Canid reproduction is distinguished by large litters of up to 15 pups, although 6 to 7 is more common, usually born once a year. Canid gestation periods range from 51 to 80 days. The young are blind and helpless at birth and require an extended period of parental care. Pups consume only their motherís milk until two to six weeks in age, when they learn to eat solid food as adult animals bring them dead prey or regurgitate partially digested food. After about a year, most canid pups reach sexual maturity, although the larger species, such as the gray wolf, can take up to three years to mature.
Jackal: Jackals form remarkably long-lasting pair bonds. Males enforce this monogamy by chasing off any suitors whose presence threatens the survival of their progeny. A jackal pair raises a litter together but may be away from their den as much as 40 percent of the time obtaining food, which they will regurgitate for the young. A pup from a previous litter may remain with the family as a helper and protector. Pictured here is the golden jackal, Canis aureus.
Mating occurs when female canids are in heat, a time when hormonal changes make females both attractive and attracted to males. In most canid species, sexually mature females are in heat once a year. Domestic dogs are often in heat twice a year. Mating in canids includes a distinctive feature called the copulatory tie. Following mating, the male and female reproductive organs remain linked together for up to an hour. This adaptation may have evolved to prevent other males from mating with the female during this time.