Short-eared dog

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Short-eared dog[1]
Short-eared Dog.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Subfamily: Caninae
Genus: Atelocynus
Cabrera, 1940
Species: A. microtis
Binomial name
Atelocynus microtis
(Sclater, 1883)
Distribución Atelocynus microtis.png
Short-eared dog range

The short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis), also known as the short-eared zorro and small-eared dog,[2][3] is a unique and elusive canid species endemic to the Amazonian basin.[1][2] This is the only species assigned to the genus Atelocynus.[1]

Other names

It has many names in the indigenous languages where it is endemic, such as: cachorro-do-mato-de-orelha-curta in Portuguese, zorro de oreja corta in Spanish, nomensarixi in the Chiquitano language, and uálaca in Yucuna. Other names in Spanish are zorro ojizarco, zorro sabanero, zorro negro.

Evolution and systematics

After the formation of the Isthmus of Panama in the latter part the Tertiary (about 2.5 million years ago in the Pliocene), dogs migrated from North America to the southern continent as part of the Great American Interchange. The short-eared dog's ancestors adapted to life in tropical rainforests, developing the requisite morphological and anatomical features. Apart from its superficial resemblance to the bush dog, the short-eared dog seems not to be closely related to any fox-like or wolf-like canid.[4] It is one of the most unusual canids.[5]

Two subspecies of this canid are recognized:[1]

  • A. m. microtis
  • A. m. sclateri

Occurrence and environment

The short-eared dog can be found in the Amazon rainforest region of South America (in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and possibly Venezuela).[1] There is a single report of "three slender, doglike animals" of this species sighted in the Darien region of Panama in 1984 by German biologist Sigi Weisel and a native Embera nation Panamanian; this rare species' presence in Panama is possible because of "the continuous mass of forest habitat that covers this region".[3] It lives in various parts of the rainforest environment, preferring areas with little human disturbance. It lives in both lowland forests known as Selva Amazónica and terra firme forest, as well as in swamp forest, stands of bamboo, and cloud forest.[6]


Illustration of a short-eared dog
Short-eared dog fur skin (Atelocynus microtis), fur skin collection, Bundes-Pelzfachschule, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Short-eared dog skull

The short-eared dog has short and slender limbs with short and rounded ears. The short-eared dog has a distinctive fox-like muzzle and bushy tail. It ranges from dark to reddish-grey, but can also be nearly navy blue, coffee brown, dark grey or chestnut-grey until to black, and the coat is short, with thick and bristly fur.[5] Its paws are partly webbed, owing to its partly aquatic habitat.[7]

It moves with feline lightness unparalleled among the other canids. It has a somewhat narrow chest, with dark color variation on thorax merging to brighter, more reddish tones on the abdominal side of the body.


This wild dog is mainly a carnivore, with fish, insects, and small mammals making up the majority of its diet. An investigation led in Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Peru into the proportions of different kinds of food in this animal's diet produced the following results: fish 28%, insects 17%, small mammals 13%, various fruits 10%, birds 10%, crabs 10%, frogs 4%, reptiles 3%.[8]

Reproduction and behavior

This species has some unique behaviors not typical to other canids. Females of this species are about one-third larger than males. The excited male sprays a musk produced by the tail glands. It prefers a solitary lifestyle, in forest areas. It avoids humans in the natural environment. Agitated males will raise the hairs on their backs.[9]

Lifespan and gestation period are unknown, although it is assumed that sexual maturity is reached at about one year of age.[9]

Threats, survival and ecological concerns

Feral dogs pose a prominent threat to the population of short-eared dogs, as they facilitate the spread of diseases such as canine distemper and rabies to the wild population. Humans also contribute to the extermination of the short-eared dog by degradation of the species' natural habitat and the destruction of tropical rainforests.

Manú National Park, Madre de Dios, Peru

Status of conservation

The short-eared dog is currently considered near threatened by IUCN.[2] No comprehensive ecological and genetic research has been carried out on the species.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Atelocynus microtis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 de la Rosa, Carlos L.; and Nocke, Claudia. A Guide to the Carnivores of Central America: Natural History, Ecology, and Conservation. Austin: University of Texas Press; 2000. Accessed on November 4, 2015 at:
  4. (R. Burton; International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 2002).
  5. 5.0 5.1
  6. "Atelocynus microtis (Short-eared Dog, Short-eared Fox, Small-eared Dog, Small-eared Zorro)". Retrieved 2015-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "ADW: Atelocynus microtis: Information". Retrieved 2015-10-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Lioncrusher's Domain - Small Eared Zorro (Atelocynus microtis) facts and pictures
  9. 9.0 9.1 ebcc

Further reading

  • M.R.P Leite Pitman and R.S.R. Williams. Short-eared dog;Atelocynus microtis (Sclater, 1883).C-S. Zubiri, M. Hoffmann and D. W. Macdonald. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs - 2004 Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Publications Services Unit, 219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, United Kingdom, 2004.
  • Alderton, David. Foxes, Wolves and Wild Dogs of the World. Blandford Press: United Kingdom, 1998.
  • Nowak, Ronald. Walker's Carnivores of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 2005.

External links