World African Painted Dog Day 2020

World African Painted Dog Day 2020
African Painted Dog, Zimbabwe
What is the African Painted Dog?

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is also known as the painted wolf, Cape hunting dog, African hunting dog, and painted hunting dog.  Lycaon pictus means ‘painted wolf’, which describes the animal’s irregular, mottled fur in blotches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow.  Each dog has its own individual and unique patterned coat. These dogs have large rounded ears and long lanky legs. They only have four toes on their paws, unlike other dogs that have five toes.

African Painted Dog with large ears for excellent hearing, Mana Pool, Zimbabwe
Large ears … all the better to hear prey with!, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

The African painted dog is native to sub-Saharan Africa. They once numbered 500,000 dogs in 39 African countries. Sadly, their population has declined significantly, the current status is approximately 7,000 individuals, and they are currently labelled as ‘endangered’, and numbers are decreasing.

African Painted Dog puppies, Mana Pools
African Painted Dog puppies, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

World African Painted Dog Day 2020
Map showing the significant loss of habitat for the African Painted Dog
(Map sourced from Researchgate).

Lifespan in the wild is around 11 years. Adult dogs weigh 22 kg, and length is 92cm. A female can have litters ranging from 2 – 20 pups, which is cared for by the whole pack. They are social animals living in packs with hierarchies of an alpha breeding pair. The African painted dogs are very devoted to members of their pack.  Forming strong bonds, they will care for their young, old, and sick pack members. They socialise and communicate by touching and rubbing up against one another and making sounds. Dogs regurgitate food for the young, which are always fed first.

African Painted Dog social greeting
Typical social greeting of the pack
Very affectionate African Painted Dogs
Very affectionate dogs

They are very skilled, efficient, and cooperative hunters, and will hunt in packs of up to 20 individuals. They have a very high hunting success rate of 80%, due to their exceptional hearing, ability to run at speeds of 45 km/h, and great pack leadership and cooperation.  

African Painted Dogs aligned ready to begin their hunt
The beginnings of a hunt, where each dog has its place in the hierarchy of the pack
African Painted Dog hunt continues
The hunt continues with all knowing their place
Threats ~ human persecution

Loss of habitat ~ increasing human population requires more land for homes and agriculture, which is reducing habitats. The building of roads is fragmenting their declining habitats. This is reducing their hunting opportunities for antelopes and other preferred prey, forcing them to go after farmers’ livestock. They are now having to live in very small habitats which have decreased to around 7% of their previous habitats.

Human-wildlife conflict ~ farmers often will hunt and kill dogs who have killed their livestock.

Diseases ~ rabies and canine distemper.

Poaching traps ~ often victims of wired snare traps meant for other wildlife for poaching and bushmeat.

Poisoning ~ accidentally poisoned by farmers as they are often mistaken as hyenas and leopards that frequently attack their livestock.


 There are many organisations working to create protected wildlife corridors to reconnect the African painted dog habitats. Conservation groups are working on initiatives to reduce human-wildlife conflict. Zimbabwe is one country that has 700 individuals and is addressing the threats above to work towards increasing their numbers and providing safe environments for these animals.

Painted Dog Conservation


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