The African Wild Dog’s scientific name Lycaon Pictus means “painted wolf“. It refers to their irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique distinguishable coat pattern. There are five subspecies of wild dog in Africa namely; the Cape wild dog, the East African wild dog, the West African wild dog, the Chadian wild dog and the Somali wild dog.
African Wild Dogs are long-legged canines which have only four toes per foot, broad flat head, a short muzzle, and large rounded ears. They also have specialized molars for shearing meat and breaking bones. They are built for high stamina chases and are also known for their keen senses of sight, smell and particularly of hearing. Adult African Wild Dogs are about 76 to102 centimeters long, exclusive of their 31 to 41-centimeter tails. They stand about 60 centimeters tall at the shoulder and weighs about 16 to 23 kilograms. Their average lifespan in the wild is up to 11 years.
African Wild Dogs are Nomadic Animals
African wild dogs are found in arid zones, savannas, and grasslands. They also are found in woodland and mountainous habitats where their prey lives. They are considered as nomadic animals because they are constant wanderers and have huge home ranges. Their territories can range between 400 and 1500 square kilometers and they can traverse 50 kilometers in a single day. African Wild Dogs only remain in one area when denning. They cannot be domesticated because they are naturally distrusting of humans and any animal outside of their own pack.
They Live in Packs
African Wild Dogs are very social. They usually live in packs composed of six to twenty individuals with a dominant monogamous breeding pair. They communicate with each other through a variety of vocalizations, movements, and touch. These dogs have been known to share food and they assist weak or ill members. When a dog becomes ill, injured or elderly incapacitating them to hunt, the rest of the pack cares for and feeds them. After a successful hunt, the young and ill are allowed to feed first while other dogs patiently wait on the sidelines for their turn to feed.
A litter can consist of up to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. The entire pack shares responsibility for protecting the pups, with both males and females babysitting them. The pups are fed by the dogs regurgitating fresh meat after returning from a hunt. Once they are old enough, they are taken to the kill and are allowed to eat first. And once they reach maturity, the males stay within their natal pack while females migrate and join new packs.
They Also Hunt in Packs
African wild dogs are intelligent and cooperative hunters. They usually prey on antelopes and some larger game. A typical hunt will involve the pack spreading out in a line to cover more ground. Some run close to the prey while others fall behind, ready to take over when the front liners tire.
They Have Few Natural Enemies
African Wild Dogs are now considered endangered. Lions are the African Wild Dogs’ main threat in the wild. When an area has a high population density of lions, it directly correlates to a low population of wild dogs. Humans are also threats to their survival. Throughout Africa, these dogs have been shot and poisoned by farmers, who often blame them when a leopard or hyena kills livestock. But the main cause of their declined number are diseases such as rabies, contracted usually from domestic animals. Because of their highly social nature one infected wild dog would quickly infect the rest of the pack.