African wild dogs are found in the savannas, grasslands, open woodlands and semi-desert areas of southern and eastern Africa. They are highly efficient pack hunters that prey on antelope, wildebeest and other mammals. Their average lifespan is about 11 years in the wild.
African Wild Dog
Scientific & Common Names
The scientific name for the African wild dog is Lycaon pictus. The species is known by a few common names, including Painted Hunting Dog and Cape Hunting Dog.
African wild dogs have a colorful coat of fur that features unique patterns of red, black, yellow, brown and white. Most have black fur on their heads and white fur on the tip of their tail. Other physical characteristics include rounded ears and muscular legs. Adults generally weigh between 39 to 79 pounds and grow to be between 29 and 43 inches in length.
African wild dog packs have a dominant male and female who are typically the only pair that breeds. Breeding takes places between January to May and females give birth to a litter after a gestation period of 60 to 80 days. The litters range in size from two to twenty pups, with an average litter size of eight. The pups stay solely with their mother for about one month, after which the whole pack cares for them.
African wild dogs live in packs that generally contain between seven to fifteen members, although they sometimes form much larger packs. They are non-territorial and roam from one area to another in search of prey. Their hunting method involves chasing prey, sometimes for long periods of time or over great lengths, until they tire. African wild dogs communicate with each other vocally and by using body language.
African wild dogs used to roam much larger ranges throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They’ve become extinct in several countries, including Cameroon, Gambia and Swaziland and might be gone from Nigeria, Uganda and the Congo region as well. The main cause of population loss for this species has been habitat fragmentation, which has led to conflict with farmers, as well as dogs and other domestic animals.
African wild dogs have been an endangered species since 1990 due to their steadily declining numbers. The most recent estimates put their population at 6,600 adults. Habitat fragmentation is still the main cause of their decreasing numbers. Conservation efforts aimed at protecting this species include educating humans who encounter African wild dogs, improving land use and setting up conservation areas.