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Fascinating Facts: Wild Dogs

Also known as the Cape Hunting Dog, Spotted Dog, Painted Dog or Painted Wolf, the African Wild Dog is one of Africa’s most misunderstood carnivores. It is recognised as Africa’s most endangered predator with only between 3000 and 5000 left in the wild. Numbers have radically declined across Southern Africa due to habitat loss, poaching, diseases and threats from other predators.

Below we share some fascinating facts about this unique species.

  1. The scientific name of the African Wild Dog is Lycaon pictus which literally means ‘painted wolf’.
  2. Each and every wild dog has a unique pattern with mottled black, brown, yellow and white colourings.
  3. Wild Dogs have a very heavy skull and powerful jaws with specialised molars for shearing through meat. They eat very quickly to avoid the attention of other large predators and can completely finish a medium sized kill in 15 minutes.

4. They have exceptional senses; sight, smell and sound. They have large rounded ears that capture sound and movement across vast distances. Their ears actually swivel like a radar and can keep track of the members of their pack whilst also listening for predators.

5. Wild Dogs live in packs of 2–27 adults and pups. There is a an alpha breeding pair in charge of the group. The pups are given priority in the pack and subordinate pack members have to wait on the sidelines while pups feed on regurgitated meat. All members of the pack help care for the pups, as well as older members of the pack. Female members of the pack will disperse from the pack when they reach breeding age.

6. Wild Dogs are nomadic and when travelling in packs can cover up to 50km per day. Their general home range is between 500 to 1,500 square kilometres except they tend to den in one location.

7. Wild Dogs are highly accurate and effective hunters, with an 80% kill rate. They work together in the pack to surround their target or push a target towards a waterway. Running at top speeds of 50km per hour, Wild Dog can generally outrun their target over a short distance.

8. There are five subspecies of wild dog in Africa; the Cape wild dog, the East African wild dog, the West African wild dog, the Chadian wild dog and the Somali wild dog.

9. Wild Dogs are not genetically compatible to wolves or today’s domesticated dogs. Interbreeding is therefore not possible and Wild Dogs have never been domesticated due to their pack nature and distrust of humans or anything outside their pack.

10. Wild Dogs use old Aardvark holes to den. They line the holes with leaves and grass to make it comfortable for the pups. They will only move dens if threatened or if the den becomes infested with fleas.

11. Wild Dogs are not aggressive towards one another, and every dog submits to the dominant pair.

12. Wild Dogs have very useful communications methods and can be heard making excited ‘twittering’ calls before embarking on a hunt. They also keep in contact with other growl-bark sounds.