World African Painted Dog Day 2020

As one of the worlds most endangered animals, celebrating World African Painted Dog Day is a way to educate and bring awareness to these incredible endangered animals.

African Painted Dog
African Painted Dog, Zimbabwe
What is the African Painted Dog

Given that the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) has many names, it is unclear. They are also called 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 red, black, brown, white, and yellow blotches.

Unique attributes
  • African wild dogs are unique
  • Individual, mottled and irregular fur coat
  • Large round
  • Long thin body
  • Long, lean legs
  • Four toes on each paw.
African Painted Dog with large ears for excellent hearing, Mana Pool, Zimbabwe
Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

The African painted dog is a native animal to sub-Saharan Africa. At one time, they 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

Map of former and current range of African Wild Dogs
Map showing the significant loss of habitat for the African Painted Dog
(Map sourced from Researchgate).
  • Lifespan: 7 years in the wild, 13 years in captivity
  • Weight: 22 kg
  • Length: 92 cm
  • Litter: 2 – 20 pups
Pack animals

African wild dogs are social animals. Living in packs with alpha breeding pair hierarchies. The alpha pair only are responsible for breeding. It is the responsibility of the whole pack to care for the pups. Dogs will regurgitate meat to feed other pack members, including puppies, sick and old dogs. All dogs will care for puppies to ensure the pack’s survival for future generations.

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.
Loss of habitat

The increasing human population requires more land for homes, agriculture and roads. Consequently, this reduces the African wild dog’s habitats. In addition, road building fragments their declining habitats. Smaller habitats, in turn, reduce the dogs hunting opportunities for antelopes and other preferred prey. In addition, they are more inclined to go after farmers’ livestock for food. As a result, they now live in very small habitats that have decreased to around 7% of their previous habitats.

Human-wildlife conflict

Farmers often hunt and kill dogs who have killed their livestock


Rabies and canine distemper

Poaching traps

African wild dogs are often victims of wired snare traps for poaching and bushmeat for other wildlife.


They are accidentally poisoned by farmers, as the African wild dogs are often mistaken as hyenas and leopards that frequently attack their livestock.


Many organisations are creating protected wildlife corridors to reconnect the African painted dog habitats. In addition, 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. World African Painted Dog Day is a day to hopefully raise awareness for these unique and persecuted wild dogs.

Painted Dog Conservation


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