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Mammals of Southern Africa

Large Mammals   Smaller Mammals 

The "Big 5": Lion LeopardElephant Buffalo Rhino

A Guide to the: Wild Dog - Lycaon pictus

The Wild Dog is unmistakeable among the medium-sized carnivores: it has large, rounded ears, long legs, a bushy, white-tipped tail and a blotched black, yellow and white shaggy coat. No two wild dogs are exactly alike in pattern. They live and hunt in packs which usually consist of 10 - 15 animals, and communicate with calls, body language and greeting rituals. They are now restricted to the larger National Parks only, and are greatly reduced in number: to sight a pack of wild dogs is a rare and thrilling experience.

The wild dog, also known as the 'Cape Hunting Dog', is a hunting dog and has a reputation of having a ferocious killing style. They hunt early in the morning and evening, and live and travel in nomadic packs. The relationship between packs is not fully understood, but there may be occasional interchange of members between them. Their sight is more well-developed than their sense of smell: wild dogs hunt by sight, and therefore prefer relatively open country.


The pack is a well co-ordinated, efficient hunting unit and the members are inter-dependent. When a pack of wild dogs choose their prey, they prepare themselves for a battle: when the leading dogs tire, others take over to maintain the chase, reaching speeds of 66 km/hr. The smaller prey gets torn to pieces and the larger animals have their flesh ripped from their bodies.

The wild dog's behavior becomes calm and patient after it has killed its prey: the adults stand back and let the juveniles eat first. Parental care is advanced, and the young are very well cared for: the adults clean and guard the youngsters and feed them regurgitated meat. Usually 6 - 8 young are born, although litters may be as large as 16. A pack of wild dogs will drive hyaenas and leopards away from a kill.


More facts about Wild Dogs

Kruger National Park (South Africa)
Pilanesberg National Park (South Africa)

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park    
Kalahari Gemsbok National Park




Dr Gus Mills (Far right), Pete (filling the dart!) and rangers from Jock Safari Camp re-fitting a radio collar to a wild dog. The whole procedure was over in approximately 15 minutes!
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