The Wild Dog
As cute and cuddly our dogs may be, they did descend from another type of dog. The wild one!
More particularly, the African wild dog. It is now on the endangered species list. It’s been estimated that its global population is somewhere around 3,000 to 3,500. With an average lifespan of 11 years; they are carnivores. They eat a raw meat diet and often, hunt their meals in packs.
Scientifically known as Lycaon Pictus which literally means painted wolf in reference to their variegated fur with white, black, brown and yellow coloring. A peculiar trait of these animals is that every member of the pack has a distinct pattern that makes the easy to identify.
The dog also called the African hunting dog. It is among the ruthless and efficient predator with an 80 percent hunting success rate! This is far higher than the lion’s 30 percent success rate. Pretty impressive I’d say!
These hunting dogs were once known to roam most part of the African continent. Unfortunately, it now only roams the sparse woodlands and open planes of sub-Saharan Africa.
Unlike other canids, the African wild dogs have a distinct body characteristic – only four toes per foot, compared to other species of dogs with five toes on their forefeet. Endowed with a powerful bite and unique molars enabling them to shear off meat and breaking bones. Their sense of smell, sight, and hearing are finely tuned to help them track, purse and kill their prey.
Their lean build, long legs, and quick muscle recovery mean they are able to endure long chases. Adding to their success rate when hunting down prey.
Fascinating social hierarchy
The African wild dog, like other pack animals, maintains a strict social regime with an alpha breeding pair. However, things start to get exciting with the birth of a litter of pups.
The young new pack members take top priority even above the alphas. They’re fed by the dogs, but once old enough, they’re taken to the field and given the first choice while others wait for their turn.
If a dog becomes ill, elderly, or unable to hunt, the other members of the pack care for and feeds them. This sense of community is extended even to the alpha pair which if in other predator packs, would have spelled their death sentence.
Highly skilled hunters
These animals are well coordinated during hunting. They hunt mostly in the mornings or evening and use their sharp sight to track down their prey. Once a prey is spotted they usually chase the animal until it tires out. While pursuing the prey, they spread out at the flanks cutting off the animal from escaping. The dogs are always in touch with each other through a series of well-choreographed communication.
Wild dogs rely on their stamina and great endurance instead of stealth when hunting; they’d give chase to the animal until they become exhausted and then easily take them down.
Finally, as hard as it may seem, the African wild dogs have few natural enemies except perhaps, humans and the lions, which are their main threat, they are not quite threatened by other predators.