African Wild Dog Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Modified: 31 May 2023

African Wild Dog facts

The African wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered animals on our planet. They distinguish themselves with their long legs and irregular fur patterns. In the wild, they live in packs and are remarkably social, helping each member of the pack when weak or sick. When hunting food, they can go up to 20 members working together. Unfortunately, African wild dogs are gravely endangered due to ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, infectious disease, and are mostly overpowered by the lions. But what is so fascinating about this creature is that they fully help each other out whether it’s in the form of sharing food, or sometimes, even risking their own lives to help and defend their pack against predators. Learn more about this selfless animal with these 30 African wild dog facts.

  1. The African wild dog is native to Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. The African wild dog is a canine or a biological family of dog-like carnivorans.
  3. They are the biggest wild canine in Africa.
  4. They have become amongst the critically endangered species in Africa.
  5. From roughly 500,000 in the wild, the African wild dog’s population is now down to 3,000 to 5,000.
  1. The African wild dog has a hyper-carnivorous diet or a diet that consumes more than 70% meat.
  2. They prey on a wide variety of animals, including warthogs, gazelles or other antelopes, rats, wildebeest calves, and even birds.
  3. The remaining population of the African wild dog is in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Tanzania.
  4. They usually roam in the open plains and sparse woodlands.
  5. The African wild dog is a highly social animal and they love to live in packs.
  6. They practice separate dominance hierarchies for males and females.
  7. Compared to other social carnivores, it’s the females rather than the males who separate from the natal pack once sexually mature.
  8. Its gestation period is about 70 days and the mother can give birth to a litter of around 10 puppies.
  9. They are able to breed upon reaching their sexual maturity of between 12 to 18 months.
  10. The predators of the African wild dogs are lions, hyenas, and humans.
  1. They are the only extant members of the genus Lycaon.
  2. Human persecution, habitat fragmentation, and outbreaks of disease are the most common reasons for its population decline.
  3. According to IUCN Red List, they became endangered since the 1990s.
  4. African wild dogs used to live in over 35 countries.
  5. They have long legs and big lungs that help them run long distances without exhaustion.
Table of Contents

They can be a little bigger than German Shepherds.

One fascinating example of African wild dog facts is that although they may look small, these creatures can actually be a little bit bigger than German Shepherds. The African wild dog is approximately 75 to 100 cm (29–39 inches) long, exclusive of its 31–41-cm tail and stands around 60 cm (24 inches) tall at the shoulder, and typically weighs about 16–23 kg (33–50 pounds).

They can run extremely fast.

The African wild dog is an opportunistic predator. When hunting their prey (antelopes for instance), they will chase them to exhaustion. They can run more than 70 km/h or about the average speed of a cruising car and they are specialized diurnal hunters which means they hunt during day time.

African wild dog facts, running African wild dog
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s not good to make them as pets.

Even though they belong to the Canidae family, African wild dogs are neither wolves nor dogs, but they have a “similarity” with wolves—it’s not a good idea to turn them into pets. African wild dogs simply like to stay as far away from humans as possible. In general, they don’t attack livestock unless there’s a shortage of their common prey.

There was a tragedy in Pittsburgh Zoo involving African wild dogs.

In the wild, indigenous people are not scared of the African wild dog, and there have been no reported instances of wild dog attacks on people (although they could fight back as an act of self-defense). In 2012, at the Pittsburgh Zoo, African wild dogs killed a 2-year-old boy after falling into their enclosure, however, they did not make an attempt to eat the boy.

African wild dogs have rounded ears.

Their rounded ears serve them 2 different purposes: the first is for hunting (they have excellent hearing skills) and the second is for cooling, suitable for the hot African climate (air moves over the blood vessels in their ears and carries heat away).

African wild dog facts, rounded ears
Image source: Flickr

African wild dogs perform an important role in the ecosystem.

Similar to most predators, the African wild dogs perform an important role in the ecosystem by eliminating unhealthy and weaker animals, thereby helping to preserve the natural balance and improve prey species. Moreover, when it comes to drinking, they can survive without water for long intervals, as long as the food eaten is relatively moist. And although they are diurnal, they can also hunt or travel during the night, if necessary.

They have several English names.

In the English language, the African wild dog has various names such as “African hunting dog, painted hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted Lycaon, and painted wolf.” In an effort to rebrand the species, some organizations call them painted wolves because the term “wild dog” has numerous negative connotations that could be harmful to its image.

They can have a litter of 2 to 20 pups.

Generally, a monogamous breeding pair dominate the African wild dogs, and the female can have a litter of about 2 to 20 pups. And because they are extremely social, the entire pack can take care of these pups. Based on the observations in the wild, they can share food and even assist vulnerable members. Furthermore, they can communicate by actions, touch, and vocalizations.

painted dogs playing in the wild, pack
Image source: Pixabay

Lions are its primary predator.

Since lions dominate the wild, they have become the primary reason for the African wild dog’s mortality for both pups and adults. In fact, during the 1960s, when the lions’ population fell, the number of African wild dogs grew, resulting in an increase in their sightings. When the lion’s population started to recover, however, the African wild dog’s population declined once again. Click here for the video.

They can take down a wounded or old lion.

On some occasions, African wild dogs have fought and seen to successfully defend their pack and even prey against an old or injured lion. A recorded incident happened where a pack of African wild dogs successfully prevented a lion from killing one of them. They forced the lion to retreat, and the surviving wild dog rejoined the pack.