African Wild Dog; One Of The World’s Most Effective Hunters
AFRICAN WILD DOG (Lycaon pictus)
Location: Sub-Saharan Africa
Length: Up to 41⁄2 ft (1.4 m)
Diet: Mainly large mammals
Lean, lightweight, and long-legged, the African wild dog is one of the world’s most effective hunters—a tireless runner that pursues its prey to the point of exhaustion, then relies on the mutual strength of the pack to pull it to the ground.
The wild dog is one of the most social carnivores, and cannot survive on its own. Its whole life revolves around the pack—an extended family of up to 30 adults and young that live and hunt together in the woodlands and broad, grassy plains of tropical Africa. Each pack roams over a vast area in search of prey such as gazelles, antelopes, and even full-grown zebras.
Each dog pack is led by an alpha pair made up of a breeding female and male. There are usually more males than females in a pack and they help the alpha pair raise their young. When the pups reach maturity many of the males stay on to help, but the young females leave to start new packs.
This is the most flamboyantly patterned of all dogs, with blotches of black, tan, yellow, and white splashed all over its body. The random pattern provides perfect camouflage in forests, scrub, and tall grass, allowing the dogs to get close to their prey before being seen.
The massively built jaws are shorter than those of most dogs, giving the jaw muscles extra leverage to grip struggling prey. The meat-slicing carnassial teeth have longer blades than usual, for scissoring through the tough hide and flesh of big animals.
Each dog has a different coat pattern, but its muzzleis always black.
Unusually large ears are thought to act as radiators, losing heat to cool the dog on hot days.
The dog’s brightly patterned coat has given it a Latin name meaning “painted wolf.”
The four sturdy, non-retractable claws give excellent grip.
Like most dogs, the African wild dog has limbs adapted for running. The lower leg bones are “locked” into position to prevent rotation, reducing the risk of injury.
The tail has a white tip, which may be used to signal to other dogs in the pack.
Because they hunt in packs, wild dogs can take down large prey like an adult zebra.