African Wild Dogs – Profile | Facts | Pet | Traits | Behavior | Prey

(Last Updated On: April 9, 2021)

The African Wild Dogs, scientific name Lycaon pictus, often known as the Cape Hunting Dog or Painted Wolf, is among the most particular animals one could be privileged sufficient to see on safari. Most safari-goers are sometimes unfamiliar with Wild Dogs as many will affiliate the safari experience with seeing the Big 5. But it’s time to take have a look at why seeing African Wild Dogs in your safari must be simply as particular, if not more so than seeing any of the Big 5.

African Wild Dogs profile

The African wild dog is an extremely social animal, dwelling in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for men and women. Uniquely amongst social carnivores, the females somewhat than the males disperse from the natal pack as soon as sexually mature.

The younger are allowed to feed first on carcasses. The species is a specialized diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion.

Like different canids, the African wild dog regurgitates meals for its younger, however, this motion can be prolonged to adults, to the purpose of being central to their social life. Its natural enemies are lions and hyenas: the previous will kill the canids the place possible while hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites.

The Wild dog is Africa’s second most endangered giant carnivore. With fewer than 5,500 free-roaming Wild Dogs within the wild and even fewer nonetheless 450 remaining in South Africa, these animals make for an uncommon and lucky discovery on safari.


African wild dogs as soon as ranged throughout a lot of sub-Saharan Africa, being absent solely within the driest desert areas and lowland forests. The species has been largely exterminated in North and West Africa and has been vastly decreased in quantity in Central Africa and northeast Africa.

The majority of the species’ inhabitants now happens in Southern Africa and southern East Africa; more particularly in nations comparable to Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. However, it’s laborious to trace the place they’re and how many there are due to the lack of habitat.

Physical description

The African wild dog is the bulkiest and most solidly constructed of African canids. The species stands 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 in) in shoulder height, measures 71 to 112 cm (28 to 44 in) in head-and-body size, and has a tail size of 29 to 41 cm (11 to 16 in).

The bodyweight of adults ranges from 18 to 36 kg (40 to 79 lb). On common, dogs from East Africa weigh around 20–25 kg (44–55 lb) whereas, in southern Africa, males reportedly weighed a imply of 32.7 kg (72 lb) and females a imply of 24.5 kg (54 lb).

By body mass, they’re solely outsized amongst different extant canids by the gray wolf species advanced. Females are typically 3–7% smaller than males. Compared to members of the genus Canis, the African wild dog is relatively lean and tall, with outsized ears and missing dewclaws.

The center two toepads are often fused. Its dentition additionally differs from that of Canis by the degeneration of the final decrease molar, the narrowness of the canines, and proportionately giant premolars, which are the most important relative to body size of any carnivore apart from hyenas.

The heel of the decrease carnassial M1 is crested with a single, blade-like cusp, which reinforces the shearing capability of the teeth, thus the pace at which prey could be consumed.

This characteristic termed “trenchant heel”, is shared with two different canids: the Asian dhole and the South American bush dog. The skull is comparatively shorter and broader than these of different canids.


The fur of the African wild dog differs considerably from that of different canids, consisting fully of stiff bristle-hairs with no underfur. It step by step loses its fur because it ages, with older people being virtually bare.

Color variation is excessive and will serve in visible identification, as African wild dogs can recognize one another at distances of 50–100 m. Some geographic variation is seen in coat color, with northeastern African specimens tending to be predominantly black with small white and yellow patches, whereas southern African ones are more brightly colored, sporting a mixture of brown, black and white coats.

Much of the species’ coat patterning happens on the trunk and legs. Little variation in facial markings happens, with the muzzle being black, step by step shading into brown on the cheeks and brow.

A black line extends up the brow, turning blackish-brown on the back of the ears. Just a few specimens sport a brown teardrop-shaped mark beneath the eyes. The back of the top and neck are both brown or yellow.

A white patch often happens behind the forelegs, with some specimens having fully white forelegs, chests, and throats. The tail is often white on the tip, black within the center, and brown on the base.

Some specimens lack the white tip fully or could have black fur beneath the white tip. These coat patterns could be asymmetrical, with the left facet of the body typically having totally different markings from that of the right.


The African wild dog is generally present in savanna and arid zones, typically avoiding forested areas. This choice is probably going linked to the animal’s looking habits, which require open areas that don’t impede vision or impede pursuit.

Nevertheless, it would journey by scrub, woodland, and montane areas in pursuit of prey. Forest-dwelling populations of African wild dogs have been recognized, together with one within the Harenna Forest, a moist montane forest as much as 2400 m in altitude within the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia. At least one document exists of a pack being sighted on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

In Zimbabwe, the species has been recorded at altitudes of 1,800 m. In Ethiopia, this species has been discovered at great altitudes; a number of dwell wild dog packs have been sighted at altitudes of from 1,900 to 2,800 m, and a useless particular person was present in June 1995 at 4,050 m on the Sanetti Plateau.

African Wild Dogs Diet

A species-wide examination confirmed that by choice, the place accessible, 5 species had been probably the most recurrently chosen prey, particularly the higher kudu, Thomson’s gazelle, impala, bushbuck, and blue wildebeest.

More particularly, in East Africa, its most typical prey is Thomson’s gazelle, whereas, in Central and Southern Africa, it targets impala, reedbuck, kob, lechwe, and springbok.

Its diet isn’t restricted to those animals, although because it additionally hunts warthog, oribi, duiker, waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, ostrich, calves of African buffalo, and smaller prey comparable to dik-dik, hares, spring hares, bugs, and cane rats.

Staple prey sizes are often between 15 and 200 kg (33 and 441 lb), although some native research put higher prey sizes as variously 90 to 135 kg (198 to 298 lb). In the case of bigger species comparable to kudu and wildebeest, calves are largely however not solely focused.

However, sure packs within the Serengeti specialized in looking grownup plains zebras weighing as much as 240 kg (530 lb) fairly often. Another examination claimed that some prey taken by wild dogs might weigh as much as 289 kg (637 lb). One pack was recorded to often prey on bat-eared foxes, rolling on the carcasses before consuming them.

African wild dogs hardly ever scavenge, however, have now and again been noticed to applicable carcasses from noticed hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and lions, in addition to animals caught in snares. In East Africa, African wild dogs in packs of 17 to 43 eat 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of meat on common every day.

African Wild Dogs

African Wild Dogs Behavior

Social and reproductive behavior

The African wild dog has very robust social bonds, stronger than these of sympatric lions and noticed hyenas; thus, solitary dwelling and looking are extraordinarily uncommon within the species.

It lives in everlasting packs consisting of two to 27 adults and yearling pups. The typical pack size in Kruger National Park and the Maasai Mara is 4 or 5 adults, whereas packs in Moremi and Selous include eight or 9.

However, bigger packs have been noticed and short-term aggregations of a whole bunch of people could have gathered in response to the seasonal migration of huge springbok herds in Southern Africa.

Males and females have separate dominance hierarchies, with the latter often being led by the oldest feminine. Males could also be led by the oldest male, however, these could be supplanted by youthful specimens; thus, some packs could include aged former male pack leaders.

The dominant pair sometimes monopolizes breeding. The species differs from most different social species in that males stay within the natal pack, whereas females disperse (a pattern additionally present in primates comparable to gorillas, chimpanzees, and red colobuses).

Furthermore, males in any given pack are inclined to outnumber females. Dispersing females be part of different packs and evict among the resident females associated to the opposite pack members, thus stopping inbreeding and permitting the evicted people to search out new packs of their very own and breed. Males hardly ever disperse, and after they do, they’re invariably rejected by different packs already containing males.

Although arguably probably the most social canid, the species lacks the flowery facial expressions and body language discovered within the gray wolf, seemingly due to the African wild dog’s much less hierarchical social construction.

Furthermore, whereas elaborate facial expressions are vital for wolves in re-establishing bonds after long durations of separation from their family teams, they aren’t as necessary to African wild dogs, which stay collectively for much longer durations.

African wild dog populations in East Africa seem to don’t have any fastened breeding season, whereas these in Southern Africa often breed throughout the April–July interval. During estrus, the feminine is intently accompanied by a single male, which retains different members of the identical sex at bay.

The copulatory tie attribute of mating in most canids has been reported to be absent or very transient (lower than one minute) in African wild dogs, probably an adaptation to the prevalence of bigger predators in its setting.

The gestation interval lasts 69–73 days, with the interval between every being pregnant being 12–14 months sometimes. The African wild dog produces more pups than another canid, with litters containing around six to 16 pups, with a median of 10, thus indicating {that a} single feminine can produce sufficient younger to type a brand new pack each year.

Because the number of meals necessary to feed more than two litters can be unattainable to amass by the common pack, breeding is strictly restricted to the dominant feminine, which can kill the pups of subordinates.

After giving the beginning, the mom stays near the pups within the den, whereas the remainder of the pack hunts. She sometimes drives away pack members approaching the pups till the latter are old sufficient to eat strong meals at three to 4 weeks of age.

The pups depart the den across the age of three weeks and are suckled exterior. The pups are weaned at the age of 5 weeks when they’re fed regurgitated meat by the opposite pack members.

By seven weeks, the pups start to tackle a grownup look, with noticeable lengthening within the legs, muzzle, and ears. Once the pups attain the age of eight to 10 weeks, the pack abandons the den, and the younger observe the adults throughout hunts. The youngest pack members are permitted to eat first on kills, a privilege that ends as soon as they grow to be yearlings.

Ratio male/female

Packs of African wild dogs have a high ratio of males to females. This is a consequence of the males principally staying with the pack while feminine offspring disperse and is supported by an altering sex-ratio in consecutive litters.

Those born to maiden bitches include a higher proportion of males, second litters are half and a half, and subsequent litters biased in direction of females with this development rising as females become older.

As an outcome, the sooner litters present secure hunters while the higher ratio of dispersals amongst the females stops a pack from getting too massive.

Communication and “voting”

African wild dog populations within the Okavango Delta have been noticed “rallying” before they got down to hunt. Not each rally leads to a departure, however, departure turns into more seemingly when more particular person dogs “sneeze”.

These sneezes are characterized by a brief, sharp exhale by the nostrils. When members of dominant mating pairs sneeze first, the group is far more prone to depart. If a dominant dog initiates, round three sneezes assure departure.

When much less dominant dogs sneeze first, if sufficient others additionally sneeze (about 10), then the group will go looking. Researchers assert that wild dogs in Botswana, “use a specific vocalization (the sneeze) along with a variable quorum response mechanism in the decision-making process [to go hunting at a particular moment]”.

Inbreeding avoidance

Because the African wild dog largely exists in fragmented, small populations, its existence is endangered. Inbreeding avoidance by mate choice is an attribute of the species and has vital potential penalties for inhabitants’ persistence. Inbreeding is uncommon inside natal packs.

Inbreeding is probably going prevented as a result of it results in the expression of recessive deleterious alleles. Computer-population simulations point out that every one population persevering to keep away from incestuous mating will grow to be extinct within 100 years because of the unavailability of unrelated mates.

Thus, the influence of decreased numbers of appropriate unrelated mates will seemingly have an extreme demographic influence on the long-run viability of small wild dog populations.

African Wild Dogs Hunting and feeding behaviors

The African wild dog is a specialized pack hunter of frequent medium-sized antelopes. It and the cheetah are the ones primarily diurnal African giant predators. The African wild dog hunts by approaching prey silently, then chasing it in a pursuit clocking at as much as 66 km/h (41 mph) for 10 to 60 minutes.

The common chase sometimes solely goes so far as 2 km, throughout which era the prey animal, if giant, is repeatedly bitten on the legs, stomach, and rump till it stops operating, whereas smaller prey is solely pulled down and torn aside.

The African wild dogs have a higher success fee with regards to killing prey despite the fact that they’re smaller than lions and leopards. Hunting methods of the African wild dog differ relying on prey species, with wildebeest being rushed at to panic the herd and isolate a weak particular person, whereas territorial antelope species, which defend themselves by operating in huge circles, are captured by reducing off their escape routes.

Medium-sized prey is commonly killed in 2–5 minutes, whereas bigger prey comparable to wildebeest could take half an hour to tug down.

Male wild dogs often carry out the duty of grabbing harmful prey, comparable to warthogs, by the nostril. Small prey comparable to rodents, hares, and birds is hunted singly, with harmful prey comparable to cane rats and porcupines being killed with a fast and well-placed chunk to keep away from harm.

Small prey is eaten fully, whereas giant animals are stripped of their meat and organs, with the pores and skin, head, and skeleton left intact.

The African wild dog is a quick eater, with a pack having the ability to eat a Thomson’s gazelle in 15 minutes. In the wild, the species’ consumption fee is 1.2–5.9 kg (2.6– lb) per African wild dog a day, with one pack of 17–43 people in East Africa having been recorded to kill three animals per day on common. Unlike most social predators, it would regurgitate meals for grownups in addition to younger family members.

Pups old sufficient to eat strong meals are given the first precedence at kills, consuming even before the dominant pair; subordinate grownup dogs assist feed and defend the pups.

The African wild dog is an extremely profitable hunter. Hunting success varies with prey kind, vegetation cover, and pack size, however African wild dogs are typically very profitable, typically with higher than 60% of their chases ending in a kill, typically as much as 90%.

This is far higher than a lion (27–30%) and hyena (25–30%) success charges are typical, however African wild dogs generally lose their profitable kills to those two giant predators.

Sight and listening to are crucial for procuring meals. Daytime vision is not any higher than ours and enormous dome-like ears are used to detect sounds. Their nighttime vision might be good however little or no looking is completed at nighttime.

The endurance fashion, quick operating hunts might result in harm by tripping or falling over obstacles at night. Therefore most looking might be executed within the early mornings and late afternoons, making Wild Dogs crepuscular.

White tricks to the tails in all probability help as the following mechanism throughout hunts but in addition help in visible communication mixed with actions of the massive ears which might point out temper and intent amongst pack members.

Wild Dogs have a wide range of vocalizations starting from a characteristic bird-like twittering made before and through hunts in addition to when feeding, to a long traveling “hoo” call used to contact different members at a distance. A growl-like bark serves as an alarm call.

African Wild Dogs

African Wild Dogs Enemies and rivals

Lions dominate African wild dogs and are a significant source of mortality for each adult and pup. Population densities of African wild dogs are low in areas the place lions are more plentiful.

One pack reintroduced into Etosha National Park was destroyed by lions. An inhabitants crash in lions within the Ngorongoro Crater throughout the 1960s resulted in a rise in African wild dog sightings, just for their numbers to say no as soon as the lions recovered.

As with different giant predators killed by lion prides, the dogs are often killed and left uneaten by the lions, indicating the competitive somewhat than predatory nature of the bigger species’ dominance.

However, a number of instances have been reported of old and wounded lions falling prey to African wild dogs. On event, packs of untamed dogs have been noticed defending pack members attacked by single lions, typically efficiently.

One pack within the Okavango in March 2016 was photographed by safari guides waging “an incredible fight” in opposition to a lioness that attacked a subadult dog at an impala kill, which compelled the lioness to retreat, though the subadult dog died. A pack of 4 wild dogs was noticed furiously defending an old grownup male dog from a male lion that attacked it at a kill; the dog survived and rejoined the pack.

Spotted hyenas are vital kleptoparasites and observe packs of African wild dogs to applicable their kills. They sometimes examine areas the place African wild dogs have rested and eat any meals stays they discover.

When approaching African wild dogs at a kill, solitary hyenas method cautiously and try and take off with a bit of meat unnoticed, although they might be mobbed within the try.

When working in teams, noticed hyenas are more profitable in pirating African wild dog kills, although the latter’s higher tendency to help one another places them in opposition to noticed hyenas, which hardly ever work cooperatively.

Cases of African wild dogs scavenging from noticed hyenas are uncommon. Although African wild dog packs can simply repel solitary hyenas, on the entire, the connection between the 2 species is a one-sided profit for the hyenas, with African wild dog densities being negatively correlated with high hyena populations. Beyond piracy, instances of interspecific killing of African wild dogs by noticed hyenas are documented.

African wild dogs are apex predators, usually solely fatally shedding contests to bigger social carnivores, though anecdotally Nile crocodiles could opportunistically and infrequently prey upon a wild dog.

When briefly unprotected, wild dog pups could also seldom be weak to giant eagles comparable to martial eagles after they enterprise out of their dens.


The African wild dog is primarily threatened by habitat fragmentation, which leads to human-wildlife battle, the transmission of infectious illnesses, and high mortality charges.

Surveys within the Central African Republic’s Chinko space revealed that the African wild dog inhabitants decreased from 160 people in 2012 to 26 people in 2017. At the identical time, transhumant pastoralists from the border space with Sudan moved within the space with their livestock.

Rangers confiscated giant quantities of poison and located a number of lion cadavers within the camps of livestock herders. They had been accompanied by armed retailers who additionally interact in poaching giant herbivores, sale of bushmeat, and buying and selling lion skins.


Conservation efforts in South Africa are resulting in gradual inhabitants enhancement, which is nevertheless troublesome to watch because of the extremely fluctuating beginning and mortality charges.

Constant monitoring by conservation authorities and NGOs are additionally working at relocating and establishing meta inhabitants of Wild Dogs in medium-sized reserves throughout South Africa.

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