About African wild dogs

Status of African wild dogs

The African wild dog(Lycaon pictus) is one of Africa's most endangered carnivores. They are Red Listed as Endangered (En 2a) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Wild dogs have disappeared from 25 of the 39 countries in which they were once resident and only 3,000 - 5,000 remain in Africa today.

Like most large carnivores, wild dogs have disappeared from much of their historical range as human populations have expanded, and the dogs are now largely confined to protected areas and their peripheries.

Name and Taxonomy

The Latin name for African wild dogs is Lycaon pictus, which literally translates into painted wolf-like canid, or painted hunting dog. This is a reference to their patchwork coats of brown, black and white, which like fingerprints are unique to each animal.

Domestic dogs, wolves, jackals, and dingoes all belong to the genus Canis, however the African wild dog diverged from this group several million years ago into the genus Lycaon. The species therefore represents a unique evolutionary line. They have physiological adaptations which enable them to hunt over long distances at high speeds and consume their prey quickly to reduce the likelihood of larger carnivores stealing their kill.


African wild dogs are medium sized (18-34 kg) dogs, with large black ears, and dark muzzles.


Wild dogs were historically distributed all over sub-Saharan Africa, but their range has decreased and become fragmented over recent decades. From the thirty-four sub-Saharan countries in which they used to exist, a handful of countries are now thought to hold potentially viable populations. The Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Ethiopia are all estimated to hold populations of 400 dogs or over, while the largest remaining populations reside in Botswana and Tanzania, estimated at 800 and 1800 dogs respectively.


Wild dogs can occupy a range of habitats from montane forest to semi-desert and were formerly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from the lowland forests of the Congo basin.


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