Animal of the Month
July 2022

Name: African Wild Dog (AKA African Painted Dog, African Hunting Dog)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Subfamily: Caninae
Tribe: Canini
Genus: Lycaon
Species: L. pictus
L. p. pictus
L. p. lupinus
L. p. somalicus
L. p. sharicus
L. p. manguensis

Quadruped; slender body and long legs; body covered in bristly fur; long, thin tail; long neck; head with snout and two large, rounded ears.

Weight: 40-75lbs.h
Size: 30-43 inches.
Color(s): Multicolored with patches and bands of black, brown, white and tan. Muzzle is usually black, tail is usually white.
Behavior: Diurnal, lives in social groups.
Preferred Habitit: Dense forest, open plains, scrubland.
Range: Scattered parts of eastern, northern and southern Africa.
Diet: Various hoofed animals including antelope, gazelle and zebra . Also feeds on smaller animals such as hares, rodents and porcupines.
Lifespan: 10-12 years.


Some forms of art involve abstract paintings with seemingly random blended colors. If African wild dogs could speak, perhaps they would appreciate abstract art, because their fur coats are just as erratic! In fact, African wild dogs are also known as African painted dogs because of their wild, blended fur coats. Cousins of wolves and other canines, these colorful critters can be found in scattered areas across northern, eastern, and southern Africa.

African wild dogs live in packs. These packs usually have around sixteen members, though sometimes they can be as large as forty! Like wolves, each pack is dominated by an alpha male and female. This pair leads hunting parties and usually is the only pair to breed. Packs usually have more males than females. Males are more likely to stick with the pack, while growing females will strike out on their own to form their own packs.

African wild dogs prey on other animals, usually medium-sized hoofed creatures like antelopes, impalas and zebras. They also will go after smaller animals like rodents and porcupines. These canines are especially unique in their hunting habits in that they vote on when to hunt! You read that correctly. When the dominant pair of wild dogs wants to go hunting, they make an abrupt exhalation like a sneeze. If several other wild dogs sneeze in response, the pack will leave for a hunt. Lower-ranking members will also sneeze when they want to go hunting. In this case, it may take around ten others to sneeze their vote to send the group off. Who knew that wild dogs cared about democracy?!

Most African wild dog populations do not appear to have a set mating season, however the wild dogs in southern Africa appear to mate during April though July. A mother wild dog will gestate for about 70 days before giving birth to a litter of 6-16 pups in a den. After about three weeks, the pups will venture from the den. By five weeks they will eat meat brought home by pack members, and by ten weeks they will join hunts themselves.

African wild dogs are endangered. Their main threat is the fragmentation of their habitat. As humans develop more wild places, the wild dogs are left with less space to live. Wild dogs are also blamed for livestock killings, though these are more often caused by leopards or hyenas. Farmers will often shoot or poison wild dogs in an effort to protect their animals. Fortunately, many dedicated people are working to help humans live in harmony with wild dogs. The African Wildlife Foundation helps farmers to construct special fences to keep wild dogs out. Painted Dog Conservation also runs anti-poaching teams to protect these magnificent creatures. With better understanding of wild dog populations and human needs, we can build a future that will benefit everyone.

To learn more about the work being done to protect these painted voters, check out these organizations:

Painted Dog Conservation-This organization takes bold action to secure wild dog habitat and rehabilitate injured animals!

African Wildlife Conservation Fund-Protecting wild dogs and other animals in Zimbabwe!

African Wildlife Foundation, African Wild Dog Page-Working with local farmers and others to protect the wild dogs!


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