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Also known as the painted wolf or Cape hunting dog, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is the largest indigenous canine living in sub-Saharan Africa and the sole extant member of the genus Lycaon. Highly sociable carnivores, the African wild dog is currently listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.
See the fact file below for more information on the African Wild Dog or alternatively, you can download our 22-page African Wild Dog worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
TAXONOMY AND EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY
- The earliest recorded reference to the African wild dog came from Greco-Roman poet Oppian, who authored thoa, a wolf and leopard hybrid. Solinus’ Collea rerum memorabilium from the third century AD mentions a multicolored wolf-like animal with mane roots in Ethiopia.
- In 1820, Coenraad Temminck initially described the African wild dog after scientifically examining a sample taken from the coast of Mozambique, naming it Hyaena picta and categorizing it as a species of hyena.
- The genus Lycaon is the Greek term lykaios, which means “wolf-like.” The specific epithet pictus is a Latin word for “painted.”
- American paleontologist George G. Simpson categorized the African wild dog, the Dhole, and the Bush dog together in the subfamily Simocyoninae due to their similar trenchant carnassials.
- English zooarchaeologist Juliet Clutton-Brock argued to Simpson’s claim, stating that there are too few similarities existing between these three species.
- The African wild dog has the most specialized adaptations of all the canids for its coat color, diet, and cursorial (running) ability, especially when chasing after its prey.
- It has an agile skeleton, and the loss of its first digit on its front feet gives it an advantage to increase stride and speed. This evolution lets the African wild dog chase prey across open plains for long distances.
- Its teeth are naturally carnassial-shaped, meaning the upper and lower teeth erupted in a way that it can let enlarged and self-sharpening edges to pass by each other in a shearing behavior. It also has the largest premolars relative to body size among extant carnivoran except for the spotted hyena. On the lower carnassials, the molars have turned into a cutting blade for flesh-slicing, with the absence of the post-carnassial molars. This evolution is also found in two other hypercarnovires – the dhole and bush dog.
- The oldest African wild dog fossil can be traced back to 200,000 years ago and was spotted in HaYonim Cave in Israel. Its evolution is poorly studied due to the lack of fossil finds.
- The African wild dog is the most compact and solidly built among the African canids. It stands 24 to 30 inches in shoulder length, with 28 to 44 inches head-and-body length, and 11 to 16 inches tail length.
- Unlike other members of the Canis genus, the African wild dog is relatively skinny and tall, with outsized ears and missing dewclaws.
- Adults weigh an average of 40 to 79 pounds. Dogs from East Africa weigh roughly 44 to 55 pounds while those in southern Africa weigh 54 to 72 pounds. It can also be concluded that females are naturally three to seven percent smaller than males.
- The middle two toepads are commonly fused.
- Its teeth also differ from other species under the genus due to the degeneration of the last lower molar, the thinness of the fangs, and proportionately big premolars. The heel of the lower carnassial is crowned with one blade-like cusp, which improves the shearing capacity of the teeth. This characteristic, called the “trenchant heel,” can also be found in two other canids: the Asian dhole and the South American bush dog.
- Its fur differs substantially from other canids, having a complete set of still bristle-hairs without underfur. It loses its fur as it becomes older; some are entirely naked. Color variation is intense, and may act as visual identification, as an African wild dog can spot another dog at distances of 50 to 100 meters.
- Little variation is found in the face, with the muzzle being black, slowly fading into brown on the cheeks and forehead.
- A black line reaches up the forehead, leaning to blackish-brown on the back of the ears. Some species have a brown teardrop-shaped mark under the eyes. The back of the head and neck can be yellow or brown, and a white spot can be sometimes seen behind the front legs, with some species having completely white front legs, chests, and throats. The tail is naturally white at the end, black in the middle, and brown at the base. Variations may occur as some may lack the white tip completely, or may have black colorations below the white tip. Coat patterns can be asymmetrical, with the left part of the body having varied markings and colorations from that of the right.
- Cape wild dog (L. p. pictus). They inhabit the Cape of Good Hope and are described by their large amount of orange-yellow fur overlapping the black, the slightly yellow hair at the back of the ears, and the yellow underparts and several whitish hairs on the throat mane. Cape wild dogs in Mozambique are known for their almost equal development of yellow and black on the upper and lower parts of the body.
- East African wild dog (L. p. lupinus). These subspecies are smaller than the Cape subspecies, identified by their very dark coat with little yellow hair.
- Somali wild dog (L. p. somalicus). These are smaller than the East African wild dogs, having shorter and rougher hair and weaker dentition. Their coat colors are almost similar to the Cape wild dogs, with the yellow portions being buff.
- Chadian wild dog (L. p. sharicus). Also called the Shari River hunting dog, the Saharan wild dog, and the Central African wild dog, these subspecies are possibly extinct in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo. They are still found in some areas in Central Africa, but are now considered critically endangered and are close to extinction.
- West African wild dog (L. p. manguensis). They are subspecies of the African wild dog found in West Africa and are now listed as critically endangered species by the IUCN.
- It is a highly sociable animal, stronger than those of sympatric lions and spotted hyenas. Therefore, living alone and hunting are extremely uncommon in this species.
- The African wild dog stays in permanent packs having two to 27 adults and puppies. However, larger packs have been witnessed and temporary aggregations of hundreds of African wild dogs may have gathered due to the seasonal migration of springbok herds in Southern Africa.
- Sexes have separate dominance hierarchies. Females are usually led by the oldest female. Males may also be led by the oldest male, but this can be replaced by younger males; thus, some packs have elderly former male pack leaders. The dominant pair commonly monopolizes breeding.
- Males stay in the natal pack while females disperse, joining other packs and getting rid of some of the resident females linked to other pack members to prevent inbreeding and letting these evicted wild dogs find new packs of their own and breed. Males occasionally disperse, and when this happens, they are invariably pushed away by other packs already having males.
- African wild dogs in East Africa do not have a fixed breeding season, while those in Southern Africa usually breed between April and July.
- During mating season, the female is closely escorted by a single male. The gestation period ends after 69 to 73 days, with the interval between each pregnancy being 12 to 14 months.
- The African wild dog produces a litter with six to 16 pups. It can be concluded that a single female can give birth to a number of pups that are enough to form a new pack every year.
- After giving birth, the mother guards her pups until they are old enough to eat solid food at three to four weeks. After seven weeks, these pups start to take on adult appearance, with distinguishable lengthening in the legs, muzzle, and ears. Once they reach eight to ten weeks, the pack leaves the den and the young follow the adults during hunts.
- The youngest members of the pack are allowed to eat the dead prey first, an advantage that ends once these pups turn a year old.
HABITAT AND DIET
- The African wild dog commonly lives in savanna and arid regions, usually avoiding forested areas. It prefers to inhabit these areas due to its hunting habits that need open spaces that do not obstruct vision or interfere pursuit.
- In East Southern Africa, this animal’s favorite prey is the Thomson’s gazelle, while in Central and Southern Africa, it hunts impala, reedbuck, kob, lechwe, and springbok.
- Its diet can also consist of warthog, oribi, duiker, waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, ostrich, calves of African buffalo, and smaller prey like dik-dik, hares, spring hares, insects, and cane rats.
- Lions are the ultimate predators of the African wild dog. Spotted hyenas are notorious kleptoparasites and follow groups of African wild dogs to snatch their kills. They check areas where African wild dogs have rested and feed on any food remains they find.
THREATS AND CONSERVATION STATUS
- The African wild dog experiences threat brought about by habitat fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, outbreak of infectious diseases, and skyrocketing mortality rates.
- It has been listed as an endangered species by the IUCN since 1990, with a population rough estimate of about 6,600 adults.
African Wild Dog Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the African wild dog across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Marshall Plan worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) which is the largest indigenous canine living in sub-Saharan Africa and the sole extant member of the genus Lycaon. Highly sociable carnivores, the African wild dog is currently listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- African Wild Dog Facts
- Wild Dogs of Africa
- Describing the Painted Wolf
- Things You Need To Know
- Wild Dog Wiki
- Draw My Habitat
- Born To Be Wild
- Wild Dog Subspecies
- Two Wild Dogs
- Wild Dog Recap
- Conservation Status
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Link will appear as African Wild Dog Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 13, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
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