New Guinea


Mountains and thick forests

Singin’ in the rain forest

The mossy, wet cloud forest on the island of New Guinea holds an ancient secret: a seldom seen, fiercely predatory wild canine called the New Guinea singing dog. Cute and perky, singing dogs are not exactly scary but rather like little pooches with big voices! They use their tuneful howling to communicate with other “singers.”

Not your average dog

Singing dogs have a dense, rough coat that is golden red or black and tan with white markings. Wide cheekbones, a narrow muzzle, and petal-shaped ears give the dog’s face a distinctive, impish expression. Well adapted to hunting in steep areas with thick vegetation, the singing dog’s joints and spine are extremely flexible for a dog—they climb and jump like a cat! Singers are great climbers, even climbing trees, and their sparring matches often take them up hills and over ledges.

Unlike any other dog species, singing dogs have a unique structure at the back of their mouth that may help them make some of their unusual sounds.
Sonograms show the howl of a singing dog is similar to the song of the humpback whale.
The singing dog’s howl sounds like a yodel, with the tones going up and down.
The New Guinea singing dog is the most recent canid species to be recorded by science.

Sir Edward Hallstrom, then president of Australia’s Taronga Zoo, presented the San Diego Zoo with our first singing dog, a female, in 1957. (The dog’s species name, hallstromi, comes from Sir Edward.) We received a male the following year. Since that time, we’ve had 30 pups born at our facilities.

Currently, a small pack of singing dogs can be seen along Park Way at the San Diego Zoo. And we have two singing dog ambassadors: Montana at the Zoo and Biango at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They meet our guests up close during animal presentations and make appearances on television.

Once found throughout New Guinea, it is believed that just a few singing dogs remain in the wild, living in damp, mossy, thickly forested highlands. If the New Guinea singing dog is in fact a true wild dog, then its status is endangered. There are only several hundred documented animals in existence, with the majority living in managed-care facilities. Threats to these dogs include inbreeding, breeding with domestic dogs that have been introduced to the island, and habitat destruction.

You can help us bring singing dogs and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.