African Wild Dog Facts for Kids

The African wild dog or the Cape hunting dog is one of the most remarkable dogs you’ll ever learn about! Living in sub-Saharan Africa, this dog is like no other!  The scientific name for the African wild dogs is Lycaon pictus, which means painted wolves. They are also known as African hunting dogs. 

Characteristics of African Wild Dogs

The African Wild dog, sometimes known as the painted dog, has fur full of colors and patterns, making each dog unique. The colors red, white, black, brown, and yellow help the African wild dogs blend into their surroundings. 

It has long legs, large ears, a black muzzle (nose), and a bushy tail. The end of the tail has a white tip, and you’ll see a black line running between its large round ears. One of the ways that the African Wild Dog is different from domestic dogs is that they only have four toes on each foot, while other dog species have five toes. They can run very quickly, at speeds around 37 miles per hour. This speed helps them run long distances when hunting prey without getting tired. 

The average life span of a wild dog is about ten years. This life span seems normal for African wild dogs in nature and captivity. However, some African wild dogs have lived to be 17 years old. The oldest African wild dog on record was named Albie, born in 2010 in the Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa. She was the alpha female or the lead female when she died in 2022.  

Where African Wild Dogs Live

You can find the African Wild Dog in Southern Africa or sub-Saharan Africa. It is named the sub-Saharan part of Africa because it is south of the Sahara desert.  Many African wild dogs live on the open plains in South Africa. This area has many national parks which help protect different species of animals. 

They are sociable animals and live in packs. These pack members look out for each other, protect each other, and make sure all pack members are taken care of. 

African wild dog packs can range from 6 to 20 or more dogs. Larger packs were often seen before the dogs became an endangered species! These packs hunt antelopes and sometimes go after even larger animals like wildebeests! 

African Wild Dogs Pack Structure

Like many other dog species, the African wild dog lives in a pack with a very specific pack structure to help it survive. The pack is known as a hierarchy, and a dominant male and dominant female lead the pack. Usually, these are the oldest male and female of the pack. However, sometimes a younger dog will run a pack and have older wild dogs under their leadership. 

The African wild dogs hunting territory is about 270 square miles. A pack of african wild dogs is territorial, and in some parts of South Africa, multiple packs live in one area. The packs often avoid being in overlapping areas at the same time and try to stay away from one another. These meetings can be dangerous and deadly if they encounter each other. 

Young African Wild Dogs

The alpha pair or dominant pair is usually the only breeding pair in an African wild dog pack. The gestation period is about 70 days, and they give birth to 2 and 20 pups in a den. The average number of pups in a litter is 10. The pups and the female African wild dog will stay in the den for a few weeks, and the entire pack will bring her food. They do not carry back fresh meat! The pack members will regurgitate or throw up meat for the female and eventually the pups to eat. 

An African wild dog pup is generally between 5 to 6 inches long and weighs about 8 to 10 ounces when born. They are also born with their eyes closed. The pups will drink milk from their mother for the first three weeks of life. At about ten weeks, they are weaned from their mother’s milk and start to eat solid food. 

Young African wild dogs leave the den between 2 and 3 months. The entire pack looks after the pups until they are old enough to go and join or start a new pack! 

What African Wild Dogs Eat

Wild dog packs have a specific hunting strategy they use when going after their prey, including large animals like gazelle and antelope. They usually hunt at dawn/dusk because they use sight to find prey. They will silently follow their target and chase it until it is tired. They will then kill it. They often go over the sick and weak animals. This helps improve the prey species. Other larger animals or larger prey that African wild dogs eat are warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. 

What Eats African Wild Dogs

There are a few larger predators of African wild dogs, and the main predator is lions.  Spotted hyenas pose a risk to wild dogs, but they do not eat them and will steal the fresh meat from the African wild dog’s hunt. 

Human-Wildlife Conflict 

The African wild dog is an endangered animal, and it has been endangered for two decades or 20 years. The African wild dog population is tiny, with only about 6,600 African wild dogs left in the world. 

Humans are one of the biggest threats to African wild dogs. When wild dogs move in close to human settlements, the main reason they are killed is that farmers are worried they will kill their livestock. 

There are other major threats besides hunting. Habitat loss is the biggest threat as the population continues to grow in South Africa. The need for land becomes greater because of agriculture, settlements, and roads, which means they are losing their natural habitat. 

The African Wildlife Foundation and other organizations are working together to help with wild dog conservation. 

African Wild Dog Facts

Here are some interesting facts about the African wild dog you may not know! 

  • The African wild dog has 4 toes on their front feet and back feet. 
  • They use body language to communicate like different ear positions and body posture.
  • They have lockjaw which helps them attach and hold on to their prey.
  • The lower teeth of the African wild dog are strong and sharp.