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African Wild Dog

Lycaon

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African Wild Dog

Facts about the African Wild Dog

Family: Canidae
Height at shoulder: 70 to 80 cm
Length: 80 cm to 1.1 m (plus 30 to 40 cm for tail)
Weight: 20 to 30 kg
Lifespan: 11 years

  • Broad skull
  • Large round ears
  • Long snout and powerful jaws
  • Multicoloured coat with black, tan and white markings
  • Long legs

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), also called “Painted hunting dog” or “Cape hunting dog”, is native only to Africa and found chiefly in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania.

4 toes, 40 teeth

LycaonThe long and slender legs of the African wild dog give it a lean and lithe appearance. Its head resembles that of a hyena. Unlike most other canids, which have 5 toes on each paw and 42 teeth, the African wild dog has only 4 toes and 40 teeth. An individual can be easily distinguished by the unique markings on its coat.

Wide-ranging nomad

The African wild dog’s lifestyle requires an enormous territory. This nomad of the steppes and savannah is always on the move, with the exception of a three-month breeding season each year. The rest of the year, it roams over a territory of up to 4,000 km2.

A den for all

The pack is organized around a dominant couple. After months of nomadic activity, the group settles down to allow for the female to give birth and raise the pups to an age where they can follow the pack when it begins moving again. During this period, the clan, numbering from five to 20 individuals, takes up shelter in a den large enough to accommodate all members.

Reproduction

Mating occurs once a year, between June and September. The dominant couple are generally the only members of the pack to mate. Following a gestation period of 70 days, about ten puppies are born. Newborns do not leave the den until around three weeks of age.

Protective family

LycaonNewborns are weaned after a month, and begin feeding on meat that the adults regurgitate into their mouths. While gradually being taught to hunt, young African wild dogs are raised and protected by all members of the pack.

United clan

African wild dogs are strongly united. Pack members regurgitate food for individuals who are incapable of hunting due to old age or injury, and also wait for the youngest members who have difficulty keeping up.

Ruthless predator

The hunt, led by the clan leader, is conducted slowly and silently. Once the attack is launched, the pack is ruthless. The dogs isolate their prey in order to exhaust it, then devour it alive. African wild dogs generally feed on gazelles, impalas and antelopes, but can also take down a lion or a wildebeest. Able to reach speeds of up to 60 km/h, they rarely lose their prey.

Shared meal

Captured prey is shared among all members of the clan, including those that did not take part in the hunt. Terrifying as these predators can be, they give priority to the youngest members at mealtimes. Each day, the African wild dog consumes about 3 kg of meat.

Threatened species

LycaonThe African wild dog population has plummeted over the last century as the animals were persecuted by humans and fell victim to epidemics and other illnesses. With barely 3,000 individuals remaining and a low survival rate among newborns, the species today is threatened with extinction.

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