African wild dog

Species profile

Name: the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is a member of the dog family native to sub-Saharan Africa. With a total population of around 6,000, African wild dogs have been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1990.

Appearance: African wild dogs are easily recognised by their colourful coats – giving them their other name of ‘painted wolves’. The colours of their coats are some of the most varied across all mammals. It’s thought that the unique patterns on each individual help in identification – allowing them to recognise each other at distances of up to 100 metres!

Size: they stand around 0.75 m tall with a length of around 1.5 m. They typically weigh around 30 kg.

Diet: they are specialist antelope hunters – catching them by chasing as a pack until their prey is exhausted. Their preferred targets are greater kudu, Thomson’s gazelle, impala, bushbuck, and wildebeest.

Did you know: although not as prominent in African folklore as other carnivores, wild dogs are respected and revered in several cultures. 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 smear the dogs’ bodily fluids on their feet before a hunt, believing it will give them the animal’s boldness and agility.

Location: they once ranged across the deserts and mountainous areas of much of sub-Saharan Africa. Nowadays they are mostly found in Southern Africa, particularly Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. 

Where to see African wild dogs

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see African wild dogs in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
South Africa
very low
very good

Photo credit: skivvy under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay 

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