Although the word jackal has been historically used to refer to many small- to medium-sized species of the wolf genus of mammals, Canis
Canis is a genus containing 7 to 10 extant species, including dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals, and many extinct species.-Wolves, dogs and dingos:Wolves, dogs and dingos are subspecies of Canis lupus...

, today it most properly and commonly refers to three species: the black-backed jackal
Black-backed Jackal
The black-backed jackal , also known as the silver-backed or red jackal, is a species of jackal which inhabits two areas of the African continent separated by roughly 900 km. One region includes the southern-most tip of the continent, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe...

 and the side-striped jackal
Side-striped Jackal
The side-striped jackal is a species of jackal, native to central and southern Africa. Unlike its cousin, the smaller black-backed jackal, which dwells in open plains, the side-striped jackal primarily dwells in woodland and scrub areas....

 of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal
Golden Jackal
The golden jackal , also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, thos or gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe , Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia...

 of northern Africa and south-central Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

. 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.

Jackals and coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s (sometimes called the "American jackal")) are opportunistic omnivores; predators of small- to medium-sized animals and proficient scavenger
Scavenging is both a carnivorous and herbivorous feeding behavior in which individual scavengers search out dead animal and dead plant biomass on which to feed. The eating of carrion from the same species is referred to as cannibalism. Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by...