Wild Animals/None


Hello again and let's go!

1. In North America, we have the American bison and in the Eurasia, we have the European bison. But we also have the Cape buffalo, Gaur and the Indian water buffalo. What is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?

2. I'm sure you know that the Northern subspecies of the White rhino is criticlly endangered. The worst thing is that it's now inpossible to revive it's population. So I sometimes think that we should cross with the Southern variety, otherwise, there is risk of inbreeding. What do you think?

3. Almost all the domestic cats are similar in looks. But how are dogs so different. I mean Bulldog, Pointers, Shepherds they are all so different. How did a creature with naturally erect ears become drop eared?

4. Was the dingo a domestic dog breed or a naturally wild dog?


Hello again, Jem

Thanks for your questions. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

1. Technically, the word buffalo should be applied to the Cape and Indian water buffaloes, but the American bison is often called a buffalo. http://www.mount-rainier-cabins.com/130-bison-vs-buffalo-do-you-know-the-differe gives the basic differences, but the easiest way to tell them apart is that the American bison has shaggier hair, which tends to be longer on the front half of the body, while buffaloes have relatively little hair and their horns are more obvious.
There are several other animals where the same animal has different names. For example, in America the wapiti is often called an elk, while in Europe the moose is called an elk. Also, in Europe, some toothed whales are called dolphins, while the same animals are called porpoises in America. In Europe, porpoises belong to a separate family, Phocoenidae.  
2. This is one of the main problems with concervation as to whether all races and subspecies of a species should be saved or whether, as you suggest, hybrids should be produced, leadening to the reduction of genes of very rare subspecies. Colin Tudge considered this subject in http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/science-when-its-time-to-call-a-tiger-. I have a lot of sympathy with his ideas, as the space given to over 1,750 captive tigers could be used to save several species. There is a philosophy that says a captive population of 250 genetically diverse individuals is enough to save a species. In 2011, I compiled a list of cats kept in zoos.
Cheetah: 2016
Lion: 1880 lion
Tiger: 1663
Leopard: 873
Serval: 432
Puma: 407
Snow leopard, northern lynx: 398
Jaguar: 371
Wild cat: 283
Ocelot: 267
Bobcat: 243
Leopard cat: 241
Clouded leopard: 220
Fishing cat: 194
Caracal: 169
Sand cat, domestic cat: 157
Pallas's cat: 151
Jungle cat: 95
Jaguarundi, margay: 85
Geoffroy's cat: 82
Canadian lynx: 63
Oncilla: 56
Black-footed cat: 55
Rusty-spotted cat: 47
Asian golden cat: 45
Colocolo: 10
Flat-headed cat: 8
Marbled cat: 4
Iberian lynx: 3
Chinese mountain cat, Iriomote cat, pantanal cat, kodkod, Andean mountain cat, pampas cat, African golden cat, bay cat, Bornean clouded leopard: All 0, although there are some representatives not listed by ISIS.

Of the tigers, there were 463 Amur tigers (plus a stated 100,001 Amur tigers in Seoul), 61 North Indochinese tigers (P.t. corbetti), 62 Malayan tigers (P. t. jacksoni), 240 Sumatran tigers and 376 Bengal tigers.
As you can see, there are more individuals each subspecies of tiger than some species of small cat. As tigers are among the most popular zoo animals, it is unlikely that zoos will reduce the captive population in order to save critically endangered small cats.

I saw a Northern white rhino at London Zoo many years ago. There have been attempts to breed the subspecies and release individuals into the wild. http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/8-species-on-life-support/northe and http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/animals/?set=whiterhino give information about it. Please note that some people think the northern and southern white rhinos are separate species. If so, it would be worth saving the northern form. If they are subspecies and the northern form can't be saved, it may be worthwhile trying to use different methods to preserve its genes or, as you suggest, produce hybrids with southern white rhinos. By breeding a few northern white rhinos together, there is a high risk of inbreeding, depending on how closely related they are. Please note that some species, such as the echo parakeet and Mauritius kestrel have been saved from extinction using a very small number of surviving individuals, so if you want to save a species and only have a few individuals, the risk of inbreeding is probably worth taking if the alternative is extinction.

3. While the cat was originally tamed to catch rats and other pests, it has retained a lot of independence, while domestic dogs have been bred for different purposes as they are more conducive to obeying commands of humans. http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Comparison-of-Cats-and-Dogs&id=3044532 goes into more details about the differences. http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/genetics-of-dog-breeding-434 talks about breeding dogs. Basically, breeders select the traits they want in puppies and then concentrate on individuals that show the character to the highest degree. This means that there is more chance of having puppies with floppy ears if you breed a male floppy-eared dog with a female floppy-eared dog. This is especially true if the gene for floppy ears is recessive.

4. There has been a lot of controversy about the dingo, but it was brought over to Australia with aborigines from Asia. Some of them escaped and became feral, leading to the reduction in populations of several native mammals. The dingo is sometimes considered a separate species (Canis dingo) or a subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus familiaris var. dingo) or domestic dog (Canis familiaris dingo). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingo suggests that the dingo is more related to domestic dogs than to wolves.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you want any additional information. I admit that the genetics data can be very confusing.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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