African wild dogs have colorful calico coats of black, yellow, and white. They have big, round ears in proportion to their head size. They are the continent’s most endangered predators. There is an estimated total population of only 4,000-5,000 African wild dogs.
African wild dogs hunt gazelles, warthogs, antelopes, springboks, wildebeest, zebras, and other grazing animals. They generally hunt sick and elderly animals within a heard.
The African wild dogs live in the South African plains in special parks and reserves. Because they risk becoming extinct, the reserves provide the dogs a safer breeding habitat.
African wild dogs were once common in virtually every environment in southern Africa, except in rain forests and deserts. But human urbanization and diseases from domestic dogs have drastically reduced the African wild dog populations. Although there are many conservation efforts in place to try to save this severely endangered species, native people view the African wild dog as a pest, often hunting or trapping them. There is an estimated 4,000-5,000 African wild dogs left.
African wild dogs are very social in nature. They communicate and greet one another through vocalizations, body posture, and licking. They have a ritualized midday greeting of squeaking and thrusting their muzzles into one another’s faces. The dogs stick close together in packs of 8-20 and are very nurturing towards their young, elderly, and sick. For example, puppies and old or injured pack members are always allowed to eat first. African wild dogs are the most social of any mammals and remain with the same pack for their entire life.
Birth & Offspring
Only one pair of dogs reproduces in a pack, and the pair will usually mate for life. The breeding female gives birth in a grass-lined burrow that is usually an abandoned aardvark hole. The average litter size is about 12 puppies. The pups remain in the den with their mother for about 3 to 4 weeks.
When the pups are old enough to come out of the den, the other pack members continue to provide care to the young. Pups will nurse from other females in the pack as well as from their mother. Females usually leave the pack at 2 1/2 years in order to join other packs that have no adult females. Approximately half the young males will stay with their birth pack, while the remaining males leave their birth pack to form a new pack together.
Their large ears give them excellent auditory ability needed for successful hunting. Unlike other predators, the African wild dog does not stalk and sneak up to their prey, rather they boldly approach a heard until it stampedes. They single out an individual animal from a heard and chase it for up to an hour until the prey becomes lame or exhausted.
Lydia King is a huge animal lover and has always been fascinated with learning about the animal kingdom. She enjoys writing about anything animal related from scientific information about rare species to animal references in pop culture.