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Black-backed jackals Canis mesomelas were studied in three areas in Southern Africa, by means of radio tracking, visual observations and ear tagging. Jackal pups moved from the close proximity of their natal dens at 3 months of age, but stayed in the vicinity of the dens for at least 6 months. Dispersal often occurred at an age of about 2 years, mainly during the winter. Adult jackals had smaller home ranges than younger animals. Adult home ranges were inhabited by mated pairs. These ranges were mutually exclusive and differed in size between study areas. The home ranges of immature jackals overlapped extensively with those of the adult jackals. Some young jackals acted as helpers in rearing the pups at natal dens, while others roamed over large areas. Adult jackals move over longer daily distances than did younger animals. The significance of the division of Black-backed jackal populations into breeding and non-breeding components is discussed as well as the similarities among the social systems of Canis mesomelas. C. aureus and C. latrans.