African wild dog

Lycaon pictus

IUCN Status: Endangered


These dogs hunt most successfully as a pack, killing and sharing meals at the place of kill. An ideal meal would be an impala (an African antelope of the grass plains & scrub) weighing in at about 30 - 40 kgs. They can kill animals up to twice their size and weight usually ill wildebeest or zebra. However, if food is scarce they kill smaller animals such as scrub hares which they eat themselves.


In a pack of wild dogs it is only the alpha male and female that breed. Anything from 2 to 12 pups may be born after a gestation of about 70 days. The young are usually born in old aardvark holes and like most mammals are blind at birth. They are weaned at about 2 months of age and become part of the roaming pack from about 6 months of age when they desert the den.

At The Zoo

We have two litter sisters here from Port Lympne in Kent. They are part of the European endangered species breeding programme and could be used for breeding at any time in the future. By holding these two animals it will give a chance for another zoo in the programme to be able to breed.


African hunting dogs are found in grasslands, savannahs and open woodlands. They are widely distributed across the African plains and are not found in jungle areas. Their habitat also includes semi-desert to mountainous areas south of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

Fun Facts

The Latin name scientists have given this dog Lycaon pictus literally means" painted wolf"! Hunting dogs share their kill with the pups or ill pack members by regurgitating part of the partially digested kill! Unlike domestic dogs, they do not urinate to scent mark as they are nomads without any real territory.


African wild dogs have suffered very large declines in the recent past and pack sizes now average between 7 - 15 individuals compared to over 100 on occasions. The males and females have separate dominance hierarchies and the pack will care not only for the young but for wounded and ill animals. Hunting usually takes place early morning or as the evening draws in and the prey is chased until it is wears down where it is torn apart or disembowelled on the run in the case of bigger animals.