Due to its long history of companionship and loyalty dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend, a notion that has been popularized by the various canids that have existed over the years and the amazing characteristics they each possess, making the entire dog family to be not only robust but also fascinating. One of such canids is the African Wild Dog, a special breed of dogs, which is only found in Africa.
The African Wild Dog is the largest of its kind in Africa, a native to Sub-Saharan Africa, which is also the only extant member of the genus lycaon. In 2016, the African Wild Dog was classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its disappearance from much of its original range. Unfortunately, its declining population remains ongoing till date, due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution and disease outbreaks.
Much like humans, the African Wild Dog is known to be a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. The African Wild dogs communicate with one another through touch, tail wags and a variety of vocalizations that include a short bark (which can signify alarm), a howl (which rallies the wild dogs together), and a bell-like sound which can be heard over long distances.
Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males scatter from the natal pack once sexually mature and the young are allowed to feed first on carcasses. The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion. Like other canids, it regurgitates food for its young, but this action is also extended to adults, to the point of being the bedrock of African wild dog social life. It has few natural predators, though lions are a major source of mortality and spotted hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites.
The African wild dog has a number of nicknames, which includes: African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted hunting dog, painted dog, and painted lycaon. Although not as prominent in African folklore or culture as other African carnivores, it has been respected in several hunter-gatherer societies, particularly those of the predynastic Egyptians and the San people.
In Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, there is a Painted Dog Conservation where tourist can observe this special breed of dogs. The Conservation also runs a rehab facility for sick and injured dogs that aims at healing pups before returning them to their packs in the wild.
The African Wild dog differs from wolves and other dogs by having 4 toes instead of 5, they are one of the most brightly coloured of the 35 different canid (wild dog) species and they are Africa’s largest species of canine. Lastly, The African Wild Dog till today remains one of Africa’s unique breed of animals.