African Wild Dogs
African wild dogs are a species unique to Africa and are perhaps best known for their social behaviour patterns. In appearance, the wild dog is about the same size as a German Shepherd with a distinct, mottled coat pattern. They have long legs and large ears, both of which have been adapted to suit their method of hunting and their surroundings.
African wild dogs have a method of hunting which differs from the tactics used by other carnivores, such as lions. The dogs hunt in packs and rely on catching their prey through endurance and running them down over long distance chases. African wild dogs will hunt anything from a zebra to a hare, though they are especially adept at hunting antelopes, impalas and gazelles.
Social Behaviour Touching and Destructive
Perhaps the most striking aspect of African wild dogs is the strong social bonds that are formed within a pack. A pack will usually consist of five to twenty dogs which are lead by a dominant couple. The bonds formed within the pack are very strong; if a female dies, its pups are often reared by other family members. Unlike carnivorous cats, which embark on a feeding frenzy after a kill, African wild dogs are peaceful and allow all members to eat. The elderly, disabled and pups all receive a share of the carcass, with the youngsters being allowed to feed first.
The close contact and tight social bonds between the African wild dogs have also proved to be a destructive source in recent times. For example, pack members will often lick each other’s faces as a form of greeting as well as a way of identifying various other factors. Unfortunately, licking is also a way of spreading disease and in a small, well-knit group, it takes just one infected dog to spread a disease to the rest of the pack.
African wild dogs are currently on the endangered list and a number of measures are being taken to increase their numbers, preserve their habitat and help fight the spread of disease among the community.