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The Wonderful World of Wild Dogs

Wild Dogs are some of the most fascinating of all the animals in the Kruger National Park. They are also among the rarest sightings.


The scientific name for an African Wild Dog is Lycaon Pictus, which means “Painted Dog”.  This name refers to the wild dog’s irregular, often mottled coat made up of patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. It is also the reason why in Africa, Wild Dogs are often called painted dogs.

Wild Dogs are the cruellest of all the predators. And other facts:

  • Death is slow and painful for the victim, as the wild dogs usually first run the victim to exhaustion and then start devouring it before it is dead. The poor victim usually bleeds to death while being eaten.
  • Of all the carnivores, wild dogs have the most structured social order. Their packs can be anything from 6 to 20 individuals and these are led by a dominant male and female.  All other members of the pack will play a subordinate role. 
  • Wild dogs are not found in areas that have large numbers of lion of hyena.
wild dogs

A Collective Hunting Approach

The wild dogs have a collective approach to hunting.  At either sunset or sunrise the hunt will start and the dogs will then have a greeting ceremony which consists of sniffing, licking and a great wagging of tails.  During this time they make a twittering sound.  They are known to cover an area of up to 50 km in a single day looking for food. 

The hunt is normally started by a subordinate male that isolates a single antelope from the herd.  This is quite often a female or young antelope.  They are known to hunt impala in particular.  As soon as the target is identified the alpha male will take the lead in the hunt.  This is then an endurance race.

Wild dogs have a high stamina and are quite capable of maintaining a speed of 40km/h for over five kilometres.   They can also reach speeds of 60km/h, but only over short distances.

While hunting, the pack will split up. Some dogs will drive the victim in a circle towards the other dogs.  Tirelessly, the wild dogs will take it in relays chasing down the prey, often nipping or tearing bits off the prey until it drops from exhaustion.  Once down they will immediately start feeding. 

Wild dogs are well mannered at the kill. 

The young always feed first and they are followed by the subordinate males and females.  The alpha male and female feed at any time.  They will each wait their turn and if there is not enough food for all of them they will simply start hunting again.  Nursing females will remain at the den and the subordinate females will stuff themselves at the kill and then regurgitate food for the mother and her young to eat. 

We are always on the lookout for wild dogs while on a Kruger Park safari. Join us on a Kruger Park trip, perhaps we are lucky enough to spot these interesting creature.

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