1) Painted wolf
The African wild dog is very often named as Painted Wolf and indeed, their scientific name – Lycaon pictus – really translates as painted wolf, which is reffering to the animal's irregular, mottled coat. Other names include painted dog, cape hunting dog and many many other indigenous names.
2) Pack mentality
One of the most interesting fact about these dogs is their social behaviour and pack mentality. The social bonds inside the pack are extremely strong, much stronger than in hyenas for example and it is extremely rare for African wild dogs to live alone. Males and females have separate dominance hierarchies and only the most dominant male and most dominant female can reproduce. The rest of the pack is also important, as they are providing food and they even take care of the offsprings. The hierarchy is not as structured as for example in wolves and there is the one dominant couple and than the rest of the pack is more or less equal. This is definitely one of the most social wild animal in the world and cooperation is the key for African wild dog suvival and reproduction. Typical pack size is somewhere between 5-12 dogs, but there are recorded packs with more than 25 individuals.
3) Females in pack
The African wild dog has interesting pack system, which is preventing interbreeding. It is normal that male puppies are staying with the pack for their whole life. That is not the case for females. Female relatives typically leave the pack and they join pack of the opposite sex. That is how a new pack is form. This pattern is extremely interesting and rare, but similar behaviour can also be found is primates, such as chimpanzees or gorillas.
Another interesting fact is the size of the litter, which is one of the highest of any canid. The average litter size consists of 10 puppies. It is also interesting, that African wild dogs very often use abandoned underground warthog dens to give birth.
5) Pups first
The pups are extremely protected and valued in the pack. Actually, when the pack hunt some prey, pups are given priority for feeding even over the dominant pack members.
Wild dogs do not hunt like large wild cats. They are not as strong and they do not have that powerful jaws and it would be very hard for them to hunt large animals on their own. That is why they use their intelligence, endurance and pack mentality on the hunt. They use their strong sense of smell, but also seeing and hearing. When they find the prey, they silenty approach it, than follow it, tire it, catch it and kill it. Interesting fact is, that they hunt almost exlusively during the daytime and they rest and sleep at night, which is not that typical for many other hunters.
7) Team work
Even though the African wild dog is not the largest hunter, definitely much smaller than lions or leopards, they have higher success rate on the hunt which is extremely large and it is said, that 80% of their hunts ends sucesfully. It is most likely result of their excellent team work and social behaviour on the hunt. The whole pack work as one team and when they decide to hunt some prey, in most cases it is a death sentence for the prey.
Speaking of the hunting, what is the typical African wild dog prey? Well, probably they most often hunt antelopes, but they can also hunt gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, impala or warthog.
It is also important to say, that the African wild dog is not the king of the jungle, which means, they also have enemies in nature. Their typical natural enemies are lions, leopards and hyenas. They most often kill African wild dog puppies, but lions can easily kill adult African wild dog as well.
10) Conservation status
Once, the wild dogs were found all over the African continent, from deserts to mountains. Sadly, African wild dogs dissappeared from most of the region and for last few decades they are listed as endangered animals and there is only few thousands of these wild dogs alive today.
So where does the remaining African wild dogs live? They can be typically found in different regions of Sub-saharan Africa, where they typically roam the open plains and sparse woodlands. There is a map of African wild dog range and the largest population can be found in countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or Tanzania.
The main reason why the population of African wild dogs is declining are of course people. We are the biggest threat for these animals. Farmers very often kill and shoot these wild dogs in order to defend their livestock. Habitat loss due to human activity is another big threat. The third largest threat are illnesses such as rabies or distemper.
13) Saving African wild dogs
Of course, there are some groups that are trying to save and preserve the African wild dog as an important part of African wild life ecosystem. These groups and some governments are creating protected wildlife corridors that are helping to connect fragmented habitats. There are also awareness initiatives that are trying to educate farmers and other people to reduce the conflict between people and wild dogs. Many countries are legally and officially protecting the African wild dogs on paper but in reality, there are no punishments for killing these dogs and their population in almost all African countries is declining
One of the main African wild dogs weapon on the hunt is their endurance. They hunt patiently in pack and they are able to catching the prey for hours, until it tires. Thanks to their long legs and large lungs, they are able to run very long distances without tiring.
Not only that the African Wild dog has great stamina, it is also very fast dog. Actually, it is said, that the fastest African Wild dogs can reach speed up to 40 mph, or 65 kmh, which is on similar level of the fastest domesticated dog – the English Greyhound.
16) Large ears
One of the first thing you will notice when looking on African wild dog are the large rounded ears. The large ears serve two main purposes. The first one is hearing and indeed, this dog has excellent hearing. But the ears also help to cool down the dog in hot African climate.
One of the differences between African wild dogs, wolves and domesticated dog breeds is the number of toes. While other dogs and wolves have 5 toes, the African wild dogs only have 4 toes on their paws.
As i already mentioned earlier in the video, the African wild dog is much smaller than lions or leopards, but it is still pretty robust, strong and big animal. Their height is typically between 24-30 inch, which is 60-75 cm and weight between 18-36 kg, which is 40-79 lbs. Females and males have almost identical size and there are no huge differences between them.
The fur of the African wild dog consists stiff bristle-hairs with no undercoat. They gradually loose hair as they are getting older. Coloration of these dogs is very interesting and it is said that no two African wild dogs have the same coat pattern and it probably serve for visual identification. African wild dogs in different parts of Africa has slightly different coloration, but they have musky colored coats.
Just like most of the wild animals, even the African wild dog is very hardy and healthy dog, because only hardy and healthy dogs can survive in nature. Their lifespan is not extremely long and the average is somewhere around 11 years.
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