African Wild Dog

Lycaon pictus

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

African Wild Dog
Image: Frans Lanting
Source: Corbis

Type: mammal

African Wild Dog African Wild Dog
Image: Frans Lanting
Source: Corbis

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

African Wild Dogs have disappeared from much of their former range as their habitat has been fragmented and altered by human activity. Many African Wild Dogs are killed by cars as they try to cross roads or are trapped by farmers who consider them vermin. They also suffer from diseases such as rabies and distemper.

Conservation programs to preserve national parks, remove traps, warn drivers and educate local people are helping to protect the species.



African Wild Dogs are carnivores.

They hunt medium and large animals such as antelopes and zebras.


African Wild Dog relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a cat and a woman.

20–32 kg
body 75–120 cm, tail 30–44 cm
at shoulder 75 cm

Amazing African Wild Dogs

The coat of each African Wild Dog has a unique pattern of yellowish, black and white markings. They have large, rounded ears, short muzzles and uniquely shaped teeth for slicing through meat. Although they show dog-like behaviour such as friendly play-fighting, begging and greeting, they are only distantly related to domestic dogs.

African Wild Dogs are very sociable animals that live in small packs. The pack is made up of related animals, but males in the pack are unrelated to the females. This occurs because young females disperse from the family pack after about two years, while the males remain. Within each pack, a dominant male and female are the sole breeding pair. Females give birth in an underground den, and there are up to ten pups in each litter.

Hunting cooperatively in packs allows these dogs to catch prey as heavy as 200 kg. In some areas, smaller antelope, hares, lizards and even eggs are important food items. Some packs preferentially hunt zebras even though they are difficult to catch; it appears that this is a skill that is learned by each new generation.

African Wild Dogs compete with lions and hyenas for food and are sometimes preyed upon by lions.

Did You Know?

African Wild Dogs

  • are also known as Painted Dogs because of their markings
  • work together to catch prey much larger than themselves
  • have a very powerful bite relative to their size


African Wild Dog distribution map

African Wild Dogs are found in scattered populations in Africa, with the largest populations in southern Africa. They live in semi-desert to alpine zones, but mostly in savannah woodland.


Other animals from the Afrotropic

Blue CraneSecretarybirdMandrillOkapi