african wild dog

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Two unbelievable facts:

  • The long intestines of African wild dogs mean that they have a very efficient system for absorbing as much water as possible from their food. This gives these canines an advantage in arid climates, since they don't need to find such a regular supply of water. Therefore, the African wild dog can be active for a long time without drinking water.
  • Unlike many other carnivores, the African wild dog kills its prey by starting to eat it while it is still alive. Presumably, the animal actually died faster and with less pain than in its usual aggressive ways.

Classification and Evolution

Types of Dingo
Also known as the Painted Dog, the African Wild Dog is a medium-sized canid native to sub-Saharan Africa.

©Thomas Retterath/

The African wild dog (also known as the painted dog and the cape hound) is a medium-sized canine found in sub-Saharan Africa. The African wild dog is most easily recognized from domestic dogs and other wild dogs by its brightly mottled fur, and its scientific name, Lycaon pictus, aptly means painted wolf . It is the only extant member of the genus Lycaon.

Five subspecies of Lycaon pictus are currently listed, but there is scientific debate about the classification, so they may change in time:

  • Cape Wild Dog, L. p. Pictures
  • East African wild dog, L. p. lupine
  • Somali wild dog, L. p. Somalix
  • Chadian Wild Dog, L. p. Relic
  • West African Wild Dog, L. p. Mango

The African wild dog or its ancestors have been around for a very, very long time. The species diverged genetically from other canids more than 1.7 million years ago. Fossils show evidence of Lycaon pictus in the area of modern Israel 200,000 years ago. These dogs were known and depicted in ancient Egyptian art. They are also mentioned in literature dating back to the second and third centuries.

Over the centuries, they have evolved well to suit their needs and environment. These evolutionary changes include color as camouflage and temperature regulators, and their teeth and feet have evolved. Most canids have five toes on both the front and back feet, but the African wild dog lost the first toe on the front foot to extend its stride and speed and make it easier to chase prey over long distances on open plains .

anatomy and appearance

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) has a mottled coat, each with a unique pattern.

© Mr. Philip Gabrielsen/Creative Commons – Licensing

The most notable feature of the African wild dog is its beautiful mottled coat, which makes this canine very easy to identify. African Wild Dog coats come in red, black, white, brown, and yellow, with random color patterns that are unique to each individual. It is also thought to act as a form of camouflage, helping African wild dogs blend in with their surroundings. African wild dogs also have large ears, a long muzzle, and long legs with four toes on each foot. This is one of the biggest differences between African wild dogs and other canids, as there are five of them. They also have a large stomach and a long large intestine, which helps them absorb water from food more efficiently.

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Distribution and Habitat

African wild dogs naturally roam the deserts, open plains and arid savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa, and their range is rapidly declining. The African wild dog is thought to have once been found in nearly 40 different African countries, but today that number is much lower, between 10 and 25. Most African wild dog populations are now largely confined to national parks in southern Africa, with the largest populations found in Botswana and Zimbabwe. African wild dogs require large territories to support their packs, and in fact, as their range shrinks, so do pack numbers.

Behavior and Lifestyle

African wild dogs travel in packs led by a dominant breeding pair.

© Bart Swanson/Creative Commons – Licensed

African Wild Dogs are very intelligent and sociable animals, usually gathered in groups of between 10 and 30 individuals. There is a strict ranking system within wolf packs, led by dominant breeding pairs. They are the most sociable dogs in the world and do everything as a pack, from finding and sharing food, to helping sick members and helping raise their pups. African wild dogs communicate with each other through touch, movement and sound. Wolf pack members are very close, gathering together to sniff and lick each other before hunting, while wagging their tails and screeching. African wild dogs lead an evening lifestyle, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.

You can check out incredible facts about the African wild dog.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

In African wild dog groups there is usually only one breeding pair, a dominant male and a female member. After a gestation period of about 70 days, a female African wild dog gives birth to 2 to 20 pups in a den, where she stays with the pups for the first few weeks and relies on other pack members to provide her with food African wild dog pups leave the den at 2 to 3 months of age to be fed and cared for by the entire pack until they are old enough to be independent and usually leave to join or start another African wild dog pack. It is believed that the more care is given to the pups, the better their chances of survival.

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diet and prey

The African wild dog is a carnivorous and opportunistic predator with greater speed and stamina than most other animals.

© Mathias Appel – Public Domain

The African wild dog is a carnivorous and opportunistic predator that hunts large animals in packs on the African plains. African wild dogs prey primarily on large mammals such as warthogs and many species of antelope, supplemented by rodents, lizards, birds and insects. They have even been known to hunt larger herbivores, such as wildebeest, that are made vulnerable by disease or injury. Although the African wild dog usually takes its prey much faster, the chase can last for miles, and it is the dog's stamina and tenacity and their ability to maintain speed that make them so successful. Hunting in packs also means African wild dogs can easily corner their prey.

Predators and Threats

Due to the relatively large size and dominance of African wild dogs and their groups, there are few natural predators in their native habitat. Lions and hyenas have been known to sometimes prey on individuals of the African wild dog that have become separated from other groups.

One of the biggest threats to African wild dogs is that farmers hunt them for fear they will prey on their livestock. The slightly savage nature of the African wild dog has led to its superstition, and locals have nearly wiped out entire populations in some areas.

The loss of their historic range, often due to expanding human settlements, has pushed remaining African wild dog populations to small pockets of their native range. Although most African wild dog populations are confined to national parks today, they often require larger territories and come into conflict with humans when they leave these protected areas.

The dogs are also susceptible to diseases carried by livestock, leading to further declines in numbers.

conservation status

Today, the African wild dog is listed as endangered by the IUCN. There are thought to be only about 6,600 people left roaming sub-Saharan Africa today, and numbers are still declining.

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African Wild Dog FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are African wild dogs herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

African wild dogs are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

To which kingdom do African wild dogs belong?

African wild dogs belong to the animal kingdom.

What phylum does the African wild dog belong to?

African wild dogs belong to the phylum Chordate.

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What family does the African wild dog belong to?

African wild dogs belong to the canine family.

What order is the African wild dog?

African wild dogs belong to the order Carnivora.

What type of mulch do African wild dogs have?

The African wild dog is covered with fur.

What genus does the African wild dog belong to?

The African wild dog belongs to the genus Wolfdog.

Where do African wild dogs live?

African wild dogs live in sub-Saharan Africa.

What type of habitat do African wild dogs live in?

African wild dogs live in open plains and savannas.

What are the natural enemies of African wild dogs?

Predators of African wild dogs include lions, hyenas and humans.

How many children does an African wild dog have?

The average number of babies for an African Wild Dog is 8.

What are some interesting facts about African wild dogs?

African Wild Dog aka Painted Dog!

What is the scientific name of the African wild dog?

The scientific name of the African wild dog is Lycaon pictus.

What is the lifespan of African wild dogs?

African wild dogs can live 10 to 13 years.

How many species of African wild dog are there?

There is 1 species of African wild dog.

What is the biggest threat to African wild dogs?

The biggest threat facing the African wild dog is habitat loss.

What is another name for the African wild dog?

African wild dogs are also known as hunting dogs, painted dogs, or painted wolves.

How many African wild dogs are left in the world?

There are fewer than 5,000 African wild dogs left in the world.

How Fast Are African Wild Dogs?

African wild dogs can travel at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

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  9. African Wild Dog Conservation, available here:
  10. About the African wild dog, available here:
  11. African wild dog group, available here: