Why is the Jackal called a trickster?

Like the fox in European folklore, the jackal is often represented in African folk tales as a trickster. Its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and its legendary stealth and cunning have inspired stories about the wily creature that dodges traps and avoids hunters year in year out. The jackal is reputed to be able to obliterate its tracks, feign death and rid itself of fleas by immersing itself in water, only exposing a tuft of sheep’s wool which it holds in its snout.

– The jackal kills larger prey with a bite to the throat.  Photo: Johan Scholtz

– The jackal kills larger prey with a bite to the throat. Photo: Johan Scholtz

The notorious Broken Toe, a jackal with a distinctive spoor that continually evaded capture, was enscribed into folklore by the well-known writer Lawrence Green, who recorded its escapades in his book “Karoo”. Khoikhoi fables include stories of jackal outwitting lion and also tell how it acquired its black saddle by offering to carry the sun on its back.

The black-backed jackal is also known as the silver-backed jackal for its silver-flecked black saddle. Fossil records reveal that it is the oldest existing member of the genus Canis. He inhabits the northern stretches of East Africa and southern Africa, from the Skeleton Coast and Etosha National Park to the Drakensberg grasslands.

Surprisingly, the handsome jackal, with its unfortunate reputation as a small stock predator, is monogamous and forms a lifelong bond that lasts for its approximately thirteen-year lifespan or until the death of its mate. It has a protracted courtship period and the pair is a cooperative and synchronised team, caring for their young, marking and defending territory and hunting. They will call and answer when separated. They are also good parents, regurgitating food for their pups that hide in dens or the abandoned burrows of other species, usually aardvark.

Jackal. Credit : Judy and Scott Hurd

Jackal. Credit : Judy and Scott Hurd

Equivalent to the wolf’s call in the northern hemisphere, the jackal’s call can be heard echoing through the savannah or desert, especially during the mating season when it becomes increasingly vocal, epitomising the African night.

Referred to as a nimble opportunist, the small (40 cm, 7-10 kg), black-backed jackal lives by its wits. Although it has been ruthlessly persecuted as animal and human habitat infringe upon each other, its resourcefulness and adaptability have ensured its profusion. In addition to outwitting the king of the beasts in folklore, it has also been referred to by farmers as a robber and pirate. In nature, however, its tricks and tactics are not motivated by malice or treachery; they are merely strategies for survival.


Namibian road trip impressions with Dave Carroll (Part 2)

A day to day blog about Dave and Jill Carroll and their Namibian road trip impressions along their trip through Namibia with the Professors and the Gondwana team.


Guitars in hand we walked down the road to the site of the newest
addition to the Gondwana Collection, The Delight.

Jamming at the Delight

Dave Carrol, Richard and The Professors shooting for the scenes for the video at ‘The Delight’

We strolled through Swakopmund, barterred at the African market, and after a video shoot on the beach we had a mouth watering cake sharing session at the oldest coffee shop. Back on the seemingly endless road we had a classic ‘hitch hiking’ shoot.

The Professors catching a ride on the Gondwana train!

The Professors catching a ride on the Gondwana train!

The Professors and Dave Carroll also had the special privilege of avery cultural once-in-a-lifetime singing and trading with a Himba and Herero tribe.

Playing music with the Himba tribes

The team having fun with the Himba tribes.

The day wouldn’t be complete without sundowners and the nearest spot we could find at sunset was a local shebeen. We even saw the cattle come home and Dave experienced a traditional donkey car ride. Today Dave also learnt how to say thank you in Afrikaans, “baie dankie”, and the way he remembered this was ‘bye-a-donkey’ which he cleverly used after his donkey car ride.

Bye - a - donkey

Bye – a – donkey

We arrived at Damara Mopane Lodge and after yet another lovely meal the musicians entertained us around the bonfire.


We arrived at Etosha Safari Lodge to a wonderful welcome by all the staff singing the Gondwana song.

Etosha Safari Lodge and Gondwana

The Etosha Safari Team singing the Gondwana song

After a delicious lunch we went on a game drive and saw the majestic Elephants at the first water hole. Plenty of Springbok, Oryx, a few Giraffes, Jackal and Ostrich were seen.

Etosha National Park

Giraffes in the Etosha National Park

At another water hole lions had killed a giraffe 3 days prior. The now pot bellied lions lazily guarded their kill and the Brownbacked Jackal where desperately tempting fate for a bite but where just too afraid to risk it. On our way back we were lucky to spot the very rare site of the Brown hyena. The Professors, Dave Carroll, Richard Redecker and the Etosha boys ensured a magical night with their entertainment around the fire. Guests joined in and we all danced and sang the night away. Manfred Werner once again captured the magical moments on camera for the making of the Gondwana video production.

Click here to read Part 1

Dave Carroll has been invited as a speaker on customer service at the ‘The Power of one voice’ event. To find out more : follow the link ‘The Power of one voice’

Dave Carroll and the power of one voice

The power of one voice

We thank our sponsors : Gondwana Collection, Namibia Tourism Board, Safari Hotels, Air Namibia and Bank Windhoek.


Leopard: How it got its Spots & other Secrets

According to African folklore, Leopard stopped sharing his meals and started to hide his kills in trees because Jackal and Hyena weren’t reciprocating his generosity and Leopardess became wary because Hare ate her cubs. One of the best remembered fables of the ages is, however, ‘How the Leopard Got His Spots’ in the ‘Just So Stories’, where Rudyard Kipling elucidates the benefits of camouflage. Leopard looked ‘like a sunflower against a tarred fence’ when he entered the forest from the veld until the Ethiopian kindly painted the five-dotted rosettes which cover the leopard’s coat to this day.
Leopard Panthera pardus, issued in 2009, artist: Helge Denker

Leopard Panthera pardus, issued in 2009, artist: Helge Denker

The fable holds much truth, as it has been discovered that the patterns and colours of wild cats evolved over the centuries to blend into their specific habitat. A leopard will be better suited to the dappled light of its wooded environment, if it has spots. Many other interesting facts about leopards are also not common knowledge.

The word ‘leopard’ stems from the Greek words leōn (lion) and pardos (panther), and the ancient belief that it is a hybrid of both. The genus Panthera, including the other three big cats – lion, jaguar and tiger – is thought to have emerged in Asia, with ancestors of the leopard and lion migrating into Africa. The last common ancestor of these big cats is said to have lived about 6.37 million years ago. The leopard has featured in the art, mythology and folklore of many countries where it has historically occurred from ancient Greece to Rome. Black panthers (uncommon in Africa) are melanistic leopards or jaguars, having recessive genes causing their dark colouring.

As powerful as the leopard is, it is shy and avoids confrontation, and would seem, if one was inclined to anthropomorphise, to have an inferiority complex, often letting lion and hyena steal its kills. If it doesn’t have the advantage of cover and surprise, it will often quickly disappear into foliage; a fleeting image of power and grace.

The most widespread (from Asia to Africa), adaptable and successful of the big cats will also usually avoid high risk situations, preparing to play it safe. Although it is an opportunistic hunter and enjoys a varied diet from insects to antelope, it will mostly target medium-sized animals in small herds where there is a low risk of injury. It is a fallacy that baboons are its favourite food as they are too vocal and dangerous for the leopard to make hunting them a common occurrence. A leopard will also not risk injury by defending a kill.

Deadly surprise for this baboon... Photo: John Dominis

Deadly surprise for this baboon... Photo: John Dominis

Although the leopard is a renowned climber, known to be able to carry prey of over 50 kg up into a tree, which it uses as a refuge and larder, and can often be seen comfortably perched in a tree with legs dangling over the branches, it is also a proficient swimmer. The leopard, Panthera pardus, relies on its stealth to surprise its prey. If it is unsuccessful on the first attempt, it will often give up. It is extremely agile however, and can reach speeds of 60 km/h for short distances.

Because the leopard is a solitary animal, there is the chance that males and females may miss opportune periods for mating. There is, therefore, no specific breeding season, and ovulation is induced by mating.

A master of camouflage and stealth, the leopard’s secretive existence has ensured its survival. Although its tracks may be observed in many areas, it is rarely seen, remaining elusive like an apparition, dream or vision. When walking amongst the trees, in the mountains or in the Fish River Canyon, you may have the slight unsettling feeling that Leopard is watching from above, perfectly blended into his mottled background.

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