Wild dog (Lycaon pictus)

Wild dogs have mottled yellow, black and white coats, and are often called “Painted dogs”. The tip of their tail is white. They have large black round ears and brown eyes. Their slender legs have four digits on both front and back feet. Adult male wild dogs weigh 30 to 35 kg and adult females between 25 and 30 kg.


Although male wild dogs are slightly larger than females, it is very difficult to tell their spoor apart. The front foot is slightly biggerer than the back foot. Average measurements (mm) are presented (width x height).

Front foot - 55 x 85mm
Back foot - 50 x 74mm

Usually only one female in the pack comes into oestrus and mates with the dominant male. Litter of 2-19 pups are born after a gestation period of 60-72 days. They suckle for up to 3 months, but from 3 weeks they are also fed on regurgitated meat. The first three months are spent in and around the den, which is usually a burrow in the ground. Wild dogs are seasonal breeders and most young are born from April to June. This is a favourable time since game is usually abundant and the adults do not have to venture far from the den for food. Mortality of pups is generally low. Wild dogs become independent at 2 years, when same-sex groups may emigrate to find new territories. No data are available on longevity in Namibia, but mortality is high amongst adults, mainly due to persecution by humans and viral diseases, like rabies and distemper. Wild dogs are highly social and live in packs of 6-30 animals. There is a strict hierarchy among individuals of the same sex, but food is shared equally. Members returning from a hunt will provide food for the young, and adults left behind for protection, by regurgitating or by carrying meat back to the den. Wild dog packs have large ranges and move over areas of 500 – 4000 sqr km.

The wild dog has been exterminated over most of its’ former range and is the most threatened large carnivore in Southern Africa. The distribution of wild dogs is restricted to the savannah woodlands of northeast Namibia.

Wild dogs are effective predators and do not scavenge frequently. In the Nyae Nyae area and Kaudom Game Park wild dogs are known to capture mainly steenboks, duikers and kudus. In the Caprivi prey selection varies and may be similar to records from Zimbabwe, where the major prey species are: impala (38%), kudu (26%), waterbuck (6%), duiker (5,5%), sable (5,5%), steenbok (3%), wildebeest (3%) and bushbuck (3%). In addition wild dogs will also prey on smaller animals, like rats, porcupines, hares, and springhares.

The wild dogs’ greatest enemy in modern times is man. Persecution due to conflict over stock losses, and an unfortunate bad reputation amongst farmers, has led to large-scale killings and loss of habitat.

Multimedia (Download QuickTime to view video clips)

wdog.mov 00'15 / 916Kb
Sound file

Wild dogs feeding in the Kaudom Game Park, recorded during 1993.

wdog.mp3 (00'11 / 88Kb)



(Sections of video footage by Allan Cilliers)