The African Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus, also known as the Cape Hunting Dog ) one of the most
social of the canids, lives in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, with the largest populations in
Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. Approximately 5,000 dogs are left in wild populations; their
numbers have decreased significantly due to human expansion, hunting by ranchers and poachers,
and the spread of diseases such as rabies .
Perhaps most notable about the wild dogs is their social structure. Their structure is the most
pronounced of all the social canids . The existence of this structure, and their adherence
to it, directly contributes to their survival [3, 4, 7, 10]. Dogs form packs (groups) of between 2 and
30 adults with (usually) between 4 and 10 pups. Each pack has one alpha male and alpha female,
they make up the breeding pair . The pack structure allows for increased hunting success and
increased pup survival.
African Wild Dog at Oregon Zoo, photo credit: Kelsey Wood
They tend to be between 61-78 cm tall at the shoulder, 106-153 cm long from head to tail tip,
and weigh from 17 to 36 kg (or about the size of a German Shepherd). Their Linnaean name
pictus comes from the Latin word picta which means "painted." This name was bestowed
thanks to their colorful coats--patches of black, tan, yellow, and white cover the body, chest,
belly, and legs in thin fur. The combination, and amounts, of colors vary some by region .