African Wild Dog
- Genus/Species: Lycaon pictus
- Conservation Status: Endangered
- Location: Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.
A ‘Painted Wolf-Like Animal’
The African wild dog is a highly intelligent and social animal. Its Latin name, Lycaon pictus, means "painted wolf-like animal." An African wild dog’s colorful patchy coat is mottled in shades of brown, black and beige. It has large, rounded bat-like tail ears and dark brown circles around its eyes. African wild dogs are found in arid zones, savannas and grasslands. They also are found in woodland and mountainous habitats where their prey lives. They live and hunt in groups called packs.
African wild dogs are the size of medium domestic dogs. Packs of African wild dogs hunt antelopes and will also tackle much larger prey, especially if the prey is ill or injured. They also feed on rodents and birds. African wild dogs have an ill-deserved reputation as aggressive, vicious killers. In fact, unlike almost any other predator, they live in extraordinary co-operation with one another. For example, the young and ill are allowed to feed first after a successful hunt.
Like most predators, the African wild dog plays an important role in eliminating sick and weak animals. This helps to maintain a natural balance in nature, and in the long run, improves the prey species. African wild dogs face a number of serious threats, including habitat loss, hunting and poisoning by human, as they are considered a threat to livestock. Another danger that these dogs face is disease that spreads from domestic animals. African Wild Dogs have disappeared from much of their former range, and most of those that remain live in game preserves or national parks. Many organizations work to understand and combat the problems that these dogs are facing. These organizations also have conservation and education programs to change the negative attitudes that have existed for decades, towards these colorful painted African wild dogs.
Did You Know?
- Each African wild dog has its own unique coat pattern.
- These dogs differ from wolves and other dogs in that they have four toes instead of five.
- The African wild dog’s bushy tail has a white tip that may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting.
- Of all the large land predators, the wild dog is the most successful hunter, with an average of 80% success.