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African Safari blog

Some of Africa’s most interesting wildlife and where best to find them – Wild Dogs

African Wildlife

The African wild dog is also called cape hunting dog, painted dog or painted wolf. In reality, they look a bit like a particularly skinny, long-legged Australian cattle dog with big rounded satellite ears and a mottled coat of brown, black, yellow and white patches.

In fact, the coat pattern is a little like army camouflage attire; it helps the dog blend into its surroundings and is unique to each dog (like human finger prints and indeed zebra stripes!)

Characteristics of the African Wild Dog

Like other canines, wild dogs are very sociable creatures and live in very strongly bonded packs. However, they have the distinction of a complete lack of aggression towards other members of the pack.

Unlike other dogs, they have only four (rather than five) toes. The usual pack size is about 5 – 10 adults including, a monogamous dominant pair, but can be as large as 30 adults and pups under a year old. The dominant pair usually monopolise breeding with all adults helping to rear each litter (usually between 6 and 10 pups.)

Curiously it is the females that move out of the pack on reaching maturity – though this is not unknown in the animal world as primates share the same practice.

Like lion prides they hunt cooperatively and regurgitate food for a nursing female, the young and the elderly of the pack. Interestingly enough pups who have been weaned are allowed to feed on a kill first.

They are highly energetic creatures who are almost invariably on alert. They are built for speed reaching a velocity of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

The Fastest Game Drive We’ve Experienced!

Which, of course means that they can negotiate the bush much better than any game drive vehicle – as we discovered on a recent safari when we came upon a single wild dog on a hunt (quite unusual as they generally hunt in packs). Paddy our (utterly amazing) guide thought it was too good an opportunity to miss.

So Game On for one of the fastest paced game drives I have ever experienced! Hanging on to our hats (as well as the vehicle in case we shot out like a cork as we hit the inevitable bumps) we kept on the dogs’ tails (so to speak) careering through the bush!

At one point the radio broke in to enquire if Paddy intended to bring his guests back to brunch – to which Paddy replied, “But we’re following wild dog” – as if no other explanation was required!

Wild dog are diurnal hunters, generally hunting early in the morning and late afternoon. It is thought that a huge percentage of their hunts end in a kill partly because of the animal’s amazing stamina which can keep up the chase for extended periods.

Their preferred prey is the smaller antelope like impala, springbok and Thompson’s gazelle. Their association with speed is not restricted to running but extends to eating as a pack can demolish a small antelope in about 15 minutes (I can bear personal witness to that!)

Best Place to Find Them

Sadly wild dogs are the most critically endangered predator with a total remaining population estimated to be less than 7000. The decline in number of these amazing creatures is largely due to habitat encroachment, human persecution on the basis of defending livestock and disease such as rabies and distemper.

Their preferred habitats are savannas and arid areas. The best places to find them are Botswana and Zimbabwe, although you can (from time to time anyway) catch up with them in South Africa where our fast paced pursuit occurred.

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Some of Africa’s most interesting animals and where best to find them – Lions

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Common misconceptions about Africa