A Croatian woman recently adopted a family of five puppies after they had been abandoned in a box in a field. Only they weren't Belgium Shepherds, as she originally thought they were. In fact, they weren't dogs at all – they were jackals.
The five pups were dropped off at the Faun Kutina shelter four months ago. At the time, they were only days old and staff at the shelter mistook their fluffy brown coats and pointy ears for those of Belgian Shepherd puppies. When they began to grow, it became clear something was amiss. Still, their species remained a complete mystery until they were two months old and a local animal organization confirmed that they were actually jackal pups.
Marina, who looks after the pups and documents their life via the Alfa team Canis Aureus Facebook page, says that before they realized they were jackals, they thought the puppies were fox cubs.
Sadly, two of the pups died within a few weeks of adoption. That leaves three girls: Alfa, Rea, and Kia.
So, what will happen to them now? As Marina points out, the three pups have spent far too long in human company. This means they have become habituated and cannot be released into their wild for their own safety. Their ease in human company may put them at risk of hunters, while their domestic lifestyle means they have not learned to forage for food or catch prey as they would have had they grown up in the wild.
A zoo or wildlife center was considered, but a lack of space has led to the decision to keep them at Marina's – a property in the forest with space to roam. This makes Marina the first person in Croatia to gain permission to keep jackal pets. It's unclear how the puppies ended up dumped in a box in the first place though.
When they are fully grown, the pups will be roughly the same size as a medium to large dog at 35 to 50 centimeters (14 to 20 inches) tall.
The pups when they were just days old. Alfa team Canis Aureus/Facebook
There are three species of jackal and most are found in Africa but the golden jackal (or common jackal) – presumably the species of these three pups – is found in parts of southern Asia and southeast Europe, including Croatia. For a long time, it was thought the golden jackal lived in Africa too but scientists now think this is an entirely different species, the African golden wolf. Normally looked down on as a pest, Marina hopes Alfa, Rea, and Kia can serve as "ambassadors" to show that jackals are not "evil".
Breakfast time! Alfa team Canis Aureus/Facebook
This is not the only case of mistaken identity to have happened of late – in May, a Chinese family found out their pet Tibetan mastiff was actually a bear.