African Wild Dog

(Lycaon pictus)




Facts about this animal

The African wild dogs is a medium-sized to large canid species. Head-body length is 75-120 cm, the tail measures 30-44 cm, and shoulder height is 60 - 75 cm. The body.weight ranges from 20 - 32 kg. The ears are large and rounded, the legs long and muscular with four toes on each foot. The English name “painted dog” and the scientific name refer to the dogs’ mottled coats that appear to be splashes of brown, red, black, yellow, tan and white. The patterns are unique to each dog though generally the fur on the head is dark and the tail tip white. A wild dog's coat is short with little or no undercoat and where the fur is sparse the blackish skin shows through.


African wild doges are diurnal, but will hunt and travel mainly at night. If there is a food shortage, a pack will look for a new home range travelling over long distances within a few days. The home range of an individual pack is determined by the availability of ungulate prey, and may be as big as 2000 sq km in suboptimal areas.


Wild dogs packs tend to average about 10 individuals but occasionally may be much larger. There is a dominant breeding pair in each pack, which can be identified by increased urine marking. Normally they are the only pack members that mate and it is said that they are monogamous for life. The pair usually prevents subordinate pack members from breeding but occasionally a subordinate female is allowed to breed and rear a litter. There is no specific reproduction season although whelping peaks during or after the rainy season. The gestation period is 70 - 73 days. Litters can comprise up to 20 pups, which are born in a grass lined den, usually an abandoned aardvark hole, and remain there with their mother for three to four weeks. As soon as the pups leave the den the entire pack will participate in rearing them.

Did you know?
That a pack of nine African wild dogs can eat the 100kg of meat from an adult kudu in just 15 minutes? Wild dogs feed very quickly to avoid kills being stolen by lions and hyaenas.


Name (Scientific) Lycaon pictus
Name (English) African Wild Dog
Name (French) Lycaon, Chien sauvage d'Afrique
Name (German) Afrikanischer Wildhund
Name (Spanish) LicaĆ³n
Local names Afrikaans: Wildehond
chiShona: Mhumhi
kiKuyu: Muthige
kiSwahili: Mbwa mwitu
isiZulu: Nkontshane Nama
Damara: !Gaub
oshiVambo: oBizi
otjiHerero: oHakanay
seSotho: Tlalerwa, Lekanyane, Mokoto
seTswana: Lethalerwa, Leteane
Shangaan: Hlolwa
siLozi: Liakanyari
siNdebele: Inganyana
siSwati: Budzatje, Inkentjane
tshiVenda: Dalerwa
xiTsonga: Hlolwa
Yei: Umzeni
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Formerly all of Subsaharan Africa except rainforest and driest deserts. Has disappeared as of today from many areas, but certainly still exists in Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Habitat Short-grass plains, semi-desert, bushy savannahs and upland forest
Wild population Approx. 3'000-5'500
Zoo population 758 registerd by the International studbook, of which 517 reported to ISIS (2005). In Europe, 36 zoos with a total of some 220 wild dogs participate in the EEP, 26 zoos with about 130 wild dogs in the SSP (2005).

In the Zoo

African Wild Dog


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Michael Gaebler

Why do zoos keep this animal

The African wild dog is an endangered species. In 1972 an International studbook was established under the WAZA umbrella, and zoos maintain now a reserve population managed under regional conservation breeding programmes. Some zoos keeping African wild dogs support in situ conservation projects. The African wild dog is also important for environmental education as it is a good example of a top predator needing vast tracts of land, which in many places are no longer available, and for illustrating the potential conflicts between top predators and livestock farming.