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A major role of dingoes in Aboriginal society seems to have been their use as pets when pups. A woman who had recently lost her child or was barren or beyond the age of child-bearing would carry a dingo pup wrapped round her waist. At night a dingo, as today, might serve as a blanket. However, adult dingoes probably returned to the wild. [Flood J, 1983]

Dingoes may also have been used in hunting.

Traditionally dogs have a privileged position in the aboriginal cultures of Australia and the dingo is a well known part of rock carvings and cave paintings. [Rose D, 1992]

Dingo Rock Art

Dingo speared for food at Burrup Peninsula rock art [Photo provided by Robin Chapple, MLA [Western Australia]. Murujuga is a peninsula often known as Burrup Peninsula in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, adjoining the Dampier Archipelago and near the town of Dampier.

The Burrup peninsula is a unique ecological and archaeological area. It contains the world's largest and most important collection of 'petroglyphs'- ancient Aboriginal rock carvings some claim to date back as far as the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. Concern around the ecological, historical, cultural and archaeological significance of the area has led to a campaign for its protection, causing conflict with industrial development on the site. [Murujuga, Wikipedia; Archaeology and rock art in the Dampier Archipelago; Save Dampier Rock Art]

There are ceremonies (like a keen at the Cape York Peninsula in the form of howling) and dreamtime stories connected to the dingo, which were passed down through the generations. [Dingo, Wikipedia]

Dngo PaintingThe dingo is connected to holy places, totems, rituals, and dreamtime characters. There are stories that dogs can see the supernatural, are guard dogs, and warn against evil powers. There is evidence that dogs have been buried together with their owners to protect them against evil even after death. [Kolig E, 1978]

Most of the published myths hail from the Western Desert and show a remarkable complexity. In some stories dingoes are the central characters, in others only minor ones. One-time it is an ancestor from the dreamtime, who created humans and dingoes or gave them their current shape. Then there are stories about creation, socially acceptable behaviour, and explanations why some things are the way they are. There are myths about shapeshifters (human to dingo or vice versa), "dingo-people", and the creation of certain landscapes or elements of those landscapes, like waterholes or mountains. The dingo is also responsible for death. [Dingo, Wikipedia]

In other myths there are advice and warnings to those who do not want to follow the social rules. Stories can show the borders of one's territory or the dingo in it might stand for certain members of the community, for example, rebellious dingoes stand for "wild" members of the tribe. The dingo also has a wild and uncontrollable face in other stories and there are many stories about dingoes that kill and eat humans (for example, the Mamu, who catches and devours the spirit of every child who roams too far from the campfire). [Rose D, 1992]

Other stories tell of a giant devil dingo, from which the real dingoes originate. The dog is thereby depicted as a homicidal, malicious creature that—apart from the lack of a subtle mind—is similar to a trickster, since it plays the role of a mischievous adversary for other mythological beings. Many of them fall victim to blood-thirsty dogs or escape them. Here individual beings have a significant meaning too or sometimes become part of the landscape. Even the actions of these dogs result for instance in the creations of stones and trees from flying around bones and meat or ochre from the spilled blood. [Kolig E.,1978).


  1. Flood, Josephine (1983). Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Collins.
  2. Rose, Deborah Bird (1992). Dingo makes us Human, life and land in an Aboriginal Australian culture. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Dingo, Wikipedia, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Dingo
  4. Kolig, E (1978). Aboriginal dogmatics: canines in theory, myth and dogma. Leiden.

Read more from Deborah Rose Bird specially written for the ADCA website.