National geographic african wild dog

National geographic african wild dog DEFAULT

Photo Ark: African Wild Dog

Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity today. It is estimated that habitat loss and degradation affect between 85 percent and 90 percent of all endangered birds, amphibians, and mammals. Habitat loss can put species in closer contact with human populations, which can cause a variety of problems.

One victim of habitat loss is the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), which is one of the most endangered canids in the world. Traditionally, the African wild dog ranged throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Today, its range is drastically reduced and fragmented into smaller areas, mostly in arid zones and the savanna. The fragmented habitat is a particular problem for the African wild dog, which requires a large territory of at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) to support packs of between 10 and 40 dogs. The smaller territories created by habitat loss make it more difficult for the dogs to find adequate prey. As the habitat for other large predators, such as lions, is also reduced, the competition for prey and other resources is heightened.

Habitat fragmentation has put the African wild dog in close proximity to humans, which also puts a strain on their population. The dogs are considered a threat to livestock and are killed to protect livestock and game. They are also killed on roads that run through their territory and caught in traps intended for game animals. Because African wild dogs are genetically similar to domesticated dogs, they are vulnerable to diseases those dogs carry, such as rabies and distemper. Conservation efforts include educating the public about African wild dogs and creating wildlife corridors between wildlife reserves to extend their range.

  1. The African wild dog is threatened by habitat loss. What are some animal species in your area that are experiencing habitat loss? What factors are contributing to that loss?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary depending on your location. Common factors that contribute to habitat loss are forestry, grazing, and agriculture. Building obstacles in a habitat, such as roads and dams, can lead to habitat fragmentation. Habitat degradation is caused by pollutants that enter the habitat.

  2. What is habitat fragmentation, and why is it a particular threat to the African wild dog?

    • Answer

      Habitat fragmentation is when a habitat is interrupted by roads and other human constructs. Fragmentation is a problem for the African wild dog because they range over such a large territory, and there are few places left with enough land for them that is free of roads, farms, and other human constructs.

  3. What are some ways conservationists are working to protect the African wild dog?

    • Answer

      Conservationists are working to educate the public near the African wild dogs’ territory to reduce accidents and intentional killings. Another important effort is to create wildlife corridors. These are areas free of obstruction that connect wildlife reserves that house African wild dogs. The African Wildlife Foundation works with communities by providing scouts that monitor the African wild dogs and warn ranchers when they are nearby. They also help communities create livestock enclosures to protect livestock from African wild dogs and other predators.



family of mammals that includes dogs, wolves, and foxes.



environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

habitat degradation


decline in species-specific habitat quality that leads to reduced survival and/or reproductive success in that species.

habitat fragmentation


breaking up an environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

habitat loss


the reduction or destruction of an ecosystem, making it less able to support its native species.



infectious disease caused by a virus, often associated with wild animals, with symptoms ranging from muscle spasms to death.

wildlife corridor


area connecting the habitat of two wildlife populations separated by human activity. Also called a green corridor.

wildlife reserve


area set aside and protected by the government or other organization to maintain wildlife habitat. Also called a nature preserve.


Common Name:
African wild dogs

Scientific Name:
Lycaon pictus



Group Name:

Average Life Span In The Wild:
Up to 11 years

29.5 to 43 inches

39.5 to 79 pounds

Size relative to a 6-ft man:
IUCN Red List Status:

Least Concern Extinct

Current Population Trend:

What is the African wild dog?

The African wild dog is known by many names, including Cape hunting dog or painted dog. Its scientific name, Lycaon pictus,means “painted wolf,” referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears.

These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet.


Though they were once found throughout the continent—from desert to mountain habitats—African wild dogs have disappeared from most of their geographic range. These days, African wild dogs typically roam the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Their largest populations can be found in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

Pack behavior and hunting

African wild dogs live in packs that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. The female has a litter of two to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. These dogs are very social, and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. Social interactions are common, and the dogs communicate by touch, actions, and vocalizations.

African wild dogs hunt in formidable, cooperative packs of six to 20 (or more) animals. Larger packs were more common before the dogs became endangered. Packs hunt antelopes and will also tackle much larger prey, such as wildebeests, particularly if their quarry is ill or injured. The dogs supplement their diet with rodents and birds. As human settlements expand, the dogs have sometimes developed a taste for livestock, though significant damage is rare and most dogs prefer wild prey.

Threats to survival

Unfortunately, African wild dogs are often hunted and killed by farmers who fear for their livestock. They are also threatened by shrinking space to roam in their African home as well as their susceptibility to diseases like rabies and canine distemper. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that the population level of African wild dogs fluctuates but is in a likely irreversible decline, which is why it considers this species to be endangered.


African wild dogs are among the many species that benefit from the creation of protected wildlife corridors that help connect their increasingly fragmented habitats. Conservation groups are also working on initiatives that reduce conflict between humans and African wild dogs. These include awareness initiatives that dispel myths about the animals as well as educational initiations that offer farmers training in livestock management techniques that prevent depredation.

National Geographic grantee Rosemary Groom is among the many advocates who are working to ensure the continued survival of African wild dogs.

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African wild dog

Endangered species of canine native to Africa

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is a canine which is a native species to sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest wild canine in Africa, and the only extant member of the genusLycaon, which is distinguished from Canis by dentition highly specialised for a hypercarnivorous diet, and by a lack of dewclaws. It is estimated that about 6,600 adults (including 1,400 mature individuals) live in 39 subpopulations that are all threatened by habitat fragmentation, human persecution, and outbreaks of disease. As the largest subpopulation probably comprises fewer than 250 individuals, the African wild dog has been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1990.[2]

The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature.

The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion. Its natural enemies are lions and hyenas: the former will kill the dogs where possible, whilst hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites.[4]

Like other canids, the African wild dog regurgitates food for its young, but also extends this action to adults, as a central part of the pack’s social life.[5][6][7] The young are allowed to feed first on carcasses.

Although not as prominent in African folklore or culture as other African carnivores, it has been respected in several hunter-gatherer societies, particularly those of the predynastic Egyptians and the San people.


The English language has several names for the African wild dog, including African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog,[8] painted hunting dog,[9] painted dog,[10] painted wolf,[11] and painted lycaon.[12] Some conservation organisations are promoting the name 'painted wolf' as a way of rebranding the species, as wild dog has several negative connotations that could be detrimental to its image.[13][14][15] Nevertheless, the name "African wild dog" is still widely used,[16] However, the name "painted dog" was found to be the most likely to counteract negative perceptions of the species.[17]

Taxonomic and evolutionary history[edit]


The earliest written reference to the species appears to be from Oppian, who wrote of the thoa, a hybrid between the wolf and leopard, which resembles the former in shape and the latter in colour. Solinus's Collea rerum memorabilium from the third century AD describes a multicoloured wolf-like animal with a mane native to Ethiopia.[12]

The species was first described scientifically in 1820 by Coenraad Temminck, after having examined a specimen taken from the coast of Mozambique. He named the animal Hyaena picta, erroneously classifying it as a species of hyena. It was later recognised as a canid by Joshua Brookes in 1827, and renamed Lycaon tricolor. The root word of Lycaon is the Greek λυκαίος (lykaios), meaning "wolf-like". The specific epithet pictus (Latin for "painted"), which derived from the original picta, was later returned to it, in conformity with the International Rules on Taxonomic Nomenclature.[18]

Paleontologist George G. Simpson placed the African wild dog, the dhole, and the bush dog together in the subfamilySimocyoninae on the basis of all three species having similarly trenchant carnassials. This grouping was disputed by Juliet Clutton-Brock, who argued that, other than dentition, too many differences exist between the three species to warrant classifying them in a single subfamily.[19]


The African wild dog possesses the most specialized adaptations among the canids for coat colour, diet, and for pursuing its prey through its cursorial (running) ability. It possesses a graceful skeleton, and the loss of the first digit on its forefeet increases its stride and speed. This adaptation allows it to pursue prey across open plains for long distances. The teeth are generally carnassial-shaped, and its premolars are the largest relative to body size of any living carnivoran except for the spotted hyena. On the lower carnassials (first lower molars), the talonid has evolved to become a cutting blade for flesh-slicing, with a reduction or loss of the post-carnassial molars. This adaptation also occurs in two other hypercarnivores – the dhole and the bush dog. The African wild dog exhibits one of the most varied coat colours among the mammals. Individuals differ in patterns and colours, indicating a diversity of the underlying genes. The purpose of these coat patterns may be an adaptation for communication, concealment, or temperature regulation. In 2019, a study indicated that the lycaon lineage diverged from Cuon and Canis 1.7 million years ago through this suite of adaptations, and these occurred at the same time as large ungulates (its prey) diversified.[20]

The oldest L. pictus fossil dates back to 200,000 years ago and was found in HaYonim Cave, Israel.[21][1] The evolution of the African wild dog is poorly understood due to the scarcity of fossil finds. Some authors consider the extinct CanissubgenusXenocyon as ancestral to both the genus Lycaon and the genus Cuon,[22][23][24][25]: p149  which lived throughout Eurasia and Africa from the Early Pleistocene to the early Middle Pleistocene. Others propose that Xenocyon should be reclassified as Lycaon.[1] The species Canis (Xenocyon) falconeri shared the African wild dog's absent first metacarpal (dewclaw), though its dentition was still relatively unspecialised.[1] This connection was rejected by one author because C. (X.) falconeri's missing metacarpal was a poor indication of phylogenetic closeness to the African wild dog and the dentition was too different to imply ancestry.[26]

Another ancestral candidate is the Plio-PleistoceneL. sekowei of South Africa on the basis of distinct accessory cusps on its premolars and anterior accessory cuspids on its lower premolars. These adaptions are found only in Lycaon among living canids, which shows the same adaptations to a hypercarnivorous diet. L. sekowei had not yet lost the first metacarpal absent in L. pictus and was more robust than the modern species, having 10% larger teeth.[26]

Admixture with the dhole[edit]

In 2018, whole genome sequencing was used to compare the dhole (Cuon alpinus) with the African wild dog. There was strong evidence of ancient genetic admixture between the two. Today, their ranges are remote from each other; however, during the Pleistocene era the dhole could be found as far west as Europe. The study proposes that the dhole's distribution may have once included the Middle East, from where it may have admixed with the African wild dog in North Africa. However, there is no evidence of the dhole having existed in the Middle East or North Africa.[27]


As of 2005[update], five subspecies are recognised by MSW3:[28]

Subspecies Description Synonyms
Cape wild dog
L. p. pictusTemminck, 1820African wild dog lycaon pictus.jpg
The nominate subspecies is also the largest, weighing 20–25 kg (44–55 lb).[29] It is much more colourful than the East African wild dog,[29] although even within this single subspecies there are geographic variations in coat colour: specimens inhabiting the Cape are characterised by the large amount of orange-yellow fur overlapping the black, the partially yellow backs of the ears, the mostly yellow underparts and a number of whitish hairs on the throat mane. Those in Mozambique are distinguished by the almost equal development of yellow and black on both the upper and underparts of the body, as well as having less white fur than the Cape form.[30]cacondae (Matschie, 1915), fuchsi (Matschie, 1915), gobabis (Matschie, 1915), krebsi (Matschie, 1915), lalandei (Matschie, 1915), tricolor (Brookes, 1827), typicus (A. Smith, 1833), venatica (Burchell, 1822), windhorni (Matschie, 1915), zuluensis (Thomas, 1904)
East African wild dog
L. p. lupinusThomas, 1902Laika ac African Wild Dog (9882202246) cropped.jpg
This subspecies is distinguished by its very dark coat with very little yellow.[30]dieseneri (Matschie, 1915), gansseri (Matschie, 1915), hennigi (Matschie, 1915), huebneri (Matschie, 1915), kondoae (Matschie, 1915), lademanni (Matschie, 1915), langheldi (Matschie, 1915), prageri (Matschie, 1912), richteri (Matschie, 1915), ruwanae (Matschie, 1915), ssongaeae (Matschie, 1915), stierlingi (Matschie, 1915), styxi (Matschie, 1915), wintgensi (Matschie, 1915)
Somali wild dog
L. p. somalicusThomas, 1904Lycaon pictus - Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria - Genoa, Italy - DSC02650.JPG
This subspecies is smaller than the East African wild dog, has shorter and coarser fur and has a weaker dentition. Its colour closely approaches that of the Cape wild dog, with the yellow parts being buff.[30]luchsingeri (Matschie, 1915), matschie (Matschie, 1915), rüppelli (Matschie, 1915), takanus (Matschie, 1915), zedlitzi (Matschie, 1915)
Chadian wild dog
L. p. sharicusThomas and Wroughton, 1907
Brightly coloured with very short 15mm hair. Brain case is fuller than L.p. pictus.[31]ebermaieri (Matschie, 1915)
West African wild dog
L. p. manguensisMatschie, 1915West African Wild Dog.jpg
The West African wild dog used to be widespread from western to central Africa, from Senegal to Nigeria. Now only two subpopulations survive: one in the Niokolo-Koba National Park of Senegal and the other in the W National Park of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.[2][32] It is estimated that 70 adult individuals are left in the wild.[33]mischlichi (Matschie, 1915)

Nevertheless, although the species is genetically diverse, these subspecific designations are not universally accepted. East African and Southern African wild dog populations were once thought to be genetically distinct, based on a small number of samples. More recent studies with a larger number of samples showed that extensive intermixing has occurred between East African and Southern African populations in the past. Some unique nuclear and mitochondrialalleles are found in Southern African and northeastern African populations, with a transition zone encompassing Botswana, Zimbabwe and southeastern Tanzania between the two. The West African wild dog population may possess a unique haplotype, thus possibly constituting a truly distinct subspecies.[34] The original Serengeti and Maasai Mara population of painted dogs is known to have possessed a unique genotypes, but these genotypes may be extinct.[35]

Physical description[edit]

L. pictusskull (left) compared with that of C. lupus(right): Note the former's shorter muzzle and fewer molars.

The African wild dog is the bulkiest and most solidly built of African canids.[36] The species stands 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 in) in shoulder height, measures 71 to 112 cm (28 to 44 in) in head-and-body length and has a tail length of 29 to 41 cm (11 to 16 in). Body weight of adults range from 18 to 36 kg (40 to 79 lb). On average, dogs from East Africa weigh around 20–25 kg (44–55 lb) while in southern Africa, males reportedly weighed a mean of 32.7 kg (72 lb) and females a mean of 24.5 kg (54 lb). By body mass, they are only outsized amongst other extant canids by the grey wolfspecies complex.[29][37][38][39] Females are generally 3–7% smaller than males. Compared to members of the genus Canis, the African wild dog is comparatively lean and tall, with outsized ears and lacking dewclaws. The middle two toepads are usually fused. Its dentition also differs from that of Canis by the degeneration of the last lower molar, the narrowness of the canines and proportionately large premolars, which are the largest relative to body size of any carnivore other than hyenas.[40] The heel of the lower carnassial M1 is crested with a single, blade-like cusp, which enhances the shearing capacity of the teeth, thus the speed at which prey can be consumed. This feature, termed "trenchant heel", is shared with two other canids: the Asian dhole and the South American bush dog.[8] The skull is relatively shorter and broader than those of other canids.[36]

The fur of the African wild dog differs significantly from that of other canids, consisting entirely of stiff bristle-hairs with no underfur.[36] It gradually loses its fur as it ages, with older individuals being almost naked.[41] Colour variation is extreme, and may serve in visual identification, as African wild dogs can recognise each other at distances of 50–100 m (160–330 ft).[40] Some geographic variation is seen in coat colour, with northeastern African specimens tending to be predominantly black with small white and yellow patches, while southern African ones are more brightly coloured, sporting a mix of brown, black and white coats.[8] Much of the species' coat patterning occurs on the trunk and legs. Little variation in facial markings occurs, with the muzzle being black, gradually shading into brown on the cheeks and forehead. A black line extends up the forehead, turning blackish-brown on the back of the ears. A few specimens sport a brown teardrop-shaped mark below the eyes. The back of the head and neck are either brown or yellow. A white patch occasionally occurs behind the fore legs, with some specimens having completely white fore legs, chests and throats. The tail is usually white at the tip, black in the middle and brown at the base. Some specimens lack the white tip entirely, or may have black fur below the white tip. These coat patterns can be asymmetrical, with the left side of the body often having different markings from that of the right.[40]


Social and reproductive behaviour[edit]

Play fighting after a kill, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa

The African wild dog has very strong social bonds, stronger than those of sympatric lions and spotted hyenas; thus, solitary living and hunting are extremely rare in the species.[42] It lives in permanent packs consisting of two to 27 adults and yearling pups. The typical pack size in Kruger National Park and the Maasai Mara is four or five adults, while packs in Moremi and Selous contain eight or nine. However, larger packs have been observed and temporary aggregations of hundreds of individuals may have gathered in response to the seasonal migration of vast springbok herds in Southern Africa.[43] Males and females have separate dominance hierarchies, with the latter usually being led by the oldest female. Males may be led by the oldest male, but these can be supplanted by younger specimens; thus, some packs may contain elderly male former pack leaders. The dominant pair typically monopolises breeding.[40] The species differs from most other social species in that males remain in the natal pack, while females disperse (a pattern also found in primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and red colobuses). Furthermore, males in any given pack tend to outnumber females 3:1.[29] Dispersing females join other packs and evict some of the resident females related to the other pack members, thus preventing inbreeding and allowing the evicted individuals to find new packs of their own and breed.[40] Males rarely disperse, and when they do, they are invariably rejected by other packs already containing males.[29] Although arguably the most social canid, the species lacks the elaborate facial expressions and body language found in the grey wolf, likely because of the African wild dog's less hierarchical social structure. Furthermore, while elaborate facial expressions are important for wolves in re-establishing bonds after long periods of separation from their family groups, they are not as necessary to African wild dogs, which remain together for much longer periods.[19]

African wild dog populations in East Africa appear to have no fixed breeding season, whereas those in Southern Africa usually breed during the April–July period.[42] During estrus, the female is closely accompanied by a single male, which keeps other members of the same sex at bay.[29] The copulatory tie characteristic of mating in most canids has been reported to be absent[44] or very brief (less than one minute)[45] in African wild dog, possibly an adaptation to the prevalence of larger predators in its environment.[46] The gestation period lasts 69–73 days, with the interval between each pregnancy being 12–14 months typically. The African wild dog produces more pups than any other canid, with litters containing around six to 16 pups, with an average of 10, thus indicating that a single female can produce enough young to form a new pack every year. Because the amount of food necessary to feed more than two litters would be impossible to acquire by the average pack, breeding is strictly limited to the dominant female, which may kill the pups of subordinates. After giving birth, the mother stays close to the pups in the den, while the rest of the pack hunts. She typically drives away pack members approaching the pups until the latter are old enough to eat solid food at three to four weeks of age. The pups leave the den around the age of three weeks and are suckled outside. The pups are weaned at the age of five weeks, when they are fed regurgitated meat by the other pack members. By seven weeks, the pups begin to take on an adult appearance, with noticeable lengthening in the legs, muzzle, and ears. Once the pups reach the age of eight to 10 weeks, the pack abandons the den and the young follow the adults during hunts. The youngest pack members are permitted to eat first on kills, a privilege which ends once they become yearlings.[29]

Ratio male/female[edit]

Packs of African wild dogs have a high ratio of males to females. This is a consequence of the males mostly staying with the pack whilst female offspring disperse and is supported by a changing sex-ratio in consecutive litters. Those born to maiden females contain a higher proportion of males, second litters are half and half and subsequent litters biased towards females with this trend increasing as females get older. As a result, the earlier litters provide stable hunters whilst the higher ratio of dispersals amongst the females stops a pack from getting too big.[4]

Sneeze communication and "voting"[edit]

African wild dog populations in the Okavango Delta have been observed "rallying" before they set out to hunt. Not every rally results in a departure, but departure becomes more likely when more individual dogs "sneeze". These sneezes are characterized by a short, sharp exhale through the nostrils.[47] When members of dominant mating pairs sneeze first, the group is much more likely to depart. If a dominant dog initiates, around three sneezes guarantee departure. When less dominant dogs sneeze first, if enough others also sneeze (about 10), then the group will go hunting. Researchers assert that wild dogs in Botswana, "use a specific vocalization (the sneeze) along with a variable quorum response mechanism in the decision-making process [to go hunting at a particular moment]".[48]

Inbreeding avoidance[edit]

Because the African wild dog largely exists in fragmented, small populations, its existence is endangered. Inbreeding avoidance by mate selection is characteristic of the species and has important potential consequences for population persistence.[49] Inbreeding is rare within natal packs. Inbreeding is likely avoided because it leads to the expression of recessive deleterious alleles.[50] Computer-population simulations indicate that all populations continuing to avoid incestuous mating will become extinct within 100 years due to the unavailability of unrelated mates.[49] Thus, the impact of reduced numbers of suitable unrelated mates will likely have a severe demographic impact on the future viability of small wild dog populations.

Hunting and feeding behaviour[edit]

The African wild dog is a specialised pack hunter of common medium-sized antelopes.[51] It and the cheetah are the only primarily diurnal African large predators.[29] The African wild dog hunts by approaching prey silently, then chasing it in a pursuit clocking at up to 66 km/h (41 mph) for 10–60 minutes.[43] The average chase covers some 2 km (1.2 mi), during which the prey animal, if large, is repeatedly bitten on the legs, belly, and rump until it stops running, while smaller prey is simply pulled down and torn apart.

African wild dogs adjust their hunting strategy to the particular prey species. They will rush at wildebeest to panic the herd and isolate a vulnerable individual, but pursue territorial antelope species (which defend themselves by running in wide circles) by cutting across the arc to foil their escape. Medium-sized prey is often killed in 2–5 minutes, whereas larger prey such as wildebeest may take half an hour to pull down. Male wild dogs usually perform the task of grabbing dangerous prey, such as warthogs, by the nose.[52]

Hunting success varies with prey type, vegetation cover and pack size, but African wild dogs tend to be very successful: often more than 60% of their chases end in a kill, sometimes up to 90%.[53] Despite their smaller size, they are much more consistently successful than lion (27–30%) and hyena (25–30%),[54] but African wild dogs commonly lose their successful kills to these two large predators.[55] An analysis of 1,119 chases by a pack of 6 Okavango wild dogs showed that most were short distance uncoordinated chases, and the individual kill rate is only 15.5 percent. Because kills are shared, each dog enjoyed an efficient benefit–cost ratio.[56][57]

Small prey such as rodents, hares and birds are hunted singly, with dangerous prey such as cane rats and porcupines being killed with a quick and well-placed bite to avoid injury. Small prey is eaten entirely, while large animals are stripped of their meat and organs, leaving the skin, head, and skeleton intact.[42][58] The African wild dog is a fast eater, with a pack being able to consume a Thomson's gazelle in 15 minutes. In the wild, the species' consumption rate is of 1.2–5.9 kg (2.6–13.0 lb) per African wild dog a day, with one pack of 17–43 individuals in East Africa having been recorded to kill three animals per day on average.[16]

Unlike most social predators, African wild dogs will regurgitate food for other adults as well as young family members.[42] Pups old enough to eat solid food are given first priority at kills, eating even before the dominant pair; subordinate adult dogs help feed and protect the pups.[59]



The African wild dog is mostly found in savanna and arid zones, generally avoiding forested areas.[29] This preference is likely linked to the animal's hunting habits, which require open areas that do not obstruct vision or impede pursuit.[36] Nevertheless, it will travel through scrub, woodland and montane areas in pursuit of prey. Forest-dwelling populations of African wild dogs have been identified, including one in the Harenna Forest, a wet montane forest up to 2,400 m (7,900 ft) in altitude in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia.[60] At least one record exists of a pack being sighted on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.[29] In Zimbabwe, the species has been recorded at altitudes of 1,800 m (5,900 ft).[16] In Ethiopia, this species has been found at great altitudes; several live wild dog packs have been sighted at altitudes of from 1,900 to 2,800 m, and a dead individual was found in June 1995 at 4,050 m (13,290 ft) on the Sanetti Plateau.[61]


A species-wide study showed that by preference, where available, five species were the most regularly selected prey, namely the greater kudu, Thomson's gazelle, impala, bushbuck and blue wildebeest.[51][62] More specifically, in East Africa, its most common prey is Thomson's gazelle, while in Central and Southern Africa, it targets impala, reedbuck, kob, lechwe and springbok.[29] Its diet is not restricted to these animals, though, as it also hunts warthog, oribi, duiker, waterbuck, Grant's gazelle, calves of African buffalo[63] and smaller prey such as dik-dik, hares, spring hares, insects and cane rats.[42] Staple prey sizes are usually between 15 and 200 kg (33 and 441 lb), though some local studies put upper prey sizes as variously 90 to 135 kg (198 to 298 lb). In the case of larger species such as kudu and wildebeest, calves are largely but not exclusively targeted.[51][64][65] However, certain packs in the Serengeti specialized in hunting adult plains zebras weighing up to 240 kg (530 lb) quite frequently.[66] Another study claimed that some prey taken by wild dogs could weigh up to 289 kg (637 lb).[67] One pack was recorded to occasionally prey on bat-eared foxes, rolling on the carcasses before eating them. African wild dogs rarely scavenge, but have on occasion been observed to appropriate carcasses from spotted hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and lions, and animals caught in snares.[16] In East Africa, African wild dogs in packs of 17 to 43 eat 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of meat on average each day.[68]

Enemies and competitors[edit]

Lions dominate African wild dogs and are a major source of mortality for both adults and pups.[69] Population densities of African wild dogs are low in areas where lions are more abundant.[70] One pack reintroduced into Etosha National Park was destroyed by lions. A population crash in lions in the Ngorongoro Crater during the 1960s resulted in an increase in African wild dog sightings, only for their numbers to decline once the lions recovered.[69] As with other large predators killed by lion prides, the dogs are usually killed and left uneaten by the lions, indicating the competitive rather than predatory nature of the larger species' dominance.[71][72] However, a few cases have been reported of old and wounded lions falling prey to African wild dogs.[73][74] On occasion, packs of wild dogs have been observed defending pack members attacked by single lions, sometimes successfully. One pack in the Okavango in March 2016 was photographed by safari guides waging "an incredible fight" against a lioness that attacked a subadult dog at an impala kill, which forced the lioness to retreat, although the subadult dog died. A pack of four wild dogs was observed furiously defending an old adult male dog from a male lion that attacked it at a kill; the dog survived and rejoined the pack.[75]

Spotted hyenas are important kleptoparasites[69] and follow packs of African wild dogs to appropriate their kills. They typically inspect areas where African wild dogs have rested and eat any food remains they find. When approaching African wild dogs at a kill, solitary hyenas approach cautiously and attempt to take off with a piece of meat unnoticed, though they may be mobbed in the attempt. When operating in groups, spotted hyenas are more successful in pirating African wild dog kills, though the latter's greater tendency to assist each other puts them at an advantage against spotted hyenas, which rarely work cooperatively. Cases of African wild dogs scavenging from spotted hyenas are rare. Although African wild dog packs can easily repel solitary hyenas, on the whole, the relationship between the two species is a one-sided benefit for the hyenas,[76] with African wild dog densities being negatively correlated with high hyena populations.[77] Beyond piracy, cases of interspecific killing of African wild dogs by spotted hyenas are documented.[78] African wild dogs are apex predators, normally only fatally losing contests to larger social carnivores, although anecdotally Nile crocodiles may opportunistically and rarely prey upon a wild dog.[79] When briefly unprotected, wild dog pups may occasionally be vulnerable to large eagles, such as the martial eagle, when they venture out of their dens.[80]


African wild dogs once ranged across much of sub-Saharan Africa, being absent only in the driest desert regions and lowland forests. The species has been largely exterminated in North and West Africa, and has been greatly reduced in number in Central Africa and northeast Africa. The majority of the species' population now occurs in Southern Africa and southern East Africa; more specifically in countries such as Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. However, it is hard to track where they are and how many there are because of the loss of habitat.[81][2]

North Africa[edit]

The species is very rare in North Africa, and whatever populations remain may be of high conservation value, as they are likely to be genetically distinct from other L. pictus populations.[82]

Country Status Distribution
 AlgeriaAlthough historically present, L. pictus is probably locally extinct, though it may exist as a relict population in the south.[82]As of 1997, the only recent reports come from the Teffedest Mountains. The species once occurred in the Mouydir Arah Mountains, but has disappeared, likely due to trapping and poisoning by Tuareg tribesmen. The last sighting in the Ahaggar National Park was in 1989.[82]
 MauritaniaProbably not present.[82]In 1992 hunters in the coastal area of Western Sahara described a wild dog that hunts in packs, although the identity of this animal is unconfirmed. They had seen one 30 years earlier.[82]

West Africa[edit]

The species is faring poorly in most of West Africa, with the only potentially viable population occurring in Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park. African wild dogs are occasionally sighted in other parts of Senegal, Guinea and Mali.[82]

Country Status Distribution
 BeninL. pictus is most likely locally extinct, with a survey taken in 1990 indicating that locals thought that the species' continued survival in the country extremely unlikely.[82]Parc W might hold the country's remaining L. pictus populations, though they were considered either declining or locally extinct in 1988. It may occur in declining numbers in Pendjari National Park.[82]
 Burkina FasoL. pictus is likely locally extinct, and widespread poverty prevents effective wildlife protection, despite the species' protected legal status.[82]The last sightings of the animal occurred in 1985 in the Nazinga Game Ranch. It might still occur in the Arli National Park and the Comoé Province, but in low numbers.[82]
 GambiaThe most recent sighting occurred in 1995, on the northern border with Senegal.[82]A small population may occur on the border area with Senegal.[82]
 GhanaAlthough L. pictus is legally protected, it is probably locally extinct, as poaching is rampant and traditional attitudes toward predators are hostile.[82]Although no recent sightings have been made, the species may still occur in Bui and Digya National Parks. Hunters have reported the presence of L. pictus in the Kyabobo National Park, though the species is probably rare there.[82]
 GuineaAlthough protected, the outlook for L. pictus in Guinea is poor.[82]The species may occur in Badiar National Park, as the park is adjacent to Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park, where L. pictus does occur. The most recent reports of the species include a sighting in 1991 along the Sankarani River and the deaths of three cows in 1996 in the Ndama Fôret Clasée.[82]
the  Ivory CoastVery few sightings have been made and the majority of the public has not heard of the species. Furthermore, its legal status is 'noxious'.[82]The species may still occur in Comoé National Park (where it was last sighted in the late 1980s) and Marahoué National Park (where the last sightings occurred during the 1970s).[82]
 LiberiaLiberian folklore makes no mention of L. pictus, thus indicating that the species has probably never been common in the area.[82]The species may have once inhabited the north, but it is almost certainly rare there now.[82]
 MaliAlthough once widespread, L. pictus is now extremely rare in Mali. Although sighted in the Forêt Classée de la Faya in 1959, the species was notably absent during a ground survey in the 1980s.[82]The species may still occur in the south and west of the country in the border regions with Senegal and Guinea.[82]
 NigerThe species is almost certainly locally extinct, having been the subject of an extermination campaign during the 1960s. Although legally protected, L. pictus specimens were still shot by game guards as recently as 1979. Even if still present, the species' chances of survival are still low, due to regular droughts and loss of natural prey.[82]L. pictus may still be present in low numbers in Parc W, in the extreme north and the Sirba region.[82]
 NigeriaAlthough legally protected, no resident L. pictus populations are in Nigeria, though vagrants from neighbouring countries occasionally appear. Factors inhibiting the species' recovery include a lack of effective protection and the drastic reduction of its prey.[82]L. pictus may still persist in low numbers in Gashaka Gumti National Park, which is fairly close to Cameroon's Faro National Park, where the species still occurs, though no sightings were made in 1982–1986. L. pictus is occasionally reported in Chingurmi-Duguma National Park, with the most recent sighting having occurred in 1995. It is likely locally extinct in Kainji National Park and Borgu Game Reserve, as poaching is intense and the species has not been sighted since the 1980s. It is also extinct in Yankari National Park, with the last sighting having taken place in 1978. One confirmed sighting of a lone individual occurred in 1991 in the Lame Burra Game Reserve.[82]
 SenegalAlthough only partially protected, L. pictus has increased in number since the 1990s in and around Niokolo-Koba National Park, thus making Senegal the best hope for the species in West Africa.[82]L. pictus is present in increasing numbers in and around Niokolo-Koba National Park. The population in the park was estimated to number 50-100 specimens in 1997. This population is monitored and studied by the IUCN's Canid Specialist Group, in conjunction with Senegal's Licaone Fund. Elsewhere, L. pictus is rare or extinct.[82] From 2011 to 2013, conservationists documented the continuing existence of wild dogs in Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal with photos and tracks of wild dogs.[83]
 Sierra LeoneThe species is almost certainly extinct in Sierra Leone.[82]L. pictus may have once been present in the northern savannah-woodland areas, as natives there have names for the species, and some unconfirmed sightings were made in the 1980s. A small population may inhabit Outamba-Kilimi National Park, though only one unconfirmed sighting has been recorded.[82]
 TogoDespite receiving partial protection, L. pictus is probably extinct, and the country is severely lacking in prey species.[82]It may occur in Fazao Mafakassa National Park, though in very low numbers. Rumours exist of some small L. pictus packs taking refuge in caves on the mountain-sides of Mazala, Kpeya, and Kbidi.[82]

Central Africa[edit]

The species is doing poorly in Central Africa, being extinct in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. The only viable populations occur in the Central African Republic, Chad and especially Cameroon.[82]

Country Status Distribution
 CameroonThe status of the African wild dog in Cameroon is uncertain, though three packs occur in the north of the country, thus making it the only possible refuge for the species in Central Africa, along with those present in CAR and southern Chad. Historically, most conservation efforts were directed to rainforest reserves, where the African wild dog does not occur, though efforts in the 1990s sought to redress this. Nevertheless, attitudes towards the species remain negative, with 25 specimens having been killed by professional hunters in northern Cameroon in 1991–1992, with a government quota of 65 specimens during the December 1995 – May 1996 hunting season.[82]The species is still regularly sighted in and around Faro National Park, where four packs were recorded in 1997. It is present in smaller numbers in Bénoué National Park, with several sightings having occurred in 1989 in the area between the two parks. The African wild dog was sighted several times in and around Bouba Njida National Park in 1993.[82] A recent 2012 study in the Benoue Complex in northern Cameroon did not find any wild dogs present.[84]
 Central African RepublicAlthough afforded total legal protection, CAR's African wild dog population has an uncertain future, though it is not far from the larger Cameroonian population.[82]It is rare in Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park, with sightings having been reported as recently as 1992. It was once reportedly common in the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Biosphere Reserve during the 1980s, though there were only two sightings in 1988–1990.[82] African wild dogs have been documented in the south of the CAR in the Chinko-Mbari drainage basin in 2013.[85] Between 2012 and 2017, wild dog populations in the CAR declined due to direct killing by pastoralists.[86]
 ChadNo other recent reports have been given of the African wild dog in Chad, and their legal status is unknown. The southern part of the country may form an important link between African wild dog populations in Cameroon and CAR.[82]The species was already considered rare in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve during the 1980s and has not been sighted since. It is considered extinct in the Bahr Salamat Faunal Reserve. No recent records have placed the species in Manda National Park and the Siniaka-Minia Faunal Reserve, though they once occurred in reasonable numbers during the 1980s.[82]
 Republic of the CongoAlthough afforded total legal protection, the African wild dog has not been sighted in the Republic of Congo since the 1970s.[82]The species may have once inhabited Odzala National Park, though it occurred largely in unprotected areas, where it preyed on livestock and was subsequently exterminated by local pastoralists.[82]
 Democratic Republic of the CongoAlthough the DRC once held a healthy African wild dog population, it has probably been extirpated in the late 1990s.[82]The most recent sighting occurred in 1986 in Upemba National Park.[82]
 Equatorial GuineaThe species is extinct in Equatorial Guinea.[82]No records exist of the species on the island of Bioko and Río Muni.[82]
 GabonThe African wild dog is probably extirpated.[82]The species was apparently once present in the Petit Loango National Park, but has not been sighted in years.[82]

East Africa[edit]

The African wild dog's range in East Africa is patchy, having been eradicated in Uganda and much of Kenya. A small population occupies an area encompassing southern Ethiopia, South Sudan, northern Kenya and probably northern Uganda. The species may still occur in small numbers in southern Somalia and it is almost certainly extinct in Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea. Nevertheless, it remains somewhat numerous in southern Tanzania, particularly in the Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park, both of which are occupied by what could be Africa's largest African wild dog population.[82]

Country Status Distribution
 BurundiDeclared extinct in 1976.[82]No reports have been made in the large protected areas of Kibira and Ruvubu National Parks and the remaining areas are too small to support the species.[82]
 DjiboutiNo data.[82]The only protected area, Day Forest National Park, is unlikely to support the species.[82]
 EritreaProbably extinct.[82]Reports from the early 1900s indicate that the species once occurred in some remote areas, including the future Yob Wildlife Reserve, but with no recent reports.[82]
 EthiopiaThe African wild dog is rare in Ethiopia, despite total legal protection and the government's efforts at strengthening its network of protected areas. The species has been extirpated in three national parks, though it still occurs in the south of the country.[82]The species was once occasionally recorded in and around Gambela National Park, though the last sighting occurred in 1987. It is frequently sighted in the Omo and Mago National Parks, with the most recent sighting in the former having occurred in 1995. Between 1992 and 1993, an estimated one or two packs were in Omo and up to five were in Mago. It occasionally occurs in Bale Mountains National Park, though it is hampered by rabies and persecution by shepherds. Sporadic sightings have also occurred in the Awash and Nechisar National Parks. Three specimens were sighted in the Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary in 1996. Outside protected areas, the species has been reported in Jijiga and Filtu.[82]
 KenyaAlthough widespread, the African wild dog receives only partial legal protection and primarily occurs in unprotected areas, with no high population densities. African wild dog numbers have declined and it has become locally extinct in many areas, with only 15 packs occurring throughout the entire country as of 1997. Local attitudes towards it are poor and it is frequently shot in livestock areas.[82]It is occasionally sighted in the southern part of the Lake Turkana National Parks and the surrounding Turkana County. Vagrant individuals are sometimes sighted at the border with Sudan, in the northeast, around Mandera, Wajir County, and Marsabit National Park. It is rarely encountered in the Samburu National Reserve and has been absent from the Buffalo Springs National Reserve since the mid-1980s. It was observed twice in 1982–1983 in the Kora National Reserve. It is now absent from Mount Kenya, though it was reportedly common in the 1950s. It is probably extinct in Lake Nakuru National Park and a fence erected around the park to protect rhinos prevents the species from recolonising the area. It was twice sighted outside Nairobi National Park, though it is regularly shot and snared there. The species disappeared from the Maasai Mara in 1991 after a disease outbreak. It may still be present in the Rift Valley Province and Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. It is still present in small numbers in the Lamu District, but is declining in the Dodori National Reserve and may be absent in the Tana River Primate Reserve.[82] A few packs were present in Laikipia until 2017 when widespread illegal encroachment by cattle herders led to the animals being shot, or affected by disease introduced by domestic dogs. It is now thought to be absent from the region, except for perhaps a few individuals.[87]
 RwandaAlthough legally protected, the African wild dog is extinct in Rwanda, likely due to a disease outbreak. Modern Rwanda's overly high human population makes the country unsuitable for future recolonisation and a reintroduction project in 1989 was thwarted by the onset of the Rwandan Civil War.[82]The species once occurred in high numbers in Akagera National Park, to the point of it being known as Le Parc aux Lycaons. A disease outbreak wiped out this population in 1983–1984.[82]
 SomaliaThe ongoing Somali Civil War has made the outlook of the African wild dog very poor in the country, with deforestation, poaching, drought and overgrazing preventing the species from recovering, despite it being legally protected.[82]Recent sightings of the African wild dog have occurred in 2015 and 2016 in Istanbuul-Kudaayo and Manaranni-Odow, and during the rainy season in Hola, Wajir, Yamani, and Manarani.[88]

The species may still be present in the north, though the last sighting occurred in 1982. It was once common in the Buloburde District before the late 1970s. A probably declining population may occur near the Jubba River. One pack was sighted in 1994 in Lag Badana National Park, which may be the best stronghold for the species in Somalia.[82]

 SudanAs with all large carnivores, the African wild dog populations fell dramatically during the Second Sudanese Civil War, though sightings have occurred in South Sudan.[82]The species once occurred in the Sudd, though updates are lacking, and it is not afforded any legal protection in the area. It may be present in the Bangagai Game Reserve. A pack was sighted in 1995 in Dinder National Park.[82]
 South SudanIn April 2020, African wild dogs were photographed in South Sudan's Southern National Park by camera traps.[89]
 TanzaniaProspects in Tanzania are good for the African wild dog, as the government imposed a moratorium on all hunting of the species, and it receives full legal protection. Although rare in the north, the south offers ideal habitat, as large tsetse fly populations prevent widespread human colonisation. The Selous Game Reserve and probably Ruaha National Park represent the best strongholds for the species in all of Africa.[82]The species is common in the Selous Game Reserve, where about 880 adult specimens were estimated in 1997. It is also present in neighbouring Mikumi National Park and has been sighted in other nearby areas. the African wild dog may no longer occur in Serengeti National Park, with only 34 individuals being counted in late 1990. It is occasionally seen in the Kilimanjaro and Arusha National Parks.[82]
 UgandaIt is unlikely that Uganda has a resident African wild dog population, as the species was heavily persecuted after a 1955 directive to shoot it on sight. Vagrant specimens occasionally enter the country via Tanzania and South Sudan.[82]A survey taken in 1982–1992 showed that the species was likely extirpated in Uganda, though sightings in some scattered areas may indicate that the African wild dog is recolonising the country. Single individuals and small packs were sighted in Murchison Falls National Park and were seen several times in the Northern Karamoja Controlled Hunting Area in 1994.[82]

Southern Africa[edit]

Southern Africa contains numerous viable African wild dog populations, one of which encompasses northern Botswana, northeastern Namibia and western Zimbabwe. In South Africa, around 400 specimens occur in the country's Kruger National Park. Zambia holds two large populations, one in Kafue National Park and another in the Luangwa Valley. However, the species is rare in Malawi and probably extinct in Mozambique.[82]

Country Status Distribution
 AngolaAlthough the African wild dog is legally protected, the Angolan Civil War prevented the collection of data and there have been only a few reports of the species since 1990.[82]The species was once found throughout Angola's protected areas, though it went into decline during the mid-1970s. It may still occur in the Cuando Cubango Province, where vagrants may arrive from Zambia and Namibia, though the population is probably unviable.[82] In 2020, researchers found unequivocal evidence that wild dogs are resident and reproducing in Bicuar National Park and are present (but possibly only transient) in western Cuando Cubango province.[90]
 BotswanaThe species' prospects in Botswana are hopeful, with the north of the country probably holding the largest African wild dog populations in Africa. Nevertheless, it receives only partial protection and farmers are permitted to shoot it in defence of livestock.[82]The species' most important stronghold in Botswana is Ngamiland, which includes the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. In 1997, at least 42 packs containing 450–500 individuals were estimated in the area. L. pictus is scarce elsewhere.[82]
 MalawiAlthough rare, the African wild dog is legally protected and may only be taken by government hunters and private citizens with ministerial permits. By the 1990s, it was regularly sighted in Kasungu National Park.[82]The species was regularly reported in Kasungu National Park in the 1990s, where there were 18 sightings in 1991 alone. It occurs in low numbers in Nyika National Park and the Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve.[82]
 MozambiqueThe outlook of the African wild dog in Mozambique is poor. The species underwent a rapid reduction in numbers after the Mozambican War of Independence in 1975, reaching the verge of extinction by 1986. Nevertheless, it regularly enters the country via Kruger National Park in neighbouring South Africa.[82]The African wild dog was once widely distributed in the remote and protected areas of the country, though it was declared extinct in western Manica, endangered in Tete and Zambezi and extinct in Nampula. The species still occurred in the Rovuma and Lugenda River regions in 1986 and a pack with pups was sighted in Cahora Bassa in 1996.[82] In 2018, 14 individuals from South Africa were reintroduced to Gorongosa National Park.[91][92]
 NamibiaAlthough heavily persecuted by farmers throughout the country, the species has full legal protection and is doing well in the northeastern part of the country.[82]The species is restricted to the northeast, being extinct elsewhere. The northeastern population is probably connected to that in northern Botswana.[82]
 South AfricaSouth Africa's L. pictus population is listed as 'specially protected' in the South African Red Data Book and it has a stronghold in Kruger National Park, which held 350–400 specimens in the mid-1990s. There have been several attempts to reintroduce the species elsewhere, though only two of these attempts proved successful, and the resulting populations were not large enough to be viable.[82]The species occurs in three regions: the Northern Cape, Kruger National Park and KwaZulu-Natal. The Kruger population numbers at around 375–450 specimens, though they face pressure from lions and spotted hyenas, and are sometimes shot or snared outside the park boundaries. Six specimens were released into the Madikwe Game Reserve during the 1990s, though the reserve is too small to sustain a large population. In KwaZulu-Natal, the species is present in Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, where it was reintroduced during the early 1980s. This population has fluctuated since the reintroduction and local attitudes towards it vary from hostile to favourable.[82]
 EswatiniThere appears to be no resident population in the country.[82]The African wild dog has only been sighted once, when a pack was observed to kill a blesbok in December 1992, staying in the area for two weeks before disappearing.[82]
 ZambiaAlthough once extensively persecuted, the species has total legal protection in Zambia and can only be hunted after purchasing a costly licence from the Minister of Tourism. L. pictus remains widespread and occurs in most protected areas, which are large and hold suitable habitat and prey. Nevertheless, populations have declined since 1990.[82]The species was present in declining numbers in Lusenga Plain National Park in 1988 and have not been reported there since. Sightings have occurred in Sumbu National Park, where the species is likely declining due to disease. Small numbers were recorded in North Luangwa National Park in 1994 and are occasionally seen in the adjoining Musalangu and Lumimba Game Management Areas. It is often sighted in South Luangwa National Park, where it was previously declining due to an anthrax outbreak. Occasional sightings also occur in the Lupande Game Management Area, Luambe National Park, Lukusuzi National Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park.[82]
 ZimbabweZimbabwe holds viable African wild dog populations, which were estimated to consist of 310–430 individuals in 1985. The population increased during the 1990s, with a survey taken in 1990–1992 having estimated the population to be made up of 400–600 animals. The species is legally protected and can only be hunted with a permit, which has only been given once between 1986 and 1992.[82]The bulk of the African wild dog population in Zimbabwe lives in and around Hwange National Park, including Victoria Falls National Park, Matetsi and Deka Safari Areas and Kazuma Pan National Park. Collectively, these areas contain an estimated 35 packs made up of 250–300 individuals.[82]


The African wild dog is primarily threatened by habitat fragmentation, which results in human–wildlife conflict, transmission of infectious diseases and high mortality rates.[2] Surveys in the Central African Republic's Chinko area revealed that the African wild dog population decreased from 160 individuals in 2012 to 26 individuals in 2017. At the same time, transhumantpastoralists from the border area with Sudan moved in the area with their livestock. Rangers confiscated large amounts of poison and found multiple lioncadavers in the camps of livestock herders. They were accompanied by armed merchants who also engage in poaching large herbivores, sale of bushmeat and trading lion skins.[93]

In culture[edit]

Ancient Egypt[edit]

Artistic depictions of African wild dogs are prominent on cosmetic palettes and other objects from Egypt's predynastic period, likely symbolising order over chaos and the transition between the wild and the domestic dog. Predynastic hunters may have also identified with the African wild dog, as the Hunters Palette shows them wearing the animals' tails on their belts. By the dynastic period, African wild dog illustrations became much less represented, and the animal's symbolic role was largely taken over by the wolf.[94][95]


According to Enno Littmann, the people of Ethiopia's Tigray Region believed that injuring a wild dog with a spear would result in the animal dipping its tail in its wounds and flicking the blood at its assailant, causing instant death. For this reason, Tigrean shepherds would repel wild dog attacks with pebbles rather than with edged weapons.[96]

San people[edit]

The African wild dog also plays a prominent role in the mythology of Southern Africa's San people. In one story, the wild dog is indirectly linked to the origin of death, as the hare is cursed by the moon to be forever hunted by African wild dogs after the hare rebuffs the moon's promise to allow all living things to be reborn after death.[97] Another story has the god Cagn taking revenge on the other gods by sending a group of men transformed into African wild dogs to attack them, though who won the battle is never revealed. The San of Botswana see the African wild dog as the ultimate hunter and traditionally believe that shamans and medicine men can transform themselves into wild dogs. Some San hunters will smear African wild dog bodily fluids on their feet before a hunt, believing that doing so will give them the animal's boldness and agility. Nevertheless, the species does not figure prominently in San rock art, with the only notable example being a frieze in Mount Erongo showing a pack hunting two antelopes.[98]


The Ndebele have a story explaining why the African wild dog hunts in packs: in the beginning, when the first wild dog's wife was sick, the other animals were concerned. An impala went to Hare, who was a medicine man. Hare gave Impala a calabash of medicine, warning him not to turn back on the way to Wild Dog's den. Impala was startled by the scent of a leopard and turned back, spilling the medicine. A zebra then went to Hare, who gave him the same medicine along with the same advice. On the way, Zebra turned back when he saw a black mamba, thus breaking the gourd. A moment later, a terrible howling is heard: Wild Dog's wife had died. Wild Dog went outside and saw Zebra standing over the broken gourd of medicine, so Wild Dog and his family chased Zebra and tore him to shreds. To this day, African wild dogs hunt zebras and impalas as revenge for their failure to deliver the medicine which could have saved Wild Dog's wife.[99]

In media[edit]


  • A Wild Dog’s Tale (2013), a single painted dog (named Solo by researchers) befriends hyenas and jackals in Okavango, hunting together. Solo feeds and cares for jackal pups.[100][101]
  • The Pale Pack, Savage Kingdom, Season 1 (2016), was the story of Botswana African wild dog pack leaders Teemana and Molao written and directed by Brad Bestelink, and narrated by Charles Dance premiered on National Geographic.[102][103]
  • Dynasties (2018 TV series), episode 4, Produced by Nick Lyon: Tait is the elderly matriarch of a pack of painted wolves in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park. Her pack is driven out of their territory by Tait's daughter, Blacktip, the matriarch of a rival pack in need of more space for their large family of 32. Their combined territory also shrunk over Tait's lifetime due to the expansion of human, hyena and lion territories. Tait leads her family into the territory of a lion pride in the midst of a drought, with Blacktip's pack in an eight month long pursuit. When Tait died, the pack was observed performing a rare "singing", the purpose of which is unclear.[104]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ abcdMartínez-Navarro, B. & Rook, L. (2003). "Gradual evolution in the African hunting dog lineage: systematic implications". Comptes Rendus Palevol. 2 (8): 695–702. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2003.06.002.
  2. ^ abcdeWoodroffe, R. & Sillero-Zubiri, C. (2020) [amended version of 2012 assessment]. "Lycaon pictus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T12436A166502262.
  3. ^Temminck (1820), Ann. Gen. Sci. Phys., 3:54, pl.35
  4. ^ ab"Painted Dogs". Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  5. ^"AWD - Facts". Born Free Foundation. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  6. ^"African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus Temminck, 1820) - - Animal Encyclopedia". Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  7. ^"African Wild Dog Natural History". Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  8. ^ abcdWoodroffe, R.; McNutt, J.W. & Mills, M.G.L. (2004). "African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus". In Sillero-Zubiri, C.; Hoffman, M. & MacDonald, D. W. (eds.). Foxes, Jackals and Dogs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. pp. 174–183. ISBN .
  9. ^Roskov Y.; Abucay L.; Orrell T.; et al. (eds.). "Canis lycaon Temminck 1820". Catalogue of Life 2018 Checklist. Catalogue of Life. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  10. ^"Painted Dog Conservation - Main page". Painted Dog Conservation.
  11. ^Dyer, N. (2018). "What's in a name? Dogs or wolves, painted or wild". Africa Geographic.
  12. ^ abSmith, C. H. (1839). Dogs, W.H. Lizars, Edinburgh, p. 261-69
  13. ^Ginsberg, Joshua R. (July 1991). "Painted Wolves: Wild Dogs of the Serengeti-MaraJonathan Scott Hamish Hamilton, London, 1991, 233 pp., HB £25.00". Oryx. 25 (3): 173. doi:10.1017/S0030605300034232. ISSN 1365-3008.
  14. ^Kristof, N. D. (2010). "Every (wild) dog has its day". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  15. ^"The Painted Wolf Foundation - A Wild Dog's Life". The Painted Wolf Foundation. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  16. ^ abcdSkinner, J. D. & Chimimba, C. T. (2005). "The African wild dog". The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 474–480. ISBN .
  17. ^Blades, B. (2020). "What's in a name? An evidence-based approach to understanding the implications of vernacular name on conservation of the painted dog (Lycaon pictus)". Language and Ecology. 2019–2020: 1–27.
African Wild Dog - Teamwork Strategies - Predators (Nat Geo Wild)

Read about these fascinating creatures below, then see them firsthand on safari with National Geographic.

A dog by any other name: The African wild dog also goes by the names of Cape hunting dog or painted dog. Like a zebra’s unique stripe pattern or a human’s fingerprint, no two dogs have the same markings on their coat. Mottled with red, black, brown, white, and yellow patches of fur, the effect is as striking as it is essential to survival.

Play it by ear: Like satellite dishes, the large rounded ears of African wild dogs swivel to detect minute sounds in the distance.

Less is more: Another way African wild dogs differ from domestic dogs: They only have four toes per foot.

Survival of the fastest: Wild dogs can sprint after prey at speeds of up to 44 miles an hour.

Pack mentality: African wild dogs live and die for their family—literally. Though the bigger the clan the more efficient the hunt, non-breeding adults sacrifice their own nourishment to ensure the pups in the group get enough to eat and grow. Subsequently these altruistic elders tend to gradually become malnourished and die younger than their peers in packs with fewer offspring.

Top dogs: With an impressive 80 percent success rate, wild dogs are among Africa’s most effective predators. Lions only prevail around 30 percent of the time.

Not exactly man’s best friend: Even with their finely honed hunting skills, African wild dogs count among the world’s most endangered mammals. According to the IUCN Red List, only around 6,600 wild dogs remain, mostly in Tanzania, northern Mozambique, and southern Africa. The biggest threats facing the species come from their increased contact with humans: habitat loss, villagers seeking revenge against killed livestock, and viral diseases contracted from domestic dogs.

Not all who wander are lost: African wild dogs spend their days prowling huge amounts of territory, with home ranges of up to several hundred square miles in the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Consider this comparison: Greater London is home to 8.8 million people, but an area that size could only support one or two African wild dog packs.

Adventures in babysitting: A monogamous pair of alpha dogs leads each pack, with the whole crew caring for each litter of pups—from taking turns guarding and nursing the pups to regurgitating meat after a hunt.

No dog left behind: African wild dogs work together in packs of 6 to 20 or more to hunt antelopes and even larger prey such as wildebeests. These highly social beasts communicate with each other by touch, actions, and vocalizations—before a hunt, you can see them playfully circling each other and seeming to psych each other up for the endeavor. They’re also one of the few mammals that care for the old, sick, and disabled members of the pack.

African wild dogs are among the continent's rarest wildlife sightings; travelers have a relatively high chance of spotting these captivating canines in the wildlife parks of South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana, to name a few.


Dog african wild national geographic

Africa’s Wild Side!

Journey through lush forests, winding waterways and vast desert plains in Africa’s Wild Side! Discover how the incredible animals in the Botswana bush survive in one of the most unforgiving wildernesses on Earth…


Battle of the Sexes | 3 December at 6 p.m.

Africa's Wild Side

All life is shaped by one powerful driving force: the need to breed. And every animal on the African plains is a player in the mating game. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring strategies and rituals of the charismatic creatures of Botswana as they do everything they can to survive in the wild and further their bloodlines!


Born to Survive | 10 December at 6 p.m.

Africa's Wild Side

There is no tougher place to bring up a baby than in the wilds of Botswana. Find out how the amazing animals in the bush use teamwork and experience to raise their young and teach them all the tactics and skills they’ll need to survive, from the day they are born!


Nature’s Greatest Architects | 17 December at 6 p.m.

Africa's Wild Side

Stretching across swamps, savannahs and deserts, Botswana is a land of epic beauty, where the wildlife itself shapes the land. Discover how all the animal there – great and small – build, maintain and renovate their homes in this awesome third instalment!


Which episodes will you be watching? Let us know by leaving a comment, below!

African Wild Dog - National Geographic Documentary HD

What Wildlife Shows Don’t Tell You About African Wild Dogs

In the first episode of The Hunt, the recent blockbuster BBC natural history series, a pack of African wild dogs attacks a wildebeest in the grasslands of Zambia. Their ears are flat, their legs pound the grass, their muscles flex beneath beautiful black, white, and orange hides. They work in relay, with fitter dogs taking over from tired runners at the front. “The pack can keep this up for miles; the wildebeest can’t,” says David Attenborough. “Their success will depend on wearing him down on a long chase.”

This is the portrait of African wild dogs that has become enshrined in textbooks, scientific papers, and wildlife documentaries like The Hunt, Life Story, and Planet Earth. They are the ultimate endurance hunters and the most efficient predators in Africa, relying on teamwork and stamina to bring down some 80 percent of their prey.

Or are they?

In the firststudy of its kind, a team of scientists led by Alan Wilson from the Royal Veterinary College fitted a pack of wild dogs with collars that recorded their position, speed, and acceleration. The collars gave the first unbiased view of the dogs’ hunts, revealing what they do in places where the scientists couldn’t see them.

The data revealed that the dogs chased almost all of their prey over short runs rather than long pursuits. They didn’t coordinate their attacks, and they never showed signs of teamwork. On average, they killed just 16 percent of their targets.

In other words, nothing about their reputations bore out in the data. “It was really quite the opposite of what we expected,” says Tatjana Hubel, who was involved in the study. “We’re not saying they never do these things, but we didn’t see any evidence.”

In April 2012, the team travelled to Botswana and collared a pack of six adult wild dogs: Kobe, Timbuktu, MJ, Scorpion, Accra, and Kigali. They then left the dogs alone for five to seven months. Over that time, the collars recorded over 1,100 chases that lasted for just a minute on average—far shorter than expected. The chases were also rather leisurely—the dogs had a top speed of 40 miles per hour, but rarely broke 13.

The dogs travelled together but when they attacked herds of impala, their main prey, they showed no evidence of cooperation. On 40 percent of the chases, the dogs immediately scattered. In the other 60 percent, they ran in the same direction but didn’t use specific manoeuvres like blocking or flanking. Most chases ended with the dogs at different locations—a clear sign that they weren’t targeting the same prey. And even when the whole pack took part in a chase, they rarely all ran at the same time.

Rare Video: Wild Dogs Take Down Impala

Rare Video: Wild Dogs Take Down Impala
A Nat Geo WILD crew in 2014 caught an unusual look at a pack of wild dogs taking down a pregnant impala.

Wilson’s team also compared their dog data with information from wild cheetahs, which they collared a few years ago. “They represent two extremes of how you can hunt,” says Hubel. “At one end, you have high athleticism, and at the other, you have high endurance.”

Cheetahs are indeed more athletic: Their chases are shorter and faster, involving half as many strides and much greater acceleration. Their success rate is also higher: A cheetah kills 26 percent of its targets, compared to just 15 percent for a single wild dog. Yet the dogs have one advantage. “The dogs are not investing as much in each individual hunt as a cheetah,” says Wilson. “They go through the long grass and have a go, have a go, have a go until they catch something. You’ll see the same with domestic dogs. They’ll make a few steps and see if they want a go.”

This style of hunting is incredibly efficient, especially because the dogs share their food. For every kill, a solitary cheetah recoups 22 times the energy it spent on hunting. By comparison, a pack of wild dogs recoups 73 times the energy it put in. This refutes another common conceit about wild dogs: that they live on an energy precipice, vulnerable to thieving lions and hyenas, and always on the verge of starvation. Not so: even assuming the worst conditions—juvenile prey, scarce herds, tough chases, thieving hyenas—a six-dog pack can still catch enough food to feed 16 members.

The many discrepancies between the team’s results and the dogs’ reputation may come down to habitat. Scientists first started studying wild dogs on the wide grasslands of East Africa, and the sequence in The Hunt was also filmed on open plains. At the time of writing, Wikipedia says that “the African wild dog is mostly found in savannah and arid zones, generally avoiding forested areas.” That may once have been true, but wild dogs have been exterminated from much of their former range. The remaining packs live mostly in mosaic habitats—bits of grassland dotted by woodland and bushes. That’s where Wilson’s pack lived, and in such terrain, long chases aren’t feasible.

Nor are direct observations. During the study, Julia Myatt tracked the collared dogs for three months and in that time, she saw just one reasonably complete hunt. And even then, she had no idea that while she was watching, three of the dogs went off and killed something else. The team only knew what was going on because of their collars.

“I was amazed at the detailed data,” says Michael Somers from the University of Pretoria. To him, the results show that the dogs’ hunting behaviour is “context-dependent” and “can be altered to suit local condition.” It might also be specific to the one pack that the team collared. “There is an example of a pack specializing on zebra, for instance. This was not widespread in the population. So there may be cooperative behaviour in the presently studied population, and maybe just not in the sampled pack.”

But Wilson says, “Our collaborator, J. Weldon McNutt, has been studying these dogs since 1989, and he would say that’s typical of what they do.” The team confirmed that by collaring individuals from 18 other packs. These other dogs showed the same pattern of multiple short chases. “It’s unlikely that those individuals did short chases while the others went off to do long endurance hunting,” says Hubel.

Wilson suspects that scientists and film-makers have focused on aspects of the dogs’ lives that could be easily observed—hunting larger prey over open grassland—and such conditions produce the kinds of behaviour one expects from the dogs. “Maybe we see what we want to,” he says. You apply the status quo of knowledge. You shoot footage and present it at that context.”

“Maybe the next documentary will give a different story.”


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