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The jackal is a small carnivorous mammal of the genus Canis, which also includes the wolf, dog, and coyote. While the word `jackal´ has historically been used of many small canids, in modern use it most commonly refers to three species: the closely related black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of northern Africa and south-central Eurasia.

Jackals and coyotes (sometimes called the `American jackal´) are opportunistic omnivores, predators of small- to medium-sized animals and proficient scavengers.

Their long legs and curved canine teeth are adapted for hunting small mammals, birds, and reptiles, and their large feet and fused leg bones give them a physique well-suited for long-distance running, capable of maintaining speeds of 9.9 mph (16 km/h) for extended periods of time. Jackals are crepuscular, most active at dawn and dusk. Their most common social unit is that of a monogamous pair which defends its territory from other pairs by vigorously chasing intruding rivals and marking landmarks around the territory with their urine and feces.