African wild dog

African wild dog Lycaon pictus African wild dogs—also known as African painted dogs—live in the savanna, grasslands and open range of sub-Saharan Africa. They are members of the "true dog" family, Canidae. They are related to jackals, foxes, coyotes, wolves and domestic dogs.

The life of an African wild dog

The scientific name for the African wild dog is Lycaon pictus, which means "painted wolf." The coat markings on each individual are unique. Their highly sensitive ears act like satellite dishes, allowing them to hear their prey from a distance. Their large ears serve as cooling systems, too: air moves over the blood vessels in their ears and carries heat away.

African wild dogs don't stick to one territory; instead, they range between 80 and 800 square miles, hunting mostly at dawn and dusk to avoid lions and other predators. Their large lungs and long legs allow them to chase their prey at up to 30 miles an hour for up to 3 ½ miles until the hunted animal slows down from fatigue.

African wild dogs live and hunt in large groups called "packs." They work as a team, communicating with each other using high-pitched squeaking noises that sound like tennis shoes rubbing on a gym floor. Hunting cooperatively, they can take down not only a medium-sized antelope but also larger animals like the kudu and the wildebeest. Their hunts are successful 70-90% of the time.

The pack is led by a dominant breeding pair that takes on the most dangerous roles during hunts. Only the dominant pair breeds and has young, but the entire pack helps feed and protect their large litters of pups. All the adults regurgitate food for younger pups and for any pack members who are sick.

The dominant female is pregnant for 70 days and gives birth to an average of 10 pups. Born blind and weighing less than a pound, the pups stay in the den with their mother for a 2-3 weeks, then returns to the hunt as the entire pack helps to care for the pups. The pups begin eating regurgitated food at 4-5 weeks, and start roaming with the pack at 3 months. The pack continues to care and protect the pups until they are mature at 12 to 14 months.

African wild dogs live about 10 years, both in the wild and in captivity.

African wild dog conservation

African wild dogs are listed as Endangered by the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their numbers continue to decline because of viral diseases like rabies and distemper, along with competition with large predators like lions, conflicts with humans, and habitat fragmentation. In the middle of the 20th century, 500,000 African wild dogs were spread across sub-Saharan Africa. Today between 3,000 and 6,000 animals remain. Most are limited to the south and east of their original range.

The African wild dogs at the Oregon Zoo are part of the Species Survival Plan administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

How you can help the African wild dog

Help expand the Oregon Zoo's local and global conservation efforts by becoming a Wildlife Partner. Your donation will help build on the successes of the Future for Wildlife program, which has provided funding for conservation projects around the world since 1998.

African Wild Dogs at the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo's African wild dogs live in the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit.

Brothers Widdie and Wooster were born in 2006. They have a fun and exciting enrichment schedule that keeps them moving and thinking. Some of their favorite toys are hollowed out coconuts, large barrels that they can crawl entirely into, and 5 gallon bucket feeder toys that keepers can put their food into.

Thanks to positive reinforcement interactions with keepers, Widdie and Wooster have learned to allow the vet staff to track their health as they get older. They allow their blood to be drawn, sit on a scale, and allow various body parts to be inspected during their training sessions.