African wild dogs are found mainly in the plains and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa, including national parks such as Hwange, Kruger, Gonarezhou, Moremi and Chobe. They prefer to live in savannas, grasslands and woodlands, where frequent rainfall occurs.
African wild dogs are by nature very social and live and hunt in packs. They live in a pack with their puppies. Like wolves, these wild dogs, also known as 'Cape hunting dogs', hunt larger prey like antelopes and share food amongst the pack. They have a strong bond within the group, and guard the weakest and the ill in their pack.
African wild dogs belong to Canidae (biological family of animals related to dogs), which also includes jackals, foxes, wolves, and domestic dogs. These dogs have only four toes in each foot. Their large head and swift nature often misleads one to identify them as hyenas.
Due to their captivating coat of multicolored fur (with irregular, spotted patches), and ferocious nature, these dogs are also known as 'painted dogs', 'painted wolf' and 'tricolor dogs'. They have large, rounded ears and a sharp sense of hearing.
They have long legs and a thin body, which helps them to run fast. Their body length is about 40 inches and the tail is approximately 12-16 inches long with a white plume at the tip. The males are a little larger than the females. This species can weigh up to a maximum 66 pounds.
These dogs are constant wanderers and hunt during the day. They have a reputation of being tireless runners and can sustain chases over long distances without respite. These dogs are very successful hunters.
They make unique sounds like whining, whimpering and twittering sounds like birds, when they greet one another. They often make a hooting call when searching for another member of their pack.
Their puppies live in a den for up to two months after birth and are guarded by the older dogs.
They live up to almost 10 years in the wild; in zoos, they live up to 13 years.
These dogs are regarded as one of the most endangered carnivorous species, and are marked as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The African wild dog is under threat due to various reasons. As these dogs have a bad reputation as killer dogs, they are often killed by people. Some of the dogs are dying due to various illnesses such as rabies and distemper. It is only in national parks, where the African wild dog lives in a protected environment.