African Wild Dogs are a highly endangered species that we are lucky enough to find on occasion in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. They are the largest wild canines found in Africa, but sadly face many major threats to their survival: killings by humans, viral diseases, habitat loss and competition with larger predators. To add to this wild dogs largely exists in fragmented, small populations which means their existence is even further endangered.
Most avid safari goers will tell you they absolutely love these bright, energetic, playful predators. With this in mind we decided that we wanted to share a few interesting facts about wild dog pack dynamics and individual behavioural traits.
Working together, but following the leader
- Wild Dogs form packs that number between 2 and up to 30 animals, dominated by an Alpha Female and Alpha male which are usually the only pair of animals that will breed in a pack. However, sometimes the Beta female has also been known to give birth to pups.
- The Wild Dogs hunt in well-coordinated packs and are successful 80% of the time.
- Their incredible means of communication with one other, as well as their agile build and clever tactics all combines to make these animals the most successful hunters of all the predators.
- A favorite tactic for hunting is chasing their prey into a pool of water which will either frighten the prey backward and towards the hunting dogs or tire them out while trying to swim away.
No two dogs the same
- Individual dogs can be identified by their unique coat pattern. Their scientific name, Lycaon pictus, literary means painted wolf and refers to their unusual black, white and golden coloring which varies on every animal. No two animals will ever have the same markings, just like our fingerprints.
- African Wild dogs cannot be domesticated, even though they are one of the most social of all the Canids, they do not trust humans.
- Juveniles become independent between the ages of 16 and 24 months, but usually will remain with their pack. Females are more likely to break away from their pack and form their own family group, usually they will leave with their sisters in a sub-group once they reach about two years of age.
- They have an incredible sense of hearing with their unusually large round ears, these radar-like ears are lined with small muscles allowing the animals to swivel them around and pick up the smallest noises.
- The Alpha female and male are monogamous, she can have up to 12 pups, which is the largest size litter of any dog. Generally, wild dogs breed every year, usually in the months of May or June.