African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

Country of origin:
Central African Region
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brown, black, yellow
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The African Wild Dog is an average sized canine representative, which inhabits the African continent since time immemorial. This dog can be easily distinguished from domesticated dogs by its brindled coat and large standing ears. Nowadays complete extinction threatens this clever and communicative animal because it has lost most of its natural habitats and has been persecuted by humans.

The testing of the fossilised remains of the African Wild Dog proved that this canine existed in sub-Saharan Africa for more than million years. It remains disputable though if it evolved exclusively in this part of the world or it could also be found anywhere else. The point is that its skeletal structure looks almost identical to the frame of the ancient wolf, whose remains have been discovered in different corners of the Earth.

In the XX century the population of the African Wild Dog shrank dramatically since most of African lands were occupied by people. They killed native species of animals in quantity and deprived dogs of their main source of nourishment. Moreover so called wildlife managers exterminated wild dogs systematically and purposefully. For example, in Zimbabwe, 3 404 specimens were put down for «vermin» control between 1956 and 1975. This kind of intense persecution can be explained by two reasons. The African Wild Dog’s killing techniques implies that the group of dogs would hold the prey and gradually disembowel it. So some massive animals perish in torment and this process can take a half-hour (though most die in a matter of minutes). Naturally this induced sympathy for the prey and active disgust for the predator. These species were also accused of disrupting prey numbers more than other predators. This statement holds true but only partially. Indeed, wild dogs hunt in open spaces and they depend on pursuit to catch up with their prey so they can drive a substantial number of animals. But animals usually imperturbably return to their pastures and graze peacefully even in the presence of resting wild dogs.

The persecution against the African Wild Dog came to the end when its behavioural patterns were thoroughly studied and documented. By the mid-80s of the XX century its massive killing was officially banned in six African regions where the vast majority of dog inhabits (Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). This wild canine avoids people and rarely approaches their settlements. Sometimes it attacks an unattended sheep or goat, but it never attempts on the life of an individual domestic animal, which is the part of the livestock guarded by a shepherd.

The African Wild Dog exists in well-knit, nomadic packs of 6 to 20 individual specimens. Larger groups of animals had been more common before these species were brought to the edge of extinction. Its usual quarry is antelopes but hunting pack can also cope with much bigger prey, for instance wildebeests. They also add to their diet rodents and birds. The aggression against domesticated animals is pretty infrequent but unattended specimens may fall preys to the wild dogs.

The African Wild Dog is extremely sociable animal, which can be observed the pack takes its rest: dogs stick closer and maintain fairly tight inter-individual distances. This kind of close collaboration allows these species to survive and reproduce. The pack is led by the alpha male and female and only this pair is permitted to breed. The family bears great importance for the African wild dog. The pack collectively brings up the puppies of a dominant pair and looks after old or sick members. At the age of 18 months to two years females are supposed to leave their own pack and find a new one. But males stay with their native pack in the course of their lives, which last approximately 11 years.

Unfortunately this intelligent animal is now ascribed to endangered species. Most of the vast territories of its habitant are taken by humans. The African Wild Dog easily catches up diseases spread by livestock so it reduces its population even more. To this day African farmers who fear for their domestic animals organise hunting expeditions in order to exterminate the maximal number of these dogs.