The African Wild Dogs - More Than Meets the Eye - Africa Point Blog
Imagine walking along the African grasslands in the late afternoon. The sun is setting and is coloring the sky with a vivid orange and red. The air is just beginning to cool, supplementing the departure of the sun which will be back the next day.
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The African Wild Dogs - More Than Meets the Eye

Published 26th September 2007
Modified 21st July 2015
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Wildlife, Wild Dog

african wild dogImagine walking along the African grasslands in the late afternoon. The sun is setting and is coloring the sky with a vivid orange and red. The air is just beginning to cool, supplementing the departure of the sun which will be back the next day.


As the slight breeze waves the grass to and fro, you notice a curious sight in the distance: a good number of dogs, making its way through the bush, chasing a stray gazelle.


These multicolored dogs and their white-tipped tails represent the flames of a swift and angry mob, running in the diminishing light. They are organized, coordinating their movements by talking to each other until they finally overtake their quarry.


This African Wild Dog pack will not go hungry tonight.


The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is part of the Canidae family of mammals, along with the jackal and the wolf. Their body structure is developed to give them distinct advantages when they hunt. African Wild Dogs have long legs and a lanky, light frame, making them capable of reaching maximum speeds of 37-45 mph. Those features also make them very capable of chasing prey for as long as an hour at a time. This combination of speed and endurance helps them out greatly as they are cursorial hunters - in other words, they prefer a good chase instead of relying on sneaky tactics to tackle their target.


The fur coat of the African Wild Dog is comparable to a snowflake - No two are alike in design. These 'painted wolves' have large bat-like ears and fur coats with unique patterns of black, brown, tan and white. Some may see it as visually appealing; however the patterns on these quick dogs serve a more practical purpose. Whenever they move, the pattern designs would make the pack look larger than it is, adding intimidation and encouraging confusion in prey.


African Wild Dogs are active and hunt mostly during dusk and dawn. The males do the hunting while the female remain to take care of their pups. They usually approach gazelles and impalas, intent in purposely disrupting the herd. Any unfortunate straggler or member which goes the wrong way is an immediate target. When a target is isolated, the hunt begins.


The African Wild Dogs will now rely on precise teamwork to bring their target down. They are capable of coordinating with each other with the features that they naturally have. They communicate amongst themselves by barking and using high-pitched chirping sounds as they make the chase.


The white tips on their bushy tails also serve as markers for each member of the pack to quickly determine another dog's position. Once a dog has another member's location, he then uses his large round ears as pointers: they can be turned to signal another dog to go a certain direction. These capabilities and traits, make them very efficient in cooperative hunting.


african wild dogsOnce their target is down the dogs consume their prey quickly. A factor which affects their efficiency in consumption is their bite. These mammals can bite with very strong and significant force - they are able to bite through bone. Nine of these dogs can consume up to 100kgs of flesh in an hour.


They tend to do this because they are aware of the fact that a lion or hyena can suddenly jump in and steal the spoils. Due to the African Wild Dog's size, it is not uncommon for its competitors to make an attempt to bully their way to an underserved meal.


It should be noted that the African Wild Dog has been observed to remain calm and civil in eating, despite their speed in consuming their prey. Instead of fighting over choice portions and pieces to eat, they would take turns in having a cut of the prey. If there are African Wild Dog pups that accompanied the adults in the hunt, they would be permitted to eat first.


The teamwork does not stop there. When you observe an African Wild Dog consuming more flesh than it can handle, chances are it's taking some home in its built-in 'doggie bag', or its stomach. It will regurgitate meat when it returns to the pack, for the older and injured members of the family.


It is in these social ways that everyone in the pack gets a share of dinner. After eating, the pack settles down for a well-deserved rest. It is at these moments that the African Wild Dogs strengthen the bonds of their tight-knit family unit. Pups play before they rest, and the adult males would keep their guards up as the moon rises.


Tomorrow would be another hunt, another time for the African Wild Dog to chase under the rising sun...


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