Monday, March 17, 2014


“Few animals have been as maligned in popular belief or suffered for it as much as the African wild dog.”

I’m not sure who made the above statement, but I think we should learn a bit more about this endangered Dog of Africa. It may help us to understand why.

Meet the African Wild Dog or as the Greeks called him, Lycaon Pictus, which means Painted Wolf.

The African Wild Dog has a mottled (spotted, speckled or blotchy) coat. Every dog has a unique pattern and individuals can be identified by that pattern. No two dogs look alike. The fur is red, black, yellow, white and brown. Their tails are always tipped with white. The coat provides the best camouflage, which means that he blends in very well with his surroundings.

As you can see from the above and below pictures, the Wild Dog also has very big ears. His large ears have two purposes. First, they help to cool him in the heat of the African sun, and they give him excellent hearing for hunting his prey.

He also has very long legs. His legs give him the ability to run fast when hunting. They can run up to 37 miles per hour and are successful at catching up to their prey 70-90% of the time. They are different from our domestic dog in that they only have four toes instead of five. The Wild Dog is crepuscular, which means they are active at dusk and dawn. They hunt during the day because they depend on their eyesight to help them find their meals.

The African Wild Dog can weigh between 40-80 pounds and can stand up to 30 inches at the shoulder.

They are the largest canines on the African continent, living live on the sub-Saharan plains and savannas. Historically they could be found from the Sahara to South Africa, but their range is now limited. At this time, they are endangered and there are ‘fewer than 5000 Wild Dogs left’ (Denver Zoo).

The African Wild Dog is an extremely intelligent and social mammal. They are considered the world’s most social dog. They do everything together, from hunting their
prey, to eating their meals and taking care of their young. As a matter of fact, their pups are the first to fed after they bring home their prey.

They live in packs of 10 to 30 animals. Large tracks of land are necessary to support a Wild Dog pack.  Currently, their pack numbers are dwindling due to the fact that their ranges are becoming smaller and cannot support larger groups. The packs have a ranking system, which is led by a dominant male, and female who is the breeding pair.

Photo credit:
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby

The Wild Dog has no natural predators. However, Lions and Hyenas will prey on individuals separated from their pack. Their biggest threats are humans and habitat reduction. Farmers will hunt and kill them if they believe that they are a danger to their livestock.

I have one more very interesting fact for you about the African Wild Dog. They have a very long large intestine. This may sound a bit yucky, but this long large intestine allows the body of the Wild Dog to absorb more moisture from their food. This gives them the ability to survive longer in harsh, hot climate without a drink of water for longer periods of time than other animals.

I don't know if we've answered the question as to why the African Wild Dog is so maligned, which means vilified or, thought to be evil, but we certainly did learn a lot today. All animals in the wild understand one thing better than anything else and that is how to survive. The African Wild Dog is a survivor. Let's hope that people find a way to help it do so. 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post and will return again next week.

Please go to the following web sites to learn more about Africa’s Wild Dog. 

As always, my sincere thanks to, and to Burrard-Lucas ( pictures and information.

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza
An Award Winning Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages


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