The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus also known as the African Hunting Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, or Painted Hunting Dog, is a mammal of the Canidae family, and thus related to the domestic dog. It is the only species in monotypic genus, Lycaon, and the only species in the canid family to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs. They are, as their name indicates, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas. The Latin name of the species means painted wolf and it is characteristic of the species that no two individuals have the same pattern of coat. Individuals can easily be recognized in the basis of coat patterns. The pelage is an irregular pattern of black, yellow, and white. Their coats are sparse in comparison to canids in temperate zones, and the skin is black.
Wild dogs will reproduce any time of year, with a peak between
March and June during the second half of the rainy season. 2-19
pups can be born per litter, though 10 is the most usual number.
The time between births is usually 12-14 months, though it can
also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die.
Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals
such as aardvarks. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After
3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with
the pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey,
but they are not proficient until about 12-14 months, at which
time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at
the age of 12-18 months. Females will disperse from their birth
pack at 14-30 months of age and join other packs that lack
sexually mature females. Males typically do not leave the pack
they were born to.
African Wild Dogs hunt in packs. Their main prey varies among populations, but always focuses on medium sized ungulates such as impala. Like most members of the dog family, they are cursorial hunters, meaning that they pursue their prey in a long, open chase, rather than relying on stealth as most members of the cat family. Typically, about 85% of their hunts result in a kill. Members of a pack vocalize to help coordinate their movements. Their voice is characterized by an unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird. After a successful hunt, dogs regurgitate meat for those that remained at the den during the hunt, such as the dominant female and the pups. Occasionally, they will also feed other pack members such as very old dogs that cannot keep up. Wild dogs are endangered, primarily because they use very large territories (and consequently can persist only in large wildlife protected areas) and they are strongly affected by competition with larger carnivores that rely on the same prey base, particularly lions and hyenas. The dogs are also killed by livestock herders and game hunters, though they are typically no more (perhaps less) persecuted than other carnivores that pose more threat to livestock. Like other carnivores, wild dogs are sometimes affected by outbreaks of viral diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Although these diseases are not more pathogenic or virulent for wild dogs, the small size of most wild dog populations makes them vulnerable to local extinction due to diseases or other problems.
The current estimate for remaining wild dogs in the wild is approximately 3,000. Of these, the majority live in the two remaining large populations associated with the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania and the population centered in northern Botswana and eastern Namibia. Smaller but apparently secure populations of several hundred individuals are found in Zimbabwe, South Africa (Kruger National Park) and in the Ruaha/Rungwa/Kisigo complex of Tanzania. Isolated populations persist in Zambia, Kenya and Mozambique.
This African Wild Dog Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub