Although the word jackal has often been used historically to refer to many small- to medium-sized species of the wolf genus of mammals, Canis, today it most properly and commonly refers to three species: the black-backed jackal, the side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of northern Africa and south-central Eurasia.
The black-backed and side-striped jackals are more closely related to each other than they are to the golden jackal, which is closer to wolves, dogs, and coyotes.
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 16 km/h (9.9 mph) for extended periods of time. Jackals are crepuscular, most active at dawn and dusk.
Jackals can reach maximum speeds of up to 35 mph.