Photo: An African wild dog with pups

Known as African wild, painted, or Cape hunting dogs, these endangered canines closely resemble wolves in their pack-oriented social structure.

Photograph by Chris Johns

Map

Map: African wild dog range

African Wild Dog Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
Up to 11 years
Size:
29.5 to 43 in (75 to 110 cm)
Weight:
39.5 to 79 lbs (18 to 36 kg)
Group name:
Pack
Protection status:
Endangered
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: African wild dog compared with adult man

The African wild dog, also called Cape hunting dog or painted dog, typically roams the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet. The dog's Latin name means "painted wolf," referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears.

African wild dogs live in packs that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. The female has a litter of 2 to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. These dogs are very social, and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. Social interactions are common, and the dogs communicate by touch, actions, and vocalizations.

African wild dogs hunt in formidable, cooperative packs of 6 to 20 (or more) animals. Larger packs were more common before the dogs became endangered. Packs hunt antelopes and will also tackle much larger prey, such as wildebeests, particularly if their quarry is ill or injured. The dogs supplement their diet with rodents and birds. As human settlements expand, the dogs have sometimes developed a taste for livestock, though significant damage is rare. Unfortunately, they are often hunted and killed by farmers who fear for their domestic animals.

African hunting dogs are endangered. They are faced with shrinking room to roam in their African home. They are also quite susceptible to diseases spread by domestic animals.

Mammal Features

  • Photo: Close-up of an African lion

    Animal Conservation

    Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.

  • hawaiian-monk-critter-cam.jpg

    Crittercam Helps Study Rare Species

    The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.

  • Masai Mara Lion

    Lions Quiz

    The king of cats rules with a roar and a fierce bite. What else do you know about this top predator?

  • Photo: Lion bares his teeth

    Cause an Uproar

    Big cats are quickly disappearing. Now is the time to act. Cause an uproar to save big cats today.

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

From the Magazine

  • Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  • Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.