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The African wild dog is highly endangered, second only to the Ethiopian wolf as the most endangered carnivore on the African continent. Several years ago we published a book called ‘In Search of the African Wild Dog’, in the hope of increasing public awareness of this very special animal and the dire predicament it finds itself in today.

Here are 10 interesting facts about them:

1. The African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, can trace its ancestry back millions of years into the past. It belongs to the Canidae family and is one of five species in southern Africa - the wild dog, black-backed jackal, side-striped jackal, Cape fox and bat-eared fox.

2. It is sleek and slender, weighing about 30 kg when fully grown, with long thin legs, a large head, rounded black ears, a white tipped tail and a marbled coat in various combinations of black, white and tan.

3. Each dog has its own distinctive colour pattern, which provides great camouflage on the grassy plains and in the open woodlands and bushy savannahs that it frequents. Their unique markings have proved invaluable to researchers as a way of identifying different individuals in a study group.

4. Wild dogs live together in groups of about 6 to 30 members (with an average number of 10) and while individually they are rather insignificant, their strength and presence lies in the tight social structure of the pack.

5. As a rule only the alpha male and female breed, and the remaining dogs provide support for the couple and their young. They will look after the dominant female during her confinement, guard the den, mind the pups and bring back food to feed the mother, pups and babysitters after a successful hunt.

6. In southern Africa breeding tales place in mid winter and, after a gestation period of about 70 days, generally around 10 pups are born. The den is usually located in an old aardvark hole and some packs have favourite denning areas, returning to the same neighbourhood or even to the same den year after year.

7. Wild dogs have huge home ranges, which can cover areas of between 500 and 2 000 square km. The size of their range normally depends on the presence of game and when prey is scarce the dogs travel extensively in their search for food.

8.They are superb hunters and operate as a team during the hunt, relying on their speed and stamina to exhaust their prey. They pull down small to medium sized antelope with ease and are able to kill animals much bigger than themselves, like kudu and waterbuck.

9. On average wild dogs have nearly an 80% success rate during a hunt, which is a remarkable statistic and far outstrips that of a pride of lions, which are successful only 30% of the time.

10. When members of a pack get active before a hunt, or when they meet up after they have been separated, they go through a greeting ceremony that involves begging, cringing and nuzzling, accompanied by an excited twittering that sounds almost birdlike. Truly an extraordinary sight!

Have a look at more of our Wild Dog photographs.

Wild Dog Photographs

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 371695. Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 380371. Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) and Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 372301. Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 442220. Wild Dog (Lyceon pictus) puppies. Mashatu Game Reserve. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 380168. Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

  • African Wild Dog

    Image Number 391385. Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa

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