The black-backed jackal is an opportunistic scavenger and predator, taking food that is both abundant and easy to acquire, as well as hunting its own prey (3). Its diet typically includes reptiles, birds and their eggs, plants, coastal debris such as mussels and fish, carrion and even human refuse (4). It also feeds on invertebrates and small to medium sized mammals, using its large, mobile ears to detect them before leaping and pouncing on the unsuspecting prey (4). It is mainly nocturnal, with activity extending into daylight in areas where human disturbance is low (2) (4).
The social structure of black-backed jackal society usually consists of a monogamous mated male and female pair, their offspring, and often non-breeding adult helpers which are usually offspring from a previous litter (5). The pair has a strong bond and can stay together for eight years or more (3). Like other canids, the black-backed jackal has a hierarchy within its family group, with the mated pair being dominant (3). In order to reinforce its dominance, an individual will body-slam a subordinate by swinging its hindquarters in to the forelegs of the submissive animal, in order to knock it off balance (3).
The territory of a black-backed jackal pair can be up to 10.6 square kilometres, which they mark by leaving urine and faeces in conspicuous places (3) (6). The territory is aggressively defended against trespassers, especially other pairs (3). The pair will mate and produce between one and nine pups which are born in an underground burrow within the territory (3). The pups are born blind and remain so until they are eight to ten days old, and will spend most of their time in the den until they are around seven weeks old (3). The pups are played with, groomed and cared for by the helpers. Black-backed jackal pairs with helpers are known to successfully raise more young (5).
The black-backed jackal suffers from diseases which are common in canines such as rabies, canine distemper and canine parvovirus (3). This species acts as a reservoir for rabies and can be responsible for outbreaks of this disease in domestic dog populations (7).