The dingo diet – what do dingoes eat (and why are they skinny)?
Issued: 28 May 5 min read

Don’t be alarmed by the lean frames of K’gari’s dingoes – we're here to set the record straight on dingo diets and body types.

When it comes to K’gari (formerly Fraser Island), there are certain things synonymous with the area – and one of the most fascinating of these cultural touchstones is the humble dingo. Right off the bat, it’s important to note that a dingo’s build is naturally very lean – and we’ll get into that a little later. The skinny-looking frames of K’gari’s dingoes have sparked a common misconception that they are starved or malnourished as a population – but this is not the case.

Dingoes, or wongari as the island’s First Nations people know them, are a critical part of the K’gari ecosystem – and their natural behaviours contribute a great deal to how the island remains healthy. We’re here to sort fact from fiction about the dingo diet, including what they eat, how they hunt, and what safe and healthy dingoes look like.

What do dingoes eat?

Dingoes on K’gari have a diverse diet (PDF, 8.6MB) that includes a range of prey items depending on availability. The island naturally provides them with food to hunt for, including fish, crabs, reptiles, echidnas, bush rats, swamp wallabies, live turtles, marine and freshwater turtle eggs, and bandicoots. They also eat insects and berries, and feed on dead marine life or sea birds that have washed up on the beach – particularly during times when terrestrial prey is seasonally scarce. Dingoes are opportunistic hunters and foragers, so they’re used to adapting their diet based on seasonal changes and the availability of different food sources on the island. Human-sourced food is unhealthy for them.

A sandy-coloured juvenile dingo walking along the beach with a dead lapwing in its mouth.

A hunting instinct – wild dingoes are anatomically designed to be resilient in periods of scarcity.

What do dingoes look like? Dingo size explained

A dingo's body is streamlined and agile – they're tailor-made to move efficiently across different terrain and landscapes. Dingoes on K’gari usually stand at about 50cm tall at the shoulder, with a body length of around 100–122cm from nose to tail. When considering the whole dingo population (including mainland dingoes), their fur comes in three colour morphs – white, a tan and ginger combination, or black and tan. On K’gari, the dingoes’ tan and ginger colouring helps them blend into the sandy landscape.

In terms of features, dingoes have distinctive faces with pointed ears that stand erect, giving them excellent hearing. Their eyes are typically almond shaped with dark edges and are usually amber or light brown. Dingoes have a flexible neck and a strong jawline with long narrow canines and sharp teeth – all adapted for catching and eating prey. Their legs are flexible and well-muscled, and they have padded feet suited for running and traversing different landscapes. Their appearance reflects a balance of endurance, agility, and predatory prowess – these creatures are resilient.

We need to reiterate here that dingoes naturally maintain a lean physique similar to greyhounds and whippets. Despite the misconception that they might be starving, dingoes have been gifted efficient metabolisms and hunting skills to help them adapt and thrive. This natural leanness is not a sign of malnutrition – it reflects their remarkable adaptation to their wild surroundings. Understanding these aspects helps us appreciate and conserve dingoes as an integral part of the ecosystem on K'gari and beyond.

A healthy dingo with visible ribs walks along the sand.

Dingoes naturally vary in size depending on the season, their age, and rank in the pack.

Why do some dingoes on K’gari look so thin?

Wild dingoes are naturally slender and active, covering up to 40km a day as they patrol and hunt in their territories – that’s a lot of cardio! Adult and juvenile dingoes on K’gari weigh around 16kg and 13kg respectively, which is higher on average than their mainland counterparts. Thinner-looking dingoes might be juveniles that haven't fully developed or are lower-ranking members of the pack known as 'scapegoats' – these slender specimens often get less access to food, even when it's abundant, maintaining the dominance of higher-ranking animals.

When you move out of home, it can take time to learn to fend for yourself. Juvenile dingoes, typically around 6 to 7 months old, experience weight loss after leaving their dens or packs to hone their hunting skills. They are often seen from late summer to early autumn, still sporting black hair on their backs and looking awkward until they mature and build muscle – just like teens going through a gangly phase. Some juveniles struggle and may not survive, but those who thrive can quickly gain weight and get stronger, ready to integrate into the pack within months.

Always remember: these dingoes don’t need your food. On K’gari, it’s an offence to feed dingoes, no matter how well-intentioned you are – everyone on the island should let these animals live as nature intends.

Staying dingo-safe on K’gari

We are extremely lucky to coexist alongside some amazing wildlife in Queensland, but at the end of the day, these creatures are indeed wild. K’gari is home to a strong dingo population – and when you visit someone’s home, it’s important to be respectful. We’ve collated some comprehensive tips on how to be dingo-safe on K’gari, plus you can check out some common dingo myths we’ve busted.