Sanctuary Asia
Dhole Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia
Dhole Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia

The Dhole: Up-close

A large chital stag headed rapidly in my direction pursued by the pack. My sudden presence disrupted the hunt, the stag got his chance to escape, and the disappointed dogs yapped and snarled at me from a distance.

Dr. Priya Davidar

I have always had mixed feelings about the Dhole Cuon alpinus, or Asiatic wild dog. My first encounter was on a cold and rainy evening in the 1960s, when my father, E. R. C. Davidar, a lawyer, shikari and later a wildlife conservationist, first brought us to a property in the northern foothills of the Nilgiris, that he and my mother later purchased and named ‘Cheetal Walk’. A pack of wild dogs were dismembering a chital near an old disused well. It was a painfully fascinating but unforgettable sight.


Dholes are cooperative hunters and breeders. They hunt as a pack coordinating their movements by whistles and usually bring down prey larger than themselves, devoured quite rapidly, sometimes while still alive. The British hated them, terming them “vermin”. Fletcher (1911), a planter in the Nilgiri-Wayanad, describing them as “crafty, untiring, cruel and relentless as fate”, wrote, “the wild dog is the curse of the country.” Lt. Col. Phythian-Adams, then Honorary Secretary, Nilgiri Game Association (later renamed Nilgiri Wildlife and Environment Association), called them ‘the perfect swine’ and unleashed a war on them. A bounty was placed on their heads and many were massacred. This was probably because they were rivals to the ubiquitous shikaris of yore.

My father, who succeeded Lt. Col. Phythian-Adams at the Nilgir

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