The African Wild Dog, known scientifically as "Lycaon Pictus", can be found in savannas, open woodlands and grasslands in its native homeland, Africa. More specifically, they are usually found in Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Namibia, and possibly Kenya. African Wild Dogs are the size of medium domestic dogs. Their average weight is between 35 and 80 pounds and ranges from around 30 to 45 inches tall, and it's average lifespan is between 8-10 years. The African Wild Dog Latin name, as mentioned above, is Lycaon pictus, which means "painted wolf-like animal." Their coats vary from shades of brown, black and beige, which are thick but short and hard to maintain. The wild dog has unique shearing teeth, large hyena-like rounded ears and dark brown skin around their eyes.
They also are very different from wolves and other domestic and wild dogs in that they have four toes on their front teeth, unlike the others, who have five toes, which is the main difference between Lycaon and Canis, as explained below. They are long legged, thin and slender, with a broad skull and a long and thin snout. They are also known as the Cape hunting dog, and is the single species in its gene group. They belong to the family Cani dae, the dog family, and is a distant cousin of the domestic dog, known as Canis familiaris and its predecessor, the wolf, whose scientific name is Canis lupus. Wild Dogs usually live in packs of 10, however packs as large as 40-50 have been sighted.
These packs cooperate for the hunting for the pack and raising pups. The pack does not stay in the same area constantly, it moves over an area of several hundred square kilometres. Scientists have found that they can run at 55-60 kilometres and hour for around 5-8 miles on a hunt for food. The pack structure is for effective hunting and for enough adults to feed a litter of 10 or more. Young dogs usually leave the group between two and three years of age, and the unrelated females from one pack meet males from another pack to form a new family. Similar to the common family / domestic dog, the African Wild Dog begs for attention from a nearby female.
They are friendly yet are strong hunters. They can be kept as domestic dogs however they need training as they are natural born hunters. They roll onto their backs looking for scratching at petting, just as the common domestic dog would. Wild dogs greet each other at dawn with leaps in the air and tail-wagging. Once they have finished greeting each other, the dogs head out for their daily hunt which usually takes them over a range of 10 miles or so from their starting point. Their prey vary from antelope to wildebeest calves to gazelle, and include lesser known kudu and puk u, also impala and roebuck.
Some wild packs have reportedly hunted zebra and adult wildebeests successfully. During their hunt, the dogs focus on their victim and run up from the side of the pack. The dogs are kill their victim extremely quickly, so any resisting from others is too late. Factors that lead to it's inclusion on the endangered list is it's bloody method of killing, rabies introduced by domestic dogs, and it's extermination by farmers trying to protect their livestock from hungry dogs. Another main factor is that because of extreme poverty and lack of food and land to produce food in central Africa, they have been the target of hunting for meals, poachers and for local African zoos as a form of income.
All of these contribute to only 3, 000 to 4, 000 African Wild Dogs remaining in the wild. Around 40-60 wild dogs live in the United States, as part of the Species Survival Plan passed in 1991. Just three zoos in the US are allowed under this plan to host African Wild Dogs; being Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, and just recently granted permission, Oakfield zoo in north Wisconsin.