The Jackal by Francis C. Woodworth

Like the hyena, the jackal derives its principal notoriety from its ferocious and untameable disposition. It is found in Southern Asia, in many parts of Africa, and, to some extent, in Syria and Persia. There is not much difference in the jackal and the dog, except in some of the habits of the two, and there is a great deal of similarity between the former and the wolf. By many Biblical commentators, it is thought that the three hundred foxes to which the sacred penman alludes in the book of Judges, as performing a singular and mischievous exploit in the standing corn of the Philistines, were jackals; and their habit of assembling together in large companies, so as to be taken in considerable numbers, seems to justify this conclusion—the fox being, on the other hand, a solitary animal, and in the habit of living for the most part in small families. To the inhabitants of hot countries, the jackal is of the same service as the vulture and the hyena. He does not scruple to feed upon putrid flesh. Wherever there is an animal in a state of putrefaction, he scents it out from a great distance, and soon devours it. In this way the air is often freed from substances in the highest degree unwholesome and deadly. Nor is this all. One of the habits of this animal is to enter grave-yards, and dig up the bodies that have been buried there. In countries where jackals abound, great care needs to be taken in protecting graves, newly opened, on this account. People frequently mix the earth on the mound raised over a grave with thorns and other sharp substances, to prevent the jackal from accomplishing the deed.

Still the jackal makes his living, in a great measure, by hunting other beasts. Indeed, he not only makes his own living, but, if the stories that are told about him are true, he helps other animals in getting their living, though it is very doubtful whether he means to do so. He has been called the "lion's provider," you know; and some have represented him as a humble slave of the lion, obeying his will in every thing, hunting for him, and only receiving for his portion what his majesty is pleased to leave. But this notion is probably somewhat fabulous. The upshot of the matter seems to be this: that the jackal, having about as much wit as some other servants of kings, chases after his prey, yelling with all his might, very industriously, and without hardly stopping to take breath, until the poor hare, or fawn, or whatever the animal may be, gets tired out, and then the jackal catches him. But the hunter, by his yelling, starts the lion, as soon as he gets upon the scent. The lion knows well enough that there is game somewhere in that region; and so he is on the look-out, while the jackal is running it down. Well, the jackal has to go over a great deal more ground than the lion—for these animals, when they are pursued, never go in a straight direction—and when the game is caught, he has had little more to do than to look on and enjoy the sport, and he comes up, at his leisure, just at the right time, to the spot where the jackals are going to have a feast over their well-earned prey. Then the lion thanks his dear friends, the jackals, and gives them liberty to retire a few moments, until he has tasted of their dinner, in order, perhaps he tells them, to see whether they have made a good selection. After satisfying his appetite, the jackals have unrestrained liberty to lick the bones, just as much and as long as they please.

In Captain Beechey's account of his expedition to explore the northern coasts of Africa, we have an interesting description of this animal. He does not give a very favorable account of the music made by a band of jackals. "As they usually come in packs," he says, "the first shriek which is uttered is always a signal for a general chorus. We hardly know a sound which is further removed from pleasant harmony than their yells. The sudden burst of the long-protracted scream, succeeding immediately to the opening note, is scarcely less impressive than the roll of the thunder clap after a flash of lightning. The effect of this music is very much increased when the first note is heard in the distance—a circumstance which frequently occurs—and the answering yell bursts out from several points at once, within a few yards of the place where the auditors are sleeping, or trying to sleep."

It sometimes happens that a jackal ventures near a house, and perhaps enters a hen-roost, to steal a hen. But in such cases, he often shows himself to be as stupid as he is impudent; for even then, if he hears the yelling of his comrades chasing their game, he forgets himself, and yells as lustily as the rest of them. The result is as might be expected. The inmates of the house are awakened, and they take such measures with the poor jackal, as effectually to prevent his repetition of the blunder.