National Geographic News

Nadia Drake

for National Geographic

Published June 26, 2014

One of the Amazon rain forest's most elusive inhabitants, the short-eared dog, has been caught on video.

About the size of a fox, these jungle canines are incredibly difficult to spot. In fact, a journey to the Amazon is far more likely to yield a jaguar sighting than a glimpse of a wild short-eared dog.

"They are rare and hard to see," says veterinarian and ecologist Renata Leite Pitman, a researcher at Duke University and National Geographic grantee. She's been studying short-eared dogs, which only live in the Amazon basin, for 14 years. In that time, she's managed to capture and affix tracking collars to only five of the animals.

"They are very timid, totally different from pets," Leite Pitman says. And their dark coloring helps them blend in with the rain forest underbrush and avoid predators.

Catching the dog (Atelocynus microtis) on video was a complete surprise.

In late May, conservation biologist Lary Reeves set up a GoPro camera near a white-lipped peccary carcass. The rotting, bug-ridden corpse had been discovered along a trail near the Tambopata Research Center, located deep in southeastern Peru. Wanting to record what he'd heard was a "king vulture fiesta" at the carcass, Reeves braved the rampaging insects and rancid stench to set the camera a few feet from the carcass.

When he reviewed the footage, Reeves was astonished to see the dark, sleek shape of the jungle dog appear in the frame.

"The dog came by about 20 minutes after we left," says Reeves, a graduate student at the University of Florida. "That was crazy."

But the animal didn't stick around for long. In the video it sniffs the carcass and eyes the GoPro with concern before slinking off. That behavior isn't too surprising. "They avoid cameras," Leite Pitman says.

Her experience with the dogs suggests that they're very wary of recording equipment, with its blinking lights and associated human smells.

As a consequence of their rarity, not much is known about the dogs' behavior, population numbers or distribution, which appears to be patchy. But Leite Pitman and others suspect the dogs' numbers are declining as a result of deforestation and prey depletion—as well as the presence of domestic dogs, which can introduce a host of diseases, such as parvovirus.

Still, "if you want to spot them, I would say go to Tambopata or Los Amigos [near Manu National Park]," she says. "That's the best chance you have to spot them in the wild."

Follow Nadia Drake on Twitter.

97 comments
Linus Turnquist
Linus Turnquist

Joy Phillip I 100% although Its hard to domesticate them if they are so hard to catch its hard to help them and domestication might lead to unknown diseases.

Joy Phillip
Joy Phillip

Couldn't Atelocynus be domesticated. IF THY'RE BECOMING EXTINCT couldn't scientists work harder at preserving the species?  it's a first for me, please let's have more footage on this species.   Thanks Natgeo.
























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Patty Holman
Patty Holman

Once again we can see what humans are doing to the rain forest with the destruction that is done continually.  It is very sad to see it every day and it is every day that it is happening.  We need to group up and find a solution. 

Janette Fulmer
Janette Fulmer

So very interesting to a retired Science instructor.

Calvin Yerke
Calvin Yerke

Always good to see and learn something new.

leta rosetree
leta rosetree

We really need to honor what it is that 'we, as humans, don't know that we don't know.        

Diana Watson
Diana Watson

Have you done DNA on this animal yet?  Just wondering because there is something about him that makes me think bear.  

Avinash Nagare
Avinash Nagare

Look like Indian carvanidog mouth similar mouth amazing shot great

PHILIP BALZAN
PHILIP BALZAN

Fantastic. I can only imagine the joy and satisfaction of the explorers on first seeing this unexpected visitor. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing the video. 

Laura Linger
Laura Linger

Very cool. I loved learning about his existence. Thanks NatGeo!

Pam Tierney
Pam Tierney

I didn't know about these dogs , it's got a nice face ..

Pete Rowbottom
Pete Rowbottom

Wow, never heard of these, so to see one as well is a bonus, good work.

Locksley Guthrie
Locksley Guthrie

Thanks for sharing, I have always been facinated by the Amazon's abundance and diversity of both plants and animals.

ADAM MARTIN
ADAM MARTIN

It looks sort of similar to the extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger). Could there be a link?

Bonnie Sumner
Bonnie Sumner

Thank you for sharing this and all of the other fascinating information

NatGeo has! I did not have any trouble viewing it on my phone.

Ronald Wijchers
Ronald Wijchers

Interesting wild dog but more footage would have been nice.

Linda Matcek
Linda Matcek

I just signed up and can't get the video to work  ????

Ibrahim Daudu
Ibrahim Daudu

Fascinating! Will we ever know all of God's creatures?

Gabriele Menefee
Gabriele Menefee

There's many animals out there that we haven't even seen.  If we, as humans, think we have seen everything, then we are dumb.  There's more to see and more to learn.  Fascinating. 

Craig Gosling
Craig Gosling

I'm a skeptic. Before we accept that this creature is a distinct new canine species, we need to analyze its DNA. Chances are it is descended from feral domestic dogs. I hope to hear more about this.

Linda Thompson
Linda Thompson

I agree with Jack. Through the wonderful world of technology and National Geographic we are able to see nature the world over when we might be at a stage in our lives when exotic travel is no longer possible. Thank you!

Jack Jorgensen
Jack Jorgensen

Really interesting to sit in my living room in the later years of my life and seeing so many world wide scenes. The dog was by natural instinc cautious of possible an enemy predator was lurking near by.

Lanni Fish
Lanni Fish

I found this very interesting.  Also interesting is the fact that so many folks are unable to enjoy a simple film clip for what it is.  Why must some people be so skeptical?  What was "strange" about the animal circling wide around a stinking, rotting carcass, and re-entering the camera's view from a different angle? Also, if National Geographic is smart enough to sell a little commercial time in order to fund continued efforts to bring us things like this, I'll sit through a minute's worth.  Keep up the good work, Nat Geo.

Anthony Milano
Anthony Milano

Articles such as this fascinate me however, the video did not open fro me. I did read the text and found it interesting. I could not understand how the dog was able to tell it was being photographed.

Anthony Milano
Anthony Milano

Articles such as thisfascinates me however, the video did not open fro me. I did read the text and found it interesting. I could not understand how the dog was able to tell it was being photographed.

Corinne Mauri
Corinne Mauri

we must stop cutting down the rain forest! we will lose so many species we hardly know about ...its a crime!


Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams

Very cool! I had never heard of this animal before--hope it can be preserved.

Colin McMillan
Colin McMillan

That's one very smart critter !!  Thanks for sharing.

antoinette amegbletor
antoinette amegbletor

I was very curious to see more but was so brief well done for sharing . It gladdens my heart that all is not lost from the wild. however if we are able to fight forest depletion, poaching and all other activities that prevent these jewels of the forest from surviving am sure we will see more of them.


spencer davis
spencer davis

Wanted to see the jungle pooch. but Nooooooo! The link is broken. I'm sad now.

Ligia Dantes
Ligia Dantes

Thank you National Geographic for teaching to us all over the world about where we live and about our planet and its habitants.

Leah Vujic
Leah Vujic

@Joy Phillip they're near threatened, not near extinction. They are just extremely elusive and timid which makes it difficult to know their exact population numbers or learn more about them.
Also, domestication is certainly not that simple. And domesticating a species would have no practical purpose in preserving their wild counterparts.

Danny Sichel
Danny Sichel

@ADAM MARTIN  - thylacines were marsupial mammals. The short-eared dog is a placental mammal. Marsupials and placentals diverged about 160 million years ago.


Any large-scale similarities in morphology are presumably the result of similarities in ecological niche (thus, convergent evolution).

Danny Sichel
Danny Sichel

@Craig Gosling - they're not being called a "new" canine species, they've been known to science since the 1880s. They're a rare species, one that hasn't been studied extensively because they hide a lot. Carcasses, skins, skeletons, etc. are held in the collections of various museums, and have been analyzed both morphologically and genetically. They're related enough to Canis lupus familiaris to be vulnerable to distemper, but their last common ancestor was about three million years back.



What is new is video of a short-eared dog in the wild.

Mario Baudoin
Mario Baudoin

@Craig Gosling It is not new at all. It secretive but its existence is well known and was named by an argetinian zoologist in 1940. It is quite distinct and could hardly be confused with other small south american wild canids. I dont think there are other videos of this species from the wild.

Dave Lewis
Dave Lewis

@Lanni Fish


Good science is naturally skeptical. That's not to say it shouldn't be pursued with an open mind. Its all about observation and connecting the dots *carefully*.

Danny Sichel
Danny Sichel

@Anthony Milano it didn't know anything about "being photographed"; however, it knew "smells of big scary noisy two-legger" and "has scary flashing lights".

R. Raasch von Weltzin
R. Raasch von Weltzin

@spencer davis Howdy Spencer, I had trouble viewing too, BUT by returning to the link in the Email I clicked there and was able to view this wonderful Dog!

Mario Baudoin
Mario Baudoin

@Danny Sichel Sorry,t is the genus that was defined by Cabrera in 1940, the species described by Sclatter in 1883.

SmileyFace Smile
SmileyFace Smile

@Mario Baudoin @Craig Gosling a lot of people just heard about this animal now when they watched the video. I just heard of it right now as well and I was slightly skeptic till I read this comment.

Danny Sichel
Danny Sichel

@Mario Baudoin - ah, so they are, my mistake.

Isn't it fascinating how many wild canid species there are? Short-eared dog, maned wolf, bush dog, raccoon dog, South American fox... and none of them are what their names imply.

Mario Baudoin
Mario Baudoin

@Danny Sichel @Mario Baudoin We should stop apologizing to each other. You were right in the species having been described in the 1880s. Yes wild dogs are fascinating and so much more diverse in behaviour than our close friends and their ancestors.

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