Jackal (Wild Animals by Papo)

Review and images by Saarlooswolfhound; edited by bmathison1972

The Papo “Jackal”, #50259 was released in 2020 and is currently in production. It is part of the Wild Animal collection from Papo. The figure itself measures approximately 2.2 in. in length and 2 in. tall (5.58 cm in length and 5.08 cm tall). The determination of “jackal” by the brand is nonspecific, thus most collectors assign this model to the species of golden jackal (Canis aureus), also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, or reed wolf and is native to northeastern Africa, southeastern Europe, eastern Asia, and the Middle East. Jackals are small wolf-like canids weighing usually in the realm of about 15-35 lbs. or 6.8-15.9 kg depending on the region and exact subspecies, although they often have shorter legs, tails, longer torsos and narrower snouts than other canids. The coat color can vary by region, but as the moniker suggests the golden jackal is often light tawny or golden in color during the summer, and develops a darker beige coat in winter. This species is luckily of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List due to its wide distribution and healthy population numbers. This species is believed to have been developed from the now extinct Arno River dog from the Mediterranean region nearly 2 million years ago, and the oldest fossil discovered for this jackal is from the Ksar Akil rock shelter near Beirut, Lebanon dating to about 7,000 years ago. This species is believed to have seven subspecies scattered throughout its range, however this determination is under scrutiny due to the propensity to hybridize that wild canids tend to have.

Despite the species name, golden jackals are not closely related to black backed or side-striped jackals which belong to a different genus. Golden jackals share ancestry closer to that of gray wolves and are known to hybridize often with the European and Asian gray wolves as well as African golden wolves (more on this discussion a little later). This species is also believed to have been used in the development of a specialized canine Russian airport scent detection crew, now called Sulimov dogs. Golden jackals tend to live near bodies of water as this is their preferred hunting ground for prey such as insects, birds, carrion, small ungulates, and even fruit has been recorded; adverse to foothills and small mountain chains like other canines. They stalk near lakes, seashores, riverbanks, and the like for these prey items. These animals, like any canine, are social and tend to live in small family groups. They often exploit regions where there are fewer of their competitors, particularly the larger wolves.

This species, as does this particular model, raises some discussion regarding its given name. Many believe that since this species is separate from the other two species of jackal that it should be renamed, and high degrees of hybridization have been detected in the African populations. Although further studies are required to settle the debate fully, since a study in 2005 it is commonly believed that this other population is either highly hybridized or has been mistaken as the jackal when they are really African golden wolves (C. lupaster) instead. The golden wolf functions essentially as a miniaturized wolf ecologically speaking but have few distinguishing traits phenotypically to differentiate it from the golden jackal (DNA reveals the separation for each species). With closer research, it has been revealed that each species themselves have mistaken jackals for wolves and vice versa, resulting in hybridized offspring, and it has been discovered as well that scientists have made the same mistake with some specimens. In 2015, a study recommended that six of the subspecies of golden jackal be placed in synonymy with the African golden wolf instead, reducing the jackal subspecies distribution down to one (or seven, depending on the acceptance of names). The population in Asia also needs more thorough research done, however it is believed that they have remained less mixed with other species nearby such as the Indian wolf. The genetic differentiation is slight in representation morphologically speaking. This is in regards to each species’ divergence of 1.9 mya for the jackal vs. 1.3 mya for the wolf, leading scientists to believe that very similar morphology has led to incorrect classification by taxonomists and that this should be remedied. Further, it has recently been proposed that the term “jackal” itself be dispensed with as well, since it has been allocated to three species with limited relatedness to one another, and insinuates a family tie that does not actually exist evolutionarily. The argument being that, as discussed above, the golden jackal is distantly related to the other two species and the term refers more so to their arbitrary similarities rather than kinship. If this proposition is successful then we may see new monikers given to one or more of these animals in the future.

As for the model itself, it seems to be a well done canid (although I am not convinced it is a golden jackal, as presently delineated). The proportions of the body stray from the formula of a golden jackal proper. This figure lacks features such as the eyes should be smaller and set in almost a weasel-like face, pointed tall ears, a pointed and narrow snout, short but thin legs, and should have a slightly longer body as well. However, this model does have great fur texture, active movement, and small details such as painted stippling for whiskers etc. all of which play to well effect and should be appreciated as they are details often missing in other figures. The largest detractors however are the eyes. The yellow paint exceeds the sculpted limit for the actual eye/orbit of the skull and is further then outlined with a thick black eyeliner. This paint style gives the face an owl-like appearance which of course is not ideal. For those artistically talented this can be remedied easily. However, for those not it is something to tolerate despite it being unappealing.

Overall, the model is very canine in its character traits, and thus cannot be mistaken for any other. Just like the real life controversy between golden jackals and African golden wolves, perhaps there is a kind of poetry to this figure after all.

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