution (Edited by M.W. Fox), pp 87-106. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, p. 87.

[7] Balme, Jane; et al. 2018. New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia.  Scientific Reports 8(1):9933, July 19.

[8] Ballard, J. William O, and Laura A.B. Wilson. 2019. The Australian dingo: untamed or feral? Frontiers in Zoology 16(1):2; Jackson S.M., et al. 2017. The wayward dog: Is the Australian native dog or dingo a distinct species? Zootaxa 4317(2):201–224, September.

[9] Balme, 2018.

[10] Shipman, 2020, p. 293.

[11] Purcell, Brad. 2010. Dingo. Collingwood ,Victoria (Australia): CSIRO Publishing (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization).

[12] Shipman, 2020, p. 294.

[13] Shipman, 2020, p. 294.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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  • Jumboseafood says:

    This article is very weak here’s a copy and paste of a reddit post I made in response
    This creationist argue that Dingos are a problem for evolution using some of the weakest arguments I haver ever seen.

    The first objection is that theirs no clear of the animals place of origin or arrival he gets this from a book published in 1975 . This is weak for the following reasons. According to the Australian museum website we have genetic evidence linking it to south Asian grey wolves . And this genetic evidence establish the arrival date to have been around 4,640-18,1000 years ago according to Oskarsson et al 2011.

    He also claims but the lack of fossils but this no surprise when considering the rarity of fossilization and the recent arrival of the Dingo. Also using DNA we can get a even better picture of Dingo ancestry then fossils alone.

    He also claims that this model can’t explain the physical and Behavioral differences between Dogs and Dingo’s. But this weak Canids display extremes plasticity in those regards look at all the Dog Breeds we have gotten in just a few hundred years most having arisen in the Victorian era. Or look at the Russian fox breeding expermeints in just over 60 years they have seen new doglike coat patterns floppy ears and tame dog like behavior emerge. They have even observed proestus evolve. So in the given time frame and in the harsh environment of the Australian continent such differences are have no shock and are completely acceptable under evolution.


    Oskarsson MCR, Klutsch CFC, Boonyaprakob U, Wilton A, Tanaabe Y, Savolainen P (2011): Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian Dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279(1730):967-974.

    • Thank you for your comment, and for stating it in a civil manner. We typically do not include links to external sites in comments.

    • Here is a reply from Dr Bergman:

      Thanks for the response. I noted Dingo evolution was a problem because the literature on Dingo evolution used such terms as they were an enigma. The variations in dogs is well-documented because the breeding was done by intelligent breeders, often with a goal in mind. Also, the explanations you noted for the lack of a fossil record are plausible, but not scientific proof. Absence of evidence is not proof of what the absence explains. Last, the genetic similarities do not explain how the evolution occurred nor if it occurred. Many genetic similarities exist in all life, which helps explain the differences but not necessarily phylogeny.

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