The African wild dog is known by several different common names including hunting dog, hyena dog, painted wolf, ornate wolf, and Mbwa mwilu in Swahili.
African wild dogs are generalist carnivorous predators and mostly hunt medium-sized antelope that are about twice their weight or larger, such as impala, kudu, gazelle, and wildebeest.
Each African hunting dog pack has a dominant monogamous breeding pair that prevents subordinates from breeding.
The African wild dog’s scientific name, Lycaon pictus reflects the color of its spotted pelage and translates to painted or ornate wolf.
African wild dogs are social animals that form packs of up to 40 members, with an average of 7-15.
African wild dogs inhabit forests, savannas, shrublands, grasslands, and even deserts with abundant prey, permanent water sources, and a low concentration of lions and hyenas.
Because African wild dogs rely on their sight to hunt, they are primarily diurnal, hunting in the morning and early evening, and will only hunt at night if there’s a bright moon.
Although the African wild dog is genetically diverse, five subspecies are generally recognized but are not universally accepted.
Each African wild dog has a uniquely patterned coat of irregular reds, browns, black, yellows, and whites, different from any other dog.
African wild dogs do not generally exhibit sexual dimorphism and are about the same size as a German shepherd dog with large, rounded ears, a thin body, and long, muscular legs.
African wild dogs are cooperative hunters and hunt in packs led by the alpha male.
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African wild dogs were once found throughout most of Africa, but are now more fragmented and mainly restricted to Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and the Transvaal.
African wild dogs have unique social concerns and structures within their packs and have separate dominance hierarchies for males and females.
Because of their names, African wild dogs are often misidentified, thought to be dogs, wolves, or even hyenas, when actually categorized in their own genus.
African wild dogs are not aggressive except for occasional fights between a dominant female and a subordinate female over breeding rights.
With only 6,600 individuals left, the African wild dog is Africa’s second most endangered carnivore after the Ethiopian wolf.