The dingo is the only wild canine to be in Australia pre-European arrival. It is an ancient dog, whose taxonomic status still incites much debate about whether it is a distinct species from the modern dog. Today is it is vulnerable to extinction by both mass baiting by farmers and interbreeding with domestic dogs.
Fortunately there are a number of conservation efforts currently happening to protect this amazing creature and ensure generations to come can see it. Would you like to see wild dingoes in Australia? We tell you how to do it safely.
Bargo Dingo Sanctuary
We discovered Bargo Dingo Sanctuary by chance whilst searching for things to do in around Picton. Formally called Dingo Sanctuary Bargo (Australian Native Dog Conservation Society), this non-for-profit is the oldest sanctuary in Australia dedicated to the dingo having been established over 40 years ago.
We arrived just after lunchtime on a Saturday and were surprised to find the car park empty. Perhaps we had the wrong place? The signage told us otherwise. A quick ring of the bell and we were greeted by a staff member who unlocked the gates and let us in with the promise of a personal tour of the grounds where we could meet around 30 different dingoes. Oh my!
My first impression of the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary was how clean it was! Whilst I could see quite a number of dingoes I couldn’t smell them. Our guide told me that unlike domestic dogs, dingoes don’t usually have an odour. This is an evolutionary quirk which helps prevent their prey smelling them when they are hunting. Looking around, I was also impressed that each pen was quite big, almost a house block size for each pair of dingoes.
At the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary, the animals are usually kept in pairs. They tend to partner for life. We spied them in three colours: sand, white and black. Before arriving the kids had told us that they were expecting the dingoes to be quite vicious, but they were the opposite: inquisitive and playful.
Meeting the Dingoes
We added the dingo meet and greet experience to our visit for an extra $5.00. We had the choice of a young dingo or his dad. How could we choose? We decided that the son was most willing as he ran to the gate ready to come and meet us as soon as we sat at the chairs.
Whilst the dingoes do remain on a leash when they meet you, you can cuddle, pat and even rumble (albeit gently) them when they approach you. You will notice the different texture to their fur (it’s a double coat) and the interesting feature of their head being the same size as their chest (so they know if their head fits, the rest of them will). The kids loved this and were very impressed with the dingo they met.
While the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary is a breeding colony of 30+ dingoes, they didn’t breed any puppies during the last breeding cycle. The sanctuary is committed to conserving dingoes, and are responsible breeders, never selling to the public and only breeding when there is a need for pups at one of the zoos or parks. You may be surprised to hear that some of the dingoes on site are desexed and purely living their lives out at Bargo. This impressed us all.
So You Want a Dingo as a Pet?
No you don’t! Dingoes are not the same as a domestic dog. Whilst they often helped Aboriginal Australians hunt and lived around campsites, I believe they still came and went as they wished. They can climb over most pens or dig under them. They are like Houdini in many ways, and can slither between wires and even turn taps on if they wish. I’ve started to think of them as cat like creatures in dog like bodies.
Dingoes are hunters and territorial, but our fences create a false territory which they’ll try to push against. They need a lot of care and attention. The dingoes that we saw have this around the clock. Can you provide that?
Visiting Bargo Dingo Sanctuary
Bargo Dingo Sanctuary is open seven days a week between 10.00 am – 2.00 pm. It is easily located at 3105A Remembrance Driveway, Bargo NSW 2574 although I highly recommend ringing in advance and booking your visit. Call 0419 488 680. A family pass is $25.00 with an extra $5.00 for a dingo experience.
You can find out more at the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary website. What the sanctuary lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in passion and commitment to the dingo. Check it out!