Animal of the Week: the African Wild Dog
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
Say hello to the African wild dog, also known by many other names including painted wolves and Cape hunting dogs. These canines inhabit the sub-saharan regions in Africa, including but not limited to Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They usually grow to be about two and a half to three feet tall, and compared to their domesticated counterparts are more lean looking, with oversized ears and non-retractable claws.
The African wild dog is a pack animal, and their packs range from seven to fifteen members, but some have been recorded to have up to 40 members! They are very cooperative among each other, with each dog having a specific role. They split roles between tending to the sick, caring for the pups and hunting for the pack. Every pack has a dominant pair, and this pair remains monogamous for their entire life. Other pairs do not remain monogamous. African wild dogs are very involved in caring for their pups, and both the males and females will assist in the care of them. Although they usually have large litters of pups, not many will end up making it. This can be for a multitude of reasons, either because there is not enough food to go around for everyone, or disease runs through the pack.
African wild dogs are carnivores, and they hunt typical savannah prey. Their main diet consists of gazelles, warthogs, wildebeest calves, small rodents and birds. Like other pack hunting animals, they tend to target smaller, weaker, injured or diseased individuals as they are easier to take down. This works in benefit to the prey species as well, as it helps the stronger individuals to survive and pass on those genes to strengthen the overall gene pool. The wild dog can run up to speeds of 35 mph and are one of the most efficient pack hunters out there — the prey they pursue rarely escape from their grasp.
The African wild dog is unfortunately classified as an endangered species. They are losing a lot of livable land due to habitat fragmentation, much of which is being lost to human agriculture expansion and roads. This increases their likelihood of being shot by farmers as they have to keep moving into human inhabited space. Larger populations have a better chance of surviving and helping repopulate the species. Hopefully with more awareness and education we can help this canine population bounce back.