African Wild Dog

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. It is related to the domestic dog. It is the only species in the canid family to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs. They are, as their name indicates, found only in Africa. They are found especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas. 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.

African Wild Dogs hunt in packs. Their main prey varies among populations, but always focuses on medium sized ungulates such as impala, wildebeest, and kudu. Like most members of the dog family, they pursue their prey in a long open chase. Typically, about 45% of their hunts result in a kill. Members of a hunting pack vocalize to help coordinate their movements. An unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird characterizes their voice. After a hunt, dogs regurgitate meat for the pups and dominant female, if they remained at the den during the hunt. 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 they are strongly affected by competition with larger carnivores that rely on the same prey base, particularly lions and hyenas. Livestock, herders and game hunters also kill the dogs. They are typically no more 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.

They have a highly complex social system. A pack is usually composed of a set of related males and set of related females. Adults of the two sexes are usually not closely related. Typically, the pack cooperates to raise a single litter produced by the socially dominant (alpha) female. Pack size varies within and among populations but is typically around 8 to 10. Small packs usually do not raise any young, and breeding pairs without non-breeding ‘helpers’ virtually never succeed. The alpha male fathers most of the pups. The breeding female occupies a den while she bears the pups, usually re-excavating an abandoned burrow dug by other species for this purpose. Some populations have more males than females because more male pups appear in litters. It is unusual among mammals to have a gender bias as large as is common in wild dogs. Females are more likely to disperse from the natal group. They may form a pack by joining an all-male group, or evict existing females from an existing group. Most packs have more than one adult female, but only female one typically breeds. This leads to social competition between females.

The current estimate for remaining wild dogs in the wild is approximately 5,600.