Carolina Dogs: Jackals You Can Own

Discover the fascinating Carolina Dog, a jackal-like wild dog breed native to Southern America, and learn about its history, characteristics, and care requirements.

Feb 17, 2024By Natasha Elder
Carolina dogs jackals you can own

The Carolina Dog, who you may know as the Dixie Dingo or Yellow Dog, is a rare and wild dog breed turned household pet that has captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts and behaviorists alike. This wild canine, native to the Southeastern United States, has a rich history and a striking appearance that sets it apart from other breeds. In this post, you’ll learn about the history of the Carolina Dog, its jackal-like features, and what makes it a unique companion – if you’re up for the task of owning one.

Carolina Dogs Are a Primitive Breed

american dingoes carolina dogs by river
Image credit: Wayward Dogs

The Carolina Dog, who also goes by the name “Yellow Dog,” “Yaller Dog,” “American Dingo,” or “Dixie Dingo,” is a truly fascinating breed that sits atop many lists of rare dog breeds. This dog breed is classed as a primitive breed, meaning that the majority of its ancestral traits are still intact due to spending hundreds of years away from humans.

The exact origins of the Carolina Dog are not crystal clear, but there is evidence to suggest that the breed is the descendant of the primitive dog breed that traveled with Paleo-Indians from Asia to North America over the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago. Due to time and improper documentation, the breed was simply forgotten about.

dingo in the wild
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the 1920s, Carolina Dogs were rediscovered in the Savannah River Site reserve by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, a senior research ecologist at the University of Georgia. At the time, Dr. Brisbin simply thought the dog was a stray, but after encountering more of them, he realized that he had stumbled across a free-ranging pack of wild dogs. The finding was documented and publicized, and by 1970, the Carolina Dog was officially recognized as a dog breed by the American Kennel Club and several other breed clubs.

The Carolina Dog Has Jackal-Like Features

carolina dog american dingo wild tongue out
Image credit: Wikimedia

What is most striking about the Carolina Dog is that it resembles a jackal and an Australian Dingo, one of many animals native Down Under. Like a jackal, they have:

  • Pointed, alert, and tall ears
  • A long nose
  • A slightly triangular head
  • Ginger fur
  • A fishhook tail
  • A narrow chest
  • Thin, lithe, and lean frames

Categorized as a medium-sized breed, Carolina Dogs stand between 17 to 24 inches tall (that’s 43.1 to 60.9 centimeters) and are narrow-chested with a classic sight-hound litheness. They weigh between 35 to 50 pounds (that’s 15.8 to 22.6 kilograms), and though there is a slight difference in size between males and females, it’s not distinct enough to tell them apart by eye.

Due to their coloration (which you’ll learn more about in detail later in this article), size, and undeniably similar physical characteristics, it is incredibly easy to confuse a Carolina Dog for a jackal.

The Only Wild Dog Breed in America

carolina dog back forest wild natural landscape
Image credit: The Bitter Southerner

Though the Carolina Dog has ancient ties to Asia, it is largely accepted as an American dog breed. Ever since the official breed recognition, Carolina Dogs have been found in more and more houses, but they are still found living freely in wild areas.

Because they live so far away from the prying eyes of humans, it is not known how many Carolina Dogs there are. What IS known is that they’re the only wild dog breed in America.

Most commonly, packs of Carolina Dogs can be found living freely in the rural areas of Georgia and South Carolina. Though they’re found in Georgia and South Carolina most often, they’re not exclusive to this area. They’re even found outside of the South entirely, albeit in very remote and rural areas. Carolina Dogs have been found in various states, ranging from Arizona to Ohio.

The Carolina Dog Doesn’t Have a Typical Temperament

carolina dog laying windowsil
Image credit: Wikipedia

Because of the fact that they’ve only been domesticated very recently, the Carolina Dog has a temperament unlike any other dog. In a few ways, they’re still wild and underdeveloped, but in others, they shine. In other words, they’re not quite used to being pets yet, and their temperament reflects this.

Carolina Dogs are described in the official breed standard as: “Generally shy and suspicious in nature” and that this dog “should not be expected to be friendly and outgoing, or to enjoy physical contact with strangers. This makes complete sense when you take into account their human-less history. A broader look at the Carolina Dog’s temperament reveals the breed is:

  • Alert
  • Brave
  • Loyal
  • Shy
  • Stubborn
  • Suspicious
  • Quiet
  • Resourceful
  • Reserved

With time, as they become more domesticated, Carolina Dogs will likely develop more “typical” dog characteristics, such as friendliness and affection, and their overall trainability will increase.

One Isn’t Enough: Carolina Dogs Are Pack Animals

pair carolina dogs field
Image credit: Wikimedia

Some dog breeds, like the Japanese Chin and the Great Pyrenees, thrive on their own as single pets. Other dogs don’t, and the Carolina Dog is one of them. This breed is not well-suited for life as a solo dog, and it’s recommended to keep more than one of them.

In the wild, the Carolina Dog would live in a pack to whom it would be fiercely and unwaveringly loyal. This intense pack mentality is still present in the breed today, making it essential for owners to provide adequate socialization and interaction.

Not having a pack goes against the Carolina Dog’s nature. Without one, the breed is prone to developing and displaying behavioral problems and is at risk of developing an innate sense of separation anxiety.

Carolina Dogs Aren’t Just Ginger

carolina dog sable grass tongue out
Image credit: Wikimedia

Carolina Dogs have smooth coats that are short but grow longer in winter months. The official breed standard for the Carolina Dog states that “when aroused, the hair stands erect” and that the hair on the ridge of the back appears to be darker than the rest of the coat. The hair behind the shoulders is usually lighter than the rest of the coat.

Carolina dogs are usually found in varying shades of ginger, ranging from classic red to straw-colored, but they can have other coat colors, too. The official breed standard lays out the possible coat color options of a Carolina Dog as:

  • Black
  • Black and tan
  • Buff
  • Red
  • Tawny
  • White
  • Yellow

In terms of patterns and markings, Carolina Dogs will usually be solid in color, but it’s also possible for them to have white, piebald, or Irish marked (white found on the tip of the tail, the chest, neck, and muzzle) patterns on their coats.

Carolina Dogs Generally Live for 12-15 Years

carolina dog puppy sleeping
Image credit: California Carolina Dogs

On average, domesticated Carolina Dogs live for 12 to 15 years. However, it’s difficult to confirm the life expectancy of the dog in the wild. The general understanding is that it probably falls within this same range.

Because it is such an old breed that has lived in the wild for so long, the Carolina Dog doesn’t have any known genetic conditions, unlike other dog breeds that have been over-bred and over-developed throughout the years. They’re also much less likely to suffer from common health issues that dogs most experience. In fact, the only real health issue they face is a size-related one: dysplasia of the hips or elbows.

One issue that presents itself with the primitiveness of the breed is its sensitivity to medication, specifically Ivermectin, which is used to treat mites and heartworms. Generally, and though you should ALWAYS seek advice from a veterinarian before administering any kind of treatment, natural alternative medicines are the way to go with the Carolina Dog.

Carolina Dogs: One of 16 Southern American Dogs

carolina dog smiling garden
Image credit: My Carolina Dog

When you think of the South, you might only think of sweet tea, grits, and greens. All of this is understandable, but this area holds its own in the dog breed arena, too. The Carolina Dog is, of course, one of the most well-known dog breeds associated with the southern U.S., but they’re far from the only breed that comes from this area.

Though they didn’t technically originate from here, the Carolina Dog as we know it today was developed in the Southern United States. Including the Carolina Dog, there are a total of 16 dogs that hail from the region, per the American Kennel Club’s records. These dogs are as follows:

  • Plott Hounds
  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs
  • Redbone Coonhounds
  • Black and Tan Coonhounds
  • Bluetick Coonhounds
  • Treeing Walker Coonhounds
  • Boykin Spaniels
  • Mountain Curs
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle Dogs
  • Carolina Dogs
  • American Foxhounds
  • American Hairless Terriers
  • Rat Terriers
  • Toy Fox Terriers
  • Teddy Roosevelt Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers

Owning a Carolina Dog Is a Big Commitment

carolina dog eating live chicken natural rearing
Image credit: My Carolina Dog

If you want to take a walk on the wild side and adopt a Carolina Dog, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Not only is this breed quite challenging to train, but due to its ingrained stubbornness and independent nature, many people feel that there is a responsibility to preserve the breed as best as they can.

After all, the Carolina Dog has spent the vast majority of its existence away from humans, and it has turned out well. It doesn’t get sick the way breeds that have had more interaction do, and many people believe that the Carolina Dog is a dog in its most natural form, or that it’s a dog of nature’s way.

Because of this, most people recommend naturally rearing Carolina Dogs. Though controversial to some, this includes feeding them a raw diet, ensuring they spend a great deal of time outdoors, encouraging their natural instincts and prey drive, and making sure they meet the exercise requirements that the breed demands.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership