Horned Jackal

Mystery Dog of the Indian subcontinent.

Variant name: Churail (in India).

Physical description: Jackal with a small, bony horn at the back of its head, usually hidden by hair. It grows to about half an inch long.

Behavior: Sri Lankan folklore suggests that only the leaders of a pack possess this horn, which is called a narri-comboo. The horn is revered as a powerful talisman.

Distribution: Sri Lanka; India.

Significant sighting: A skull with such a horn was housed at the Museum of the College of Surgeons in London during the nineteenth century.

Possible explanation: A genetic defect or physical injury might produce a hornlike growth in the Golden jackal (Canis aureus).

Sources: J. Emerson Tennent, Sketches of the Natural History of Ceylon (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861); Edward Balfour, The Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia (London: B. Quaritch, 1885); Norah Burke, Eleven Leopards: A Journey through the Jungles of Ceylon (London: Jarrolds, 1965).

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