jackal, name for several Old World carnivorous mammals of the genus Canis, which also includes the dog and the wolf. Jackals are found in Africa and S Asia, where they inhabit deserts, grasslands, and brush country. They are similar in size to the North American prairie wolf, or coyote, and like the coyote, they howl and yap before the evening hunt. Renowned as scavengers, jackals also hunt small animals such as rodents and gazelle fawns. Pairs generally mate for life; they forage by night and spend the day in holes or with a litter hidden in brush. The black-backed jackal, Canis mesomelas, the simian jackal, C. simensis, and the side-striped jackal, C. adustus, are found only in Africa; they are territorial and form complex social groups. The golden, or Asian, jackal, C. aureus, is found in S Asia and parts of N Africa; they usually hunt in small packs. Jackals are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Canidae.
See J. L. Gittleman, Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution (1989).