Two litters of endangered wild dogs known as dholes have been born at the Minnesota Zoo, officials there announced Monday, and there is a lot yet to be learned about the newborns.
The dholes (pronounced "doles") arrived April 12 and April 14, zoo officials said. Previously, only nine litters have ever been recorded in the United States, and these are the first in Minnesota.
News of the litters was delayed because the pups "are just now starting to come out" of their den, said zoo spokeswoman Kelly Lessard.
The zoo's best estimate is that there are four pups from the two litters. Exact counts for each litter are a mystery "due to the fact that we haven't seen them much," Lessard said.
The pups, in their exhibit on the Northern Trail, are expected to be outside of the den more often in the coming weeks as they enter their "toddler" stage.
Also known as Asian wild dogs, dholes are a primitive canine species that reside in highly structured social packs. They live in diverse habitats in Thailand, Russia, China and India in areas with plenty of prey, water and suitable den sites.
Exclusively carnivores, the dhole's diet consists of mostly small- to medium-sized deer and wild boar. They den in abandoned burrows and have litters of as many as 12 pups, although three to four is common. All members of the pack care for the litter.
Dholes, an endangered species with fewer than 2,500 in the wild, weigh barely more than a half-pound at birth. Full-grown, they are about the size of a German Shepherd Dog, but look more like a long-legged fox.