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African Wild Dog Fact Sheet


African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus): a wild canine native to sub-Saharan Africa.

AKA: African painted dog or African hunting dog

Kingdom: | Animalia
Phylum: | Chordata
Class: | Mammalia
Order: | Carnivora
Family: | Canidae
Genus: | Lycaon
Species: | pictus

Size and Weight:

African wild dogs weigh 40 to 79 pounds with males slightly heavier than females. They are 30 to 43 inches in length and stand 24 to 30 inches at shoulder height with females slightly larger.


The African wild dog has a colorful, patchy coat. They have large bat-like ears and a bushy tail with a white tip, which may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting. Their markings are as unique as a human fingerprint, making it easy to identify individuals.


African wild dogs are carnivores. They are opportunistic predators that hunt a wide variety of prey, including antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. African wild dogs have a success rate of around 80% when hunting, which is higher than other predators like lions and leopards. This high success rate is largely due to their teamwork. A pack of wild dogs will hunt together to capture prey. They often approach their prey silently and then chase it in pursuit clocking at up to 41 mph for 3 miles.


Their habitat ranges from dense forests to open plains in Africa.


They are native to sub-Saharan Africa. The largest populations remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa, especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique.


An alpha female typically gives birth to 10 to 12 pups per litter with some litter sizes up to 21 pups, the most of any dog. She gives birth to these pups in a den, typically an underground burrow of another animal, such as a warthog. After giving birth, the hunters of the pack bring food to her and her newborns while she takes care of them in the den. Not only do they bring food, but other pack members also stay to help babysit or guard the den against predators.

When the pups reach about four weeks old, pack members feed them by regurgitating solid food. When they are about eight weeks old, they are warned, and by 16 weeks old, they leave the den. During the time near the den, the pack hunts nearby to help feed and take care of the young. When the pups are old enough to follow the adults to a kill, the hunters step back and watch for other predators while the young eat first. The pups reach maturity at around 18 months. Typically, the females are the ones to leave the pack at around 3 years old, sometimes with their sisters. Meanwhile, males stay with their birth pack. The pack is usually made up of mostly males and very few females.

Social Structure:

African wild dogs are social and live in packs, with the average pack size being between 5 and 20 dogs. Within the pack, there is one dominant male and dominant female, called the alpha pair. The pack works as a group to hunt and take care of the young. While their social structure is most similar to wolves, they seem to be gentler within their pack.


African wild dogs live 10 to 12 years in the wild.


Lions are natural predators to wild dogs. Humans are the largest threat to wild dog populations. Throughout their range in Africa, wild dogs are shot and poisoned by farmers who often blame them for killing their livestock. Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are also major threats to the species. Habitat fragmentation increases human-wildlife conflict and localized, small population extinction due to epidemic disease. As human populations expand, wild dogs are losing their habitat.

Conservation Status:

African wild dogs are listed as Endangered by the IUCN’s Red List. There are estimated to be nearly 6,600 wild dogs remaining in the wild with their populations decreasing.

Conservation Efforts:

Conservation groups are working to protect wild dogs through the creation of protected areas and the protection of major wildlife corridors. The World Wildlife Fund works to protect important wildlife corridors between major game reserves in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. WWF also works to reduce conflict with humans. The African Wildlife Foundation works to educate local community members on protecting wild dogs and equips them to do so.

Source: African Wildlife Foundation, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and World Wildlife Fund.

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