African Wild Dog


Do you know about the wild animal called african wild dog that lives in Africa and has a tabby pattern?
They are said to be the strongest canid in Africa with strong family bonds and high sociality. They are skilled hunters.
Such Lycaons have a history of persecution by humans and are sometimes called “dirty dogs” with an ignominious name.
Let’s take a look at what characteristics and secrets african wild dogs have in this article!



~ Basic information. ~

Mammalia-Carnivora-Canidae-African wild dog genus.

Length:80~110cm weight:18~36kg.

The biggest feature of Lycaon is the tabby pattern consisting of black and brown, white colors that are different for each individual, as if painted with paint. Other features include the fact that the tip of the tail is always white, the ears are large and round, and the limbs are long.

African wild dogs live in packs called “packs” consisting of multiple pairs of males and females and their children. A pack of Lycaons has 6 to 20 members, but larger packs were once seen.

African wild dogs have a very strong family bond and are known to share food fairly among pack members. They also try to help their weakened comrades if they are injured or sick.


African wild dogs can reach sexual maturity at 1 to 1.5 years old and can breed, but basically only the most dominant male and female pair in the pack mate and breed. The gestation period is about 60 to 80 days, and they give birth to 2 to 16 (average 10) children at a time. The weight of newborn babies is about 300 to 500g, and child-rearing is done by members of the pack working together.




African wild dog’s Q&A.

Where does the name african wild dog come from?

In fact, there are various names for African wild dogs. Besides “african wild dog”, there are “african hunting dog”, “african painted dog”, etc. Some of them are called “lycaon”. In Japan, it is often called “rikaon”, so this time we will introduce the origin of “rikaon”.

The origin of the name rikaon is said to be “Lycaon”, a king who was transformed into a wolf after incurring the wrath of Zeus, the supreme god in Greek mythology.

By the way, the scientific name is written as “lycaon pictus”, which means “colored wolf”, and in Japan, it is sometimes called “haienainu” in addition to rikaons.


Why do african wild dogs live there?

African wild dogs live in grasslands and savannas south of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

I couldn’t find a specific reason why african wild dogs live mainly in Africa. However, it may be related to the fact that large canids that compete with african wild dogs, such as hyenas and foxes, do not live in Africa.

Animals of the same canid family as african wild dogs (wolves, coyotes, and dholes) live all over the world and prey on large to medium-sized herbivores. As a carnivorous animal, african wild dogs prey on herbivores like wolves and coyotes and play a role in regulating herbivores in Africa so that they do not increase too much.


What do african wild dogs eat?

African wild dogs are carnivorous animals and mainly prey on medium-sized herbivores such as impalas, thomson’s gazelles, reedbucks, and warthogs, but they also attack large herbivores such as gnus and zebras that are weakened by illness or injury. They also eat small animals such as rabbits, rodents, and birds.

African wild dogs have the stamina to run for long periods of time at speeds of 50 to 60 km/h and often use their stamina rather than speed to corner their prey. The success rate of hunting is very high, and it is said to be as high as 80% among the top savanna animals (by the way, the success rate of lion hunting is about 30%)

In zoos, they often eat horse meat, chicken meat, beef offal (liver and heart), dog food, etc.

Is it true that the hunting methods of african wild dogs are cruel?

Different people feel differently, but there are a certain number of people who find the hunting method of african wild dogs cruel.

Hunting for african wild dogs is basically carried out in herds. When hunting, teamwork is used, with the other members biting into the prey’s tummy and pulling it down while one bites into the leg and stops moving. At this time, the prey is still alive, but the african wild dog begins to eat internal organs and meat regardless of that.

It is for the above reasons that the hunting method of african wild dogs is hated as cruel. However, it is believed that african wild dogs have a habit of preferring fresh meat and not eating rotten meat, and because their bodies are small and it is difficult to suppress their prey for a long time, they hunt and eat in this way.

It is said that animals that fall prey to african wild dogs die in a shorter time than when attacked by other carnivores, so the time to feel pain is surprisingly short. By the way, it seems that the average time it takes from the time a prey is caught to the time it dies is about 5 minutes.


Is it true that african wild dog sneezing has meaning?

It’s true.

African wild dog is known to be an animal that sneezes a lot even compared to other animals. It used to be thought that african wild dog sneezed just to clear its nose like humans do. However, as observation and research progressed, it became clear that african wild dog’s sneezing has a meaning similar to raising one’s hand for humans.


When african wild dog wants to go hunting, it holds a meeting called “rally” with its pack to confirm the opinions of its members. And in the rally, it is said that they decide whether or not to go hunting based on the number of sneezes.

By the way, even if african wild dog with a high rank in the pack sneezes less, it is decided to go hunting. However, african wild dog with a low rank in the pack has to sneeze a lot.

This behavior has only been confirmed in african wild dog living in Botswana, and it is not known whether african wild dog living in other regions exhibit this behavior.

What is the difference between african wild dogs and hyenas?

African wild dog is a member of the dog family. It has long legs but has a dog-like body. However, there is one thing that is different from other canids. The number of fingers in canids is generally 5 in the front legs and 4 in the back legs, but african wild dog has no “dewclaw” on its front legs, which corresponds to the human thumb, and has only 4 fingers on both front and back legs.

Hyenas, on the other hand, are similar to dogs, but they are not actually members of the canine family. They are classified as “carnivorous hyenas” and are taxonomically closer to cats (especially older types of civets) than dogs.In addition, the body length is 86 ~ 150 cm and the weight is 50 ~ 90 kg, which is much larger than the african wild dog, and has a unique body that lowers the waist. Interestingly, however, the number of fingers on the forelimbs and hindlimbs of a hyena is four, just like the african wild dogs (only one species of hyena, the aardwolf, has five fingers on the front paws).

In other words, african wild dogs and hyenas are completely different animals categorically and visually, but they have the same number of fingers. It should be noted that the fewer fingers an animal has, the more suitable it is to run.

Can african wild dogs be kept as pets?

When breeding rare animals at home, it is necessary to follow the established laws in some countries. This time, we will introduce whether it is possible to breed african wild dogs at home in Japan.

African wild dogs are designated as “Specially Designated Animals” under Japan laws that may endanger human life and property. Since June 1, 2020, it has been completely prohibited to keep specific animals for pet purposes (keeping them as pets), so african wild dogs cannot be kept as pets in Japan.


Is there a place to see african wild dogs in Japan?

African wild dogs are an endangered animal with a very small population, but in fact, there are places where they are bred even in Japan.

As of 2021, African wild dogs are kept in two locations.Yokohama Zoo Zoolasia in Kanagawa Prefecture and Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka Prefecture. At both facilities, you can observe how African wild dogs live in groups, so when you go to play, you can enjoy observing them closely.


What is the lifespan of a african wild dog?

The lifespan of african wild dogs is thought to be about 10~12 years in the wild.
However, there is little information about lifespan, and no records of lifespan in captivity have been found.


What enemies does african wild dogs have?

African wild dogs have almost no natural enemies, but they can sometimes be attacked by lions and hyenas. Children in particular are easily targeted by other carnivores, and are often attacked and eaten by lions, hyenas, and leopards.

But the biggest enemy of the african wild dogs is not lions or hyenas, but us humans.

African wild dog is a carnivorous animal, but it hardly attacks humans. However, because it sometimes attacks livestock, it has been persecuted by farmers for a long time and has been thoroughly exterminated. In addition, it is said that the entire pack was sometimes destroyed when infected with infectious diseases unique to canids such as “rabies” and “canine distemper” from pet dogs.

African wild dog is a feline animal that does not have a territory like lions and leopards and moves over a wide range in search of prey.

For african wild dog to survive, vast land is necessary, but Africa is generally being developed, and wildlife is being confined to protected areas and national parks.

These protected areas and national parks are not large enough for multiple packs of african wild dog to live, and this does not bode well for their future.

African wild dog was once believed to have had 500,000 individuals throughout Africa, but now there are only about 5,000. Although it is designated as an endangered species, there is a possibility that african wild dog will become a phantom animal if this continues.





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