Basic Information

Photo: An African wild dog with pups
Photo: An African wild dog with pups

Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus
(Meaning: "Painted wolf-like animal" in Greek)

Scientific Classification:

Map: African wild dog range in yellow
Map: African wild dog range in yellow


The African wild dog, also known as Cape hunting dog or painted dog can be found in the open plains, woodlands, semi-desert, bushy savannah, and upland forest of sub-Saharan Africa. They are mostly found in the African plains; they do not live in jungle areas.
  • Abiotic Factors:
Climate zones:
Temperature: Warm temperature year-round. The average temperature is 64 degrees farenheit.
In the winter, it is usually about 68° to 78°F (20°-25°C). In the summer the temperature ranges from 78° to 86°F (25°-30°C).
African wild dog pack in the Savannas
African wild dog pack in the Savannas

Rainfall: Tons of rain in the summer; Average of 15-25 inches rain falls during this time.
Seasonality: In the savanna there are two seasons: Winter= very dry, Summer= heavy monsoon rains.
Biotic Factors:
Flora: Grass that can grow up to be 3-6 feet tall
Fauna:Warthogs, Zebras, Water Bugs, Ostriches, Rhinos, Grants Gazelle, Elephants
Physical and Behavorial Adaptations:
Wild dogs have developed incredible speed and endurance for attacking prey. Their bodies are thin and muscular and their heads are powerful with strong jaws and sharp teeth. They are fast, excellent runners that allows a long chase. They have large, rounded, bat-like ears, which helps with heat loss as well as keeping track of pack members by picking up long distance calls. To locate prey, vision is their most important sense. Because no two wild dogs are patterned exactly the same, it makes it easy to identify different individuals. The body length is about 40 inches with a 12-16 inch tail and weigh about a maximum of 66 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females, and animals from Southern Africa are slightly larger than their northern relatives.

African wild dog pup chasing hooded vulture
African wild dog pup chasing hooded vulture

Species Interactions

African Wild Dogs are carnivorous, meaning they only eat meat. The dominant prey of the wild dog is gazelle, wildebeest, impala, duiker, reedbuck, calves, rats, birds, and so much more. Like most predators, it plays an important role in eliminating sick and weak animals. When prey is targeted, some of the dogs run close to the animal , while others follow behind, taking over when the leader is tire. Their long legs, which allows them to run excellent, and sharp teeth allow them to collect food greatly. They are probably one of the most efficient hunters---targeted prey rarely escapes.


Wild dogs are relatively short-lived for such a large mammal. In the wild, few survive as long as 10 years although in a zoo, they do have a longer lifespan. As for mating, only the dominant male and female breed. Urine scent marks are used to show that an area is occupied and by the dominant female to display that she is ready to mate. The dominant male immediately urinates on top of her scent marks, to prevent competition. After approximately 70 days, the female gives birth to 10 pups in an underground den. Majority of them being male, where only a few usually survive. For 12-14 months, the entire pack is needed to help feed the pups. Usually the pups are fed by regurgitation after a hunt. Unlike other animals, females will leave their natal pack when they reach maturity in groups of littermate sisters and join a different male kin line.

Threats and Reasons for Decline

globe of extinction pic
globe of extinction pic

Wild Dog's populations size has declined due to human activities, infectious diseases, and habitat fragmentation. Throughout Africa, wild dogs have been shot and poisoned by farmers and hunters and, at one time, by rangers who thought they were bloodthirsty raiders of livestocks and dispersers of wild herds.

The wild dog population has been shrinking as human populations expand. This leads the wild dog into increased contact with humans, their domestic animals and the diseases they carry. The wild dog appears to be susceptible to many diseases, particularly canine distemper, rabies and anthrax. Competition with larger carnivores keeps the wild dogs' numbers low and contact with human leads to activities such as road casualties, persecution, and snaring. Many believe that wild dogs harm livestock, but according to studies, they rarely attack livestock. To protect these livestock, humans use wild dogs as an animal to hunt for.

Even in large, well-protected reserves, or in stable populations remaining largely independent of protected areas, wild dogs live at low population densities. Predation by lions, and perhaps competition with hyaenas, contribute to keeping wild dog numbers below the level that their prey base could support.
As the numbers of these dogs dwindles, they become more mysterious, reappearing in place they have not inhibited for months and then they vanish again a few days later.
National Geographic: African Wild Dogs
ARKive: African Wild Dog
Savanna Climate
Animal Info