Lycaon pictus - The African Wild Dog

Very rarely seen in its natural habitat today, the wild dog is one of southern Africa's most highly endangered mammal species. African wild dog are also know as hunting dogs and painted dogs. Each dog has its very own unique markings - no two are the same making it easy to identify individual dogs.

Did you know? According to the AWF, the African Wild Dog has been endangered for more than 20 years

As a hunter and meat eater requiring an extensive habitat, it is constantly in competition with humans, and particularly with livestock farmers. Of the large carnivores, African wild dogs are one of the most efficient hunters; their targeted prey rarely escapes.

Some regard the wild dog's method of killing its prey excessively cruel, so there is a negative attitude towards the animal. In the wild, lions are the main killers of wild dogs. As a result, the species has been exterminated from large parts of Africa and today it is one of the continent's most rarely encountered animals.


Stands 60 to 85 cm at the shoulder.


45 to 65 pounds.


The species is restricted to Africa, preferring a habitat with open short-grassed or bushy grasslands where there is water and where it has space to run down its prey. In the sub-region of the continent wild dog used to be more widespread, but today is found only in the national parks and game reserves.


Nomadic by nature, wild dogs keep on the move: thus one can expect to see them in any suitable area where food is plentiful and fencing no hindrance. Wild dogs are currently being reintroduced to several game parks, and the progress of the operation is being monitored.

The wild dog can be found at various reserves in South Africa. These include the Kruger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve (both about three to four hours from Johannesburg and Pretoria), Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve (5.5 hours from Nelspruit) and Pumba Private Game Reserve, just outside Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.

Diet - Carnivore

As a carnivorous species, it eats meat, preferring fresh kills of large or small mammals. Wild dogs kill only for food. They have a reputation for being cruel, but in fact they kill their prey as swiftly as most other predators. Prey is chased by the pack and smaller animals are pulled down. Larger prey may keep running while the dogs continue to bite and tear at it. In both cases prey dies quickly, usually from shock or loss of blood. Wild dogs concentrate on 'easy' prey, mainly the young, sick and old.


African wild dogs live in packs. Pack sizes range from six to twenty dogs. Unlike the agression they show towards their prey, there is no aggression within the pack and very little agression within the hierarchy of the pack.

The entire pack contribute to rearing the young. Both parents tend to and feed the young and other pack members will go out to hunt and on returning to the den will regurgitate food for pups and the nurding mother.


Litter sizes are large but very few pups generally survive.

Life Expectancy

4 to 6 years in the wild; 10 to 12 years in captivity.


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Where to see African Wild Dog in their natural habitat?

Want to see wild dog in their natural habitat? In South Africa, find African wild dog in these and other reserves and parks...

Conservation Status
African Wild Dog
South Africa's Big 5
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