10 Fascinating Facts about African Wild Dogs

Here’s ten fascinating facts about African wild dogs, who are some of the most misunderstood animals on the continent. It’s because of misinformation about their nature and habits that they have become endangered with only about 5 000 of the species remaining in the wild. Wild dog sightings are incredibly rare.

African wild dogs are also known as Painted Dogs. The Painted Dog Conservation Centre in Dete, close to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, was established to protect and increase the range and numbers of these precious relatively unknown animals, and to encourage the general public to visit the centre to find out more about them.

Where To See Wild Dogs

African wild dogs once ranged across much of sub-Saharan Africa but the specie’s numbers have been greatly reduced in Central and Northeast Africa while being largely exterminated in North and West Africa. Whilst you are on your safari in Zimbabwe or Botswana you could have the opportunity to spot these elusive predators on your game drives and walks. It would certainly be a safari highlight and a great place to see them would be Mana Pools Safari Lodge or Elephant’s Eye tented camp, situated on a private concession bordering Hwange National Park Zimbabwe. See our Zimbabwe safari packages that include Mana and Hwange here.

Painted Dog

Wild Dogs are fascinating because:

They are unique to Africa: Wild dogs, also called painted dogs, are a rare species found only on this continent and nowhere else.

Less than 5 000 remain: Zimbabwe’s Painted Dog Conservation, which also runs a rehabilitation facility for sick and injured pups, has estimated that there are only between 3 000 and 5 000 wild dogs alive on the African continent.

They were once found in 39 countries: Painted dogs once roamed freely through 39 African countries. Today they are only found in Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, where Painted Dog Conservation is located.

African Wild Dog

They are different from domestic dogs: African wild dogs are not part of the normal dog family as they have some very distinct differences. For instance, they have 4 toes per foot, not 5 like domesticated dogs. Although they share a common ancestor with wolves and are distantly related to dogs, they absolutely cannot be domesticated as it is not in their genetic framework.

A unique appearance: Wild dogs are famous for their large, round ears and multi-coloured coats, with the markings unique to each dog. The ears are used as radar and are an excellent tool for hunting.

Painted Dog

Survival instincts: The wild dog population was decimated during the last century partly due to myths that lead to human persecution. Farmers consider the dogs a threat to their livestock and will generally shoot any that they see, sometimes even going so far as to poison their dens. Another outside threat to painted dogs is diseases such as rabies. 

Unique social hierarchy: Wild dogs are social animals and have a rich and cooperative existence. The packs have a well-established social hierarchy and the animals are incredibly caring, looking after the sick and injured members of the pack.

African Wild Dog

Origin of their name: Wild dogs’ Latin name, Lycaon pictus, translates directly to painted wolf, referring to the different patches and spots of colour on their coats, hence them also being called painted dogs. 

They are excellent hunters: Wild dogs are incredibly successful hunters, and their success rate far outnumbers their biggest rival, the lion. They are well-coordinated and communicate throughout the entire hunt.

Hunting African Wild Dog

They live a nomadic life: Wild dogs are nomads and roam the vast African plains in packs, only remaining in one area when denning. Their territories can span between 400 and 1500 square kilometres. They have been known to travel up to 50 km in a single day.

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