African Wild Dog - The Largest Dog In Africa
The largest dog species in Africa is the 'African Wild Dog'. Also known as African hunting dogs, painted wolves or African painted dogs.
The Latin name is Lycaoon Pictus which means "painted wolf". They also have the name "Mbwa Mwitu" in Swahili.
This species has mottled fur all over its body and is well known for the strong social structure it displays in its family structure.
These dogs live in grasslands and open plains of south and east Africa. They live only in the plains and not in the dense forests.
They are normally found in certain regions of Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, and in the Transvaal of South Africa.
The IUCN's Endangered Species list has the African painted dog on it. Tanzania and Namibia are the areas where projects have been taken up to raise their numbers and breed them.
Their fur color is a mix of brown, red, yellow, black and white. Each hunting dog wears a different pattern of these colors. Their tail tips are bushy and white in color, whereas their muzzle fur is black in color.
Their bodies are around 35 inches long, their tails are around 14 inches long, and at their shoulders they are around 25 inches tall.
Their muzzles are short and broad, their jaws are very powerful, and their ears are designed to help them hear sounds miles away. They have a thin, long body with four toes on each foot, and highly muscular legs to help them chase their prey down at 35 miles per hour.
They are on the endangered species list since they are predators of man.
Their pack size is between 6 to 20 dogs, with 10 being the average pack size. You will rarely see any intimidation, violence or aggression among their members.
They are the largest canines found in Africa. And only the Grey Wolf is larger than them in the world. They are bestowed with 42 teeth, and their premolars in larger in size than most similar animals which aids them in consuming bigger pieces of bone and flesh.
They have the 2nd highest BFO (bite force quotient) among all carnivores. Their BFO is 142. Only the Tasmanian Devil has a higher BFO. The African painted dogs are on top of the most endangered carnivore species list in Africa.
This species is at least 1 million years old and comes from a rather unique lineage. They are the only carnivores that do not have dewclaws on their forelimbs.
African painted dogs are highly social creatures and intelligent too. But, they are called cruel butchers too since recently 11 such dogs mauled a 3 years old boy to death in a Pittsburgh Zoo where an African Painted Dog Exhibit was put up for the public. This incident took place on Nov.4th, 2012.
These wild dogs can be identified easily by their colored patterns all over their bodies. In fact, no two dogs can have the same patterns on their bodies.
They also have large round ears and dark brown circles around their eyes. These patterns, their eyes, and their ears make them look cute too. However, these are wild animals.
There is just 1 dominant male and 1 female that breeds in an entire pack of wild dogs. Their breeding months are late November to March. The pregnancy stage lasts for 10 weeks, with an average of 10 puppies that are eventually born.
These puppies live in a sheltered den or burrow for over 3 weeks, after which they live with the rest of the pack and are cared for by the adults. The young dogs are never left without other members of the pack.
Adult dogs hunt and babysit in turns. These pups then become adult dogs after 12 odd months, and eventually die after 10 years or thereabouts.
Mystery and enigma surround these wild dogs, and they are elusive as well. They appear and disappear in certain areas within a span of a few days.
These painted dogs are so rare that a few zoos in America and Europe have started exhibits exclusively featuring these animals.
There are high fees charges to enter these exhibits and get a closer look at these mysterious creatures. Unfortunately, only a maximum of 5000 such dogs remain in the wild today, most of which are found preserved in national parks in Africa.
Africa hunting dogs have a home area size of around 350 to 400 miles. But, they need around 4000 square miles for them to be protected from disease and hunting.
They radiate heat away from their bodies thanks to their large round ears. Their muzzles are broad and short which aids them in hanging on to their captured prey. They blend well into their habitat because of their painted fur which makes it difficult for their prey to see them preying on them.
These wild dogs are perfectly designed creatures for hunting. Their body weight is light, and legs are muscular and long. The bones of their lower front legs are fused together to help them turn much faster while hunting their prey.
They normally hunt only during the mornings and early evenings. Every dog is welcome to get an equal part of the prey, and they consume the same without much of a fuss. They will also be seen taking back flesh of the prey to the ones in their pack that did not participate in the hunt because of them being young, sick or old.
Before starting the hunt these hunters take part in a rather strange ceremony. They playfully roam around other members in their packs. And, they touch other and make unique sounds till they are all excited and ready for the kill.
During the actual hunt, some of the hunting dogs follow while some others lead. The dogs that follow then take over the dogs leading them. In this way, they ensure that they are never tired or out of steam. They maintain high levels of speed during the chase, and increase their chances of catching the prey.
However, Hyenas, Jackals, Tigers or Lions are not their competitors in the hunting arena since African Hunting Dogs prey on medium sized animals whereas Lions prey on much larger animals. Hyenas and Jackals are scavengers while these dogs are not. They are therefore called the hunting dogs of Africa.
They run after their prey at crazy speeds of 35 miles per hour. And, thus they are really efficient hunting animals.
Animals that they chase for food can seldom escape. Their hunting skills are so smart that is becomes difficult for a prey to run out of their reach. They begin to eat their prey without a killer bite, even when it is still alive. However, these dogs are not violent or aggressive within their own packs.
They have even hunt domestic animals since more human dwellings crop up within their living areas. Farmers thus hunt them down either by shooting or poisoning them.
Humans hunt them as they are domestic animal killers. Domestic dog diseases like canine distemper, rabies and anthrax are responsible for their deaths as well.
Antelopes, springboks, gazelles, and other grazing animals like zebras and the occasional wildebeest are their hunted prey. They hunt their prey by chasing them around till one is left alone.
They will then tire and wear this solitary prey down till they kill it. They will even begin to take bites of this prey before it even dies. Apart from animals, African painted dogs are known to eat grass. They are similar to domestic dogs here since they do not eat plants or insects.
African painted dogs cover 900 square miles of the Serengeti. But, you will see them roam only a few dozen square miles when the pack gives birth to new puppies. This shows how caring they really are when within their family circles.
Pack members look after the welfare of each puppy in the pack. There is mother or father figure here, and every adult member of a pack takes on a motherly role as and when it is their turn to do so.
There are more males than females in a pack of wild dogs. The members of the pack spend almost their entire lives in the same pack. They interact with each other by jumping around, licking each member, wagging their bushy tails, and making different noises such as barking, howling, long contact calls, whining sounds and even twittering.
Hunting by human beings, disease from domestic animals, loss of habitat and isolated populations lead to the death of African wild dogs.
These wild dogs are hunters only in their wild and for other species. In their own packs they are caring and loving, making sure that the young, the sick, the injured, and the old pack members are taken good care off. This is why these wild dogs are so special and are considered great research species.
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