African Wild Dog goes by many names. Its aliases include Lycaon pictus, Mbwa mwitu, Ornate Wolf, Painted Wolf, Painted Dog and many others. What is interesting about this species is that they are one of the most efficient hunters in Africa. They succeed 70 – 90 percent of the time, while the accuracy of lions is only about 30 percent.
African Wild Dog pack sharing a meal
The Painted Dogs usually hunt twice a day and almost all the pack takes part. If there are pups to take care of, then both the bitches and the male dogs take turns in baby-sitting. Usually the pack is up to 20 dogs, but packs of 90 dogs have been observed. When Mbwa Mwitu hunt, they recklessly charge their victims and kill them instantly. There usually is one hunting leader and as the patches on the fur are different for every specimen, the dogs easily recognize each other. Another advantage from the patches is that the pack looks bigger than it is and the prey gets confused. After killing the prey that usually is a Thomson gazelle or an impala, the Wild Dogs usually eat as much as they can.
When they get back to the baby-sitting Painted Dogs, the baby-sitters appear to “kiss” the hunters, licking and poking at the corners of each other’s mouths. But this is really a food-begging behavior that plays an important role in social bonding within the pack. Then the dogs that have ate as much as they could, regurgitate (throw up) the food for the pack members. This way not only the hunters have a chance to feed.
Although many think of Ornate Wolves as of violent and mean creatures they are actually very caring. There is always an alpha pair in the pack and the alpha female can have up to 21 pups in one litter, which is more than any other dog species. The whole pack helps with raising the pups, defends them and greets the pups with a friendly lick when the mother first shows them to the pack members. Interestingly the ‘baby-sitters’ are usually males. When the pups are old enough to come along to hunt, the elder members let the pups eat first.
African Wild Dogs resting
The dogs are usually 80 – 112 centimeters long (2.6 – 3.7 ft) and weigh up to 36 kilos (80 pounds). They inhabit prairies and savannas in 25 countries from Sudan to South Africa. The closest relatives to the African wild dog are domesticated dogs and wolves. Dogs were the first creatures to be tamed by the human, which shows the high intellect of these animals and African Wild Dogs are a great example of how cooperation provides benefits for every member of the pack.