African Wild Dog
Species: L. pictus
Common Names: African Wild Dog, African Painted Dog, African Hunting Dog
African wild dogs are pack animals with strong social structure. A pack may contain as little as two dogs, or as many as 27. They can sometimes gather in temporary packs numbering in the hundreds. They live in desert, forest and grassland habitats.
Some populations of wild dog have been shown to engage in what appears to be voting behavior to determine whether or not to go on a hunt. When more dogs “sneeze”, giving a short breath through their nostrils, there is more likely to be a hunt. Dominant dogs will often begin the sneezing, and if enough join in, then the hunt is all but guaranteed to happen.
African wild dogs hunt mostly antelopes like wildebeest. Unlike other predators including lions and hyenas, wild dogs hunt mostly during the daylight hours. The cheetah is the only other large predator in Africa that does so. The pack will seek out an individual antelope to isolate, and chase it to wear it down until it is too exhausted to continue. Wild dogs can reach speeds of up to 44 miles per hour.
Unlike most other African predators, African wild dogs have a very high success rate in their hunts, sometimes as much as 90%.
Different populations of wild dog have different breeding preferences. Populations in the east have no specific time period for breeding, while those in the south typically breed between April and July. Litters contain an average of 10 pups, which is more than most other wild canines, allowing females to repopulate a pack quickly if necessary with a single litter.
African wild dogs measure about two to three feet at the shoulder in height, and about four feet in length, not including the tail which can add another foot or so. They can weigh between 40 and 80 pounds.
Wild dogs are more slender looking and tend to be taller than most other canine species, and they have large ears teeth that are specialized for an all-meat diet.
Their fur coat is composed of stiff fur that tends to fallout as the animals grow older, and older wild dogs are almost completely hairless. The coats are usually a patchwork of different colors, including brown, black, yellow, and white. Different individuals can be recognized by their unique patterning.
The wild dog is mentioned in texts dating back to Greek and Roman times, and was depicted in objects from Ancient Egypt, but was not formally described scientifically until 1820. It was originally classified as a type of hyena, but in 1827 was recognized as a species of dog.
The wild dog factors into the culture and folklore of many African people, including those of Ethiopa’s Tigray Region and the San people of Southern Africa, who revere it as the ultimate hunter.