Book Review: Canids of the World

Some of you may already have a copy of José R. Castelló’s “Bovids of the World”. If so, you will be familiar with the format of his latest field guide, which covers every species and sub-species of the planet’s canids. Clearly a real labour of love.

I enjoyed the consistency of this guide: it has a format which makes it particularly easy to use. Each species includes a range map and exactly one page of information covering behaviour, similar species, habitat and taxonomy along with a second page of images. And these image pages are exceptionally good: each includes several photos of animals taken from the front and sides, often so perfectly posed you could be forgiven for thinking they are illustrations. And the consistency of the images make it a really helpful for identification. When using photographic field guides it can often be difficult to compare pictures of different species taken from different angles.

Some of the taxonomy is interesting too and presumably reflects the latest discussion. José has split north American Red Foxes (Vulpes fulva) from the rest (Vulpes vulpes), as well as splitting Japanese Raccoon Dogs from those on the mainland. While Dingos are a subspecies of Canis familiaris. Not sure how controversial any of that is, though I wasn’t aware that science was (re)considering Vulpes fulva as a full species.

A lovely book for an important group of mammals, most of which are still fairly easy to see in the right places. I still have three species left. Two are easy if I can get to the right places, but I suspect I will be waiting a long time for a Bush Dog.

November 2018


  • Vladimir Dinets

    There were three range-wide studies of red fox genetics. Kutschera et al. (2013) found no reason for splitting. Statham et al. (2014) proposed splitting, but they used Phylogenetic Species Concept in its most unscientific form, and their own data contradict their suggestion. Finally, Black et al. (2018) provided conclusive evidence against the split.

    The raccoon dog split is much better substantiated: among other things, there are major differences in chromosome numbers. IUCN Canid Group rejected it in 2001 but there’s been more evidence recently (see, for example, Hong et al. 2018).

    • Jose R Castello

      Thank you for the reference, Vladimir: The Great Lakes Region is a melting pot for vicariant red fox (Vulpes vulpes) populations. Kristina L Black Sonia K Petty Volker C Radeloff Jonathan N Pauli. Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 99, Issue 5, 10 October 2018, Pages 1229–1236.
      Unfortunately, this paper came out after the book was published. Taxonomy indeed is far from solved in Canidae…

  • Vladimir Dinets

    One interesting thing about the raccoon dog split is that Hokkaido subspecies groups with the one from other Japanese islands, not with the one is Siberia. Other Hokkaido mammals are more closely related to Siberian ones, with very few exceptions.

  • Andrew Block

    I love these books. I have both and will get any that are done in the future to add to my Princeton Field Guide collection.

  • michaeljh

    contrary to mr hall’s brief review, the dingo is treated as part of the domestic and feral dog subspecies of the grey wolf, canis lupus familiaris. my shift-key isn’t working.

    michael harding

    • Jon Hall

      Thanks. And yes you are right – my mistake. However my point was more they are treated as a form o domestic dog rather than as a full species – Canis dingoensis – as they are often considered.

  • michaeljh

    point taken, jon. continuing in my pedantic manner, however, when the dingo is considered a species, it is as canis dingo, not c. dingoensis. on a more important matter, i thoroughly agree with you that this is a bloody good book.


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