A Papua New Guinea singing dog, doing what it does best. (Credit: R.G. Daniel/Flickr)
by Becky Crewe.
Meet the singing dog of Papua New Guinea (Canis dingo hallstromi), one of the world’s most elusive canines.
Almost impossible to find in the wild, these charismatic canines are hidden away in the vast, thickly forested mountains of West Papua, where even the locals would struggle to find one if they tried.
Only two recorded photographs exist of a wild New Guinea Singing Dog – one by Tom Hewitt, Director of Adventure Alternative Borneo, taken in the remote Star Mountains region of Western New Guinea in 2012, and the other by Australian mammalogist Tim Flannery, in 1989.
Affectionately known as ‘singers’, because of their unique vocalisations that sound like “a wolf howl with overtones of whale song”, they have a very similar look to the Australian dingo (Canis lupus dingo), but are about one-third smaller, with shorter legs, broader skulls and high cheekbones.
The average male Singer measures around 42cm at the shoulder and they weigh around 11kg. The females are slightly smaller.
Singers have short, double coats, coloured either golden red or black and tan, and they have white markings under the chin, paws and on the tip of the tail, and sometimes on the face, neck and chest.
They’re unusually flexible for dogs, which no doubt helps them to navigate the rugged terrain of their mountain home.
“One of the first things people notice about Singers is their physical grace and agility,” says Janice Koler-Matznick from the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society in the United States, one of the world’s foremost experts on the animal.
“They have a very elastic spine and joints, and therefore move fluidly: more like a cat than a dog. They are adapted to being climbers and jumpers, not long distance trotters or runners.”