pack of african wild dog

African Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus)

African wild dogs are also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted wolves. Lycaon pictus means ‘painted wolf’, which refers to the dogs’ irregular mottled coat with red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. Each dog has its own unique signature pattern.

The African wild dog is the largest canid in Africa, and is a highly endangered species that has all but disappeared from much of its original range. Due to disease, human persecution and habitat fragmentation, the African Wild Dog population continues to decline.

african wild dog standing in the bush

African wild dogs are among the most effective predators in the world. They use extraordinary co-operative teamwork to pursue and bring down their prey. As a result, up to 80% of their hunts end successfully (for context, consider the fact that lions have a success rate in the region of 10%).

Wild dogs rely on a combination of stamina and speed to secure their prey. What is rather remarkable is that these creatures can reach speeds of up to 64km/h, which they are able to maintain for up to 5kms (during the hunt, however, their average speed is 48km/h). The wild dogs will finish consuming the antelope within minutes. If denning, they will immediately make their way to the den site to regurgitate undigested food for the pups and the alpha female.

wild dogs feeding on an impala carcass

Wild dogs have one of the most valuable social structures, with a strict hierarchy. The highest-ranked male and female dogs in the pack make up the Alpha Pair, who almost always lie in close proximity. This is the only breeding pair in the pack, and the entire pack will take care of their offspring. Occasionally a Beta Pair will mate, but this is only as insurance for the Alpha Pair should their pups not survive. The Alpha female would then adopt the Beta Pair’s pups. The alpha female also chooses where her pack will den – often in an abandoned termite mound.

At Arathusa we have been fortunate enough to see three packs of wild dogs moving in and out of the area. One of the packs is a frequent visitor, and the dogs are often seen in front of the lodge at the dam, bringing incredible sightings right to our guests – be that while they relax on the deck or enjoy breakfast in the morning – without having to head out into the bush on a drive.

Until next time…

Your Arathusa Guides

african wild dog walking in water

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