African wild dogScientific Name: Lycaon pictus

Conservation Status: Endangered

Appearance

The African Wild Dog has a coat pattern of irregular brown, white and yellow patches which is unique to each dog. The coat can range from smooth and short to long and shaggy, this is because the coat and pattern varies depending on the habitat. The only marking that is the same on the dogs is the white tipped tail and the dark snout. It has quite large rounded ears which are used for signalling other dogs and also for controlling body temperature. Unlike domestic dogs they have only four toes on each foot, not five.

Adults usually weigh about 18-34 kilograms and they are about 75 centimetres tall. Their length is about 100 centimetres and they have a tail that is about 30 to 45 centimetres.

Lifespan

The African Wild Dog lives for about 9 to 10 years in the wild, and for 10 to 13 years in captivity.

Diet

The African Wild Dog is carnivorous which means that they eat meat. They usually hunt in the early morning and then again in the late evening. Their prey varies depending on the populations, and the seasons. They hunt other animals such as gazelles, wildebeests calves, antelopes, warthogs, rats and birds. They are extremely efficient hunters and about 80% of their hunts will end with them getting their prey, for lions only about 30% of their hunts end in them getting their prey. They work in groups to hunt their prey and this is what leads to their good hunting success, also their colouring makes it look as though there is more of them in a pack than what there really is.

Habitat

The African Wild Dog lives in the savanna woodland of central and southern Africa. Their habitat is being threatened by land clearances, because they need such a large area for their home range it makes conservation of them difficult, as even in a large area only one pack can live there.

African wild dog

Reproduction

There is one dominant male and female in a wild dog pack and they are called the “alpha pair”. They usually mate about once a year and mating can take place any time of the year although it usually occurs between March and June. The gestation period is about 70 days and the litter size can be up to 21 pups but the average size is about 10. There will usually be about twice as many males as females but not all of the pups will survive. The pups weigh about 300 grams when they are born, and are usually born in a den. When the pups are born they are black and white and the tan patches develop from the black areas in about the second month. Their eyes will open after about 3 weeks and are weaned at about 10 weeks,but they don’t come out of the den until they are ready to eat food regurgitated by the adults. The pups are dependant on the pack for about 12-14 months and are fed by the whole pack.

Social Life

With most social mammals the females stay in the group and raise their young, but with the African Wild Dog the females are the ones that leave the pack to start a new group usually with their sisters at about 3 years of age. So mostly the packs are made up of males and have very few females in them. They are very social animals and live in packs of about 5-20 dogs. The adult dogs will let the young dogs eat first if they are on a hunt. There is really no aggression between the dogs in the pack.

They usually start their day with a greeting ceremony that consists of a lot of chirps and twitters to get them ready for their first hunt of the day. They run along with each other and then leap over and dive under each other, which gets their energy increased ready to hunt.

Quick Facts

They have lots of common names such as painted dog, tricoloured dog and cape hunting dog.

They are always wandering around and they rarely stay in the same place longer than a day or two.