Painted Dog or African Wild Dog
I can admit that I used to call them African Wild Dog, but that I have switched to Painted Dog. Why you ask? Well I don’t think that Wild Dog is a fitting name even if they are wild and dogs. I think that Painted Dog is more suitable as their scientific name Lycaon pictus translates to Painted Wolf. So Painted Dog it is for me as I think wolf is a little off the mark.
They can also be referred to as Cape hunting dogs and you even might think they can be domesticated due to them being called dogs. That isn’t the case as they distrust any animal outside their own pack.
Painted dogs have an interesting social structure. Like other pack animals there is a strict hierarchy. In charge there is an alpha breeding pair, while the rest of the pack is subordinates. When pups are born they become the priority of the pack pushing down their parents in the pecking order. The pups keep this privileged status until they become adult.
They don’t show any aggression towards each other, which is unusual for a pack animal. Instead, they have emphasized submissive behavior into their social structure. This submissive behavior is clearly visible when adults regurgitating food for begging pack members. It is also visible in their greeting display when the pack becomes active or when members have been separated for a period. They take care of injured or sick pack members even if they are ineffective as a hunter. Their pack is everything.
You normally say that the Painted Dog is the most effective hunter in Africa. Their success rate is staggering 80%. I have had the pleasure to witness them hunt a couple of times and all hunts have been successful when they have had an urgency. Only once have I seen them fail and at that time they already had full bellies.
There are theories about why they are so successful. My personal opinion is that its about stamina, coordination and cooperation. Their intelligence and teamwork allows them to adapt during the hunt and they have a keen eye for spotting weaker animals.
They sometimes hunt during moonlit nights, but are mostly active at dusk and dawn. They are built for the chase and doesn’t require stealth. Many times they approach potential prey openly on a slow trot and first start to run if prey flees. One hunt can bring multiple kills for a pack and they are specialized hunters of medium sized antelope. A normal hunt is over in 1.5 to 3 km and they rarely continue a pursuit much longer.
How are the Painted Dog coping?
Sadly they are endangered and declining. It is of course due to human activity and habitat loss. They are also susceptible to diseases such as rabies, contracted usually from domestic animals. Because of their highly social nature one rabid dog would quickly infect the rest of the pack, wiping them out entirely.
They have few natural enemies even if some predators will kill pups. Their main enemy is us humans thinking they are vermin and Lions. If you have huge numbers of Lion in an area you will have fewer Painted Dogs and vice versa. Other predators are still a threat, but generally don’t cause any problem. Hyenas will naturally attempt to steal kills because they are cheeky in nature, but wouldn’t hunt adult pack members.
There still are a couple of strongholds for them like in the Okavango Delta and Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. I have had the pleasure of seeing Painted Dogs in four different countries South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Want to know more
If you are interested in knowing more about the endangered Painted Dog then I would suggest visiting any of these sites.