About Painted Dogs

  • Threats

    There is no record in Myth, Legend or Fact of a Painted dog, aka Wild Dog, attacking or killing a human being.

    Of all the natural threats to the survival of the painted dog, man represents the greatest.

    Hyena, jackal and leopard will steal their food from the killing site while lions will kill both adults and pups however these are natural occurrences to which the animal has survived for millions of years.

    Man is by far their greatest killer and yet with a little care he could be their saviour.

    He condones the wanton killing of adult dogs and puppies by whatever means.

    Road kills are a major killer of these animals. In April 2001, the alpha male of a pack was found on the road leading to a National Park in Zimbabwe by Project staff. The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic but had to be put down due to it having a broken back. Obviously excessive speed was a factor.

    Man perceives the method of killing prey is abhorrent.

    He sets traps, snares, with little thought for the suffering of the animal that gets caught.

    He allows domestic dogs to introduce disease such as rabies and distemper.

    The loss of one dog to a pack can have a devastating effect on the survival of the whole pack.

  • Classification

    Lycaon pictus - Named after the mythical king of Arcadia, Lycaon, and pictus from the past participle of the Latin word "pingo" to paint.

    The following is from a 1998 article by GSA Rasmussen.

    "The name 'wild dog' developed during an era of persecution of all predators when the name applied to feral dogs, hyenas, jackals and cape hunting dogs (Pringle, 1980). 'Painted' aside from being a direct translation of the specific epithet, accurately describes the unique varicoloured markings of each individual. Apart from being misleading, continued use of the name 'wild dog' does little more than further fuel negative attitude and prejudice which is detrimental to conservation efforts."

    "What is the name 'painted hunting dog? Well here it is from recent scientific press. The first name denoted to the species from a type specimen in Mozambique was the Cape hunting dog (Temmick, 1820).

    In that era the name Cape was applied irrelevantly to a number of species. Modern protocol indicates a place name should be utilised where endemism exists or such a name occurs in the specific epithet.

    'Hunting dog' accurately describes the ecological role of the species particularly as they possess a unique molar/premolar configuration which functions to improve carnassial shear and is a diagnostic characteristic for the genus.

    Consequently fossil species of the genus were called hunting dogs. vis +Lycaon africanis, African hunting dog in accordance with the specific epithet. +Lycaon atrox Kromdrai hunting dog.

    Two undescribed intermediate fossils from Sterkontein are labelled +Lycaon sp.indet, hunting dog species undetermined, yet the label 'wild dog' is ascribed to the modern animal.

    Lycaon Pictus, translates as Painted wolf-like animal, which correctly indicates similarity in appearance only with the true Canis line, but recognises the uniqueness of the genus. Wild dog of the African wild dog falsely intimates taxonomic affinity to Canis, so should any species in Africa called the African wild dog then it should be jackal as it is at least Canis, and sensu lato this is the case (Skead,1980; Pringle, 1980).

    The vagary is further complicated in literature when one is referring to wild versus captive Lycaon."

  • Evolution

    The Painted Dog can trace its ancestry back some 40 million years to Miacis, a small carnivorous animal with short legs and a long body. The Civet is a direct descendant from this animal.

    Around 30 million years ago two other animals Daphaenus, the Bear dog, and Cynodictus emerged.

    Descendants of Daphaenus developed into enormous animals around 10 million years ago and eventually evolved as Bears.

    Cynodictus had partially retractile claws for an arboreal existence and was Civet like. From this animal, Temnocyon evolved and from this the modern day dogs of Africa, Lycaon, and India, Dhole, and the South American bush dog, Speothos, evolved.

    Cynodesmus evolved in North America as huge hyena-like animals, but not related to Hyaenas, of which Borophagus, Hyaenadon and Hyaenognathus are extinct.

    An offshoot from Cynodesmus named Tomarctus is the ancestor from which wolves, dogs, foxes and fennecs developed

    Behaviour of Wolves, Dogs and Related Canids, Michael W. Fox
    The Wild Dogs in Life and Legend, Maxwell Riddle

  • Pack Life

    The minimum number of adult dogs in a pack which can successfully hunt and breed is 6 dogs. Painted dogs are intensely sociable animals living most of the time in close association with each other. This has obvious benefits but has drawbacks as well. All too often a member may contract a disease which can wipe out a whole population.

    Packs can be as small as a pair or number as many as 30 including adult and yearlings.

    New packs are formed when same sex animals leave their natal packs and join up with sub groups of the opposite sex that have also left their natal group to form a new pack.

    Any young born to the new pack may either stay or leave as young adults.

    Sick or injured animals are usually looked after by the other pack members.

  • Breeding

    Most Painted Dog packs have a single dominant male and female. The dominant female is generally the mother of the pups although it has been known for other females within the pack to have puppies.

    The dominant female selects a denning site, which can be an abandoned hole made by an aardvark or she digs it herself with assistance from other members of the pack. On average 10 to 11 pups are in the litter.

    The pups are born black with irregular white spots.

    For about the first 12 weeks the puppies are nursed in and around the den site. At first the mother and then a "baby sitter" remains with the litter and is fed by other pack members by regurgitated food. Later food for the puppies is regurgitated by all pack members after a successful hunt.

    Depending on the size of the pack, mortality in the pups is high and there is some evidence to show that with more helpers the survival rate is better. But not always.

    All pack members are involved in the caring for the puppies when they leave the den.

  • Hunting

    Despite its reputation as a cruel killer, painted dogs are amongst the most efficient of Africa's predators.

    They hunt during the morning and before dusk, while also showing a preference for utilising the light of a full moon. Because they are more visible than the Lion or Leopard, that hunts after dark, the Painted Dog when seen dispatching an Impala, Duiker, Kudu or other antelope, has been criticized by the few people who have actually witnessed a kill. Their method is to kill larger prey such as Kudu by disembowelling, small prey such as Duiker are simply pulled apart. Very fast and efficient.

    Are lions and leopards more noble when they strangle there victims,. thus causing more suffering of the animal being despatched?

    Evolution has determined the method of getting its prey and who are we to judge?

    In the open plains such as the Serengeti, Painted Dogs would quickly single out weak or injured animals and pursue its quarry until it tires. Indeed the dog is tireless in its pursuit , which often drew the attention of more powerful predators such as hyena, who then stole a large percentage of the kills made.

    Contrary to popular belief they do not take turns to run down their prey. In fact it is the prey that zigzags and thus the chase is shorter.

    However in wooded areas such as Hwange, Zimbabwe, chases are very short. The dogs move through the bush, often utilising bush roads and tracks, detect the prey and dispatch it very quickly and with a minimum of attention drawn to the kill site.An average adult dog will consume approximately 4kg's of live carcass each day which would equate to two Duiker, a very small antelope, per day for a pack of 15 dogs.

    In 1995 a study in Zimbabwean farmland was conducted as a follow up to a report made to National Parks that dogs had eaten 18 full grown cows over a 21 day period, 14 of which were allegedly eaten over a two week period!! The pack consisted of eight adults with pups and would simply NOT be capable of this feat. Such a pack could only consume about 100kg's live carcass weight every three to four days and hardly the alleged 500kg's every day!!!

    When these details were made known all reports of stock losses to dogs ceased. Amazing!!

  • Diet

    Prey for the Painted Dog are mostly medium sized antelope like Impala, Bushbuck, Duiker, Kudu and Reedbuck. They have been known to take Wildebeest and also chase Eland and Buffalo although they rarely kill these larger animals.

    A three and a half year study during the period 1994 - 1997 on a farming property in Zimbabwe conducted by Greg Rasmussen concluded that stock losses attributed to the Painted dog were not valid. In fact it could be determined that the main culprit in stock losses was the two legged predator, himself

    Indeed no stock was taken when prior to this study reports were rife. When the dogs were tracked across the farm they were taking their usual prey most of the time and did not selectively target cattle as was being claimed. In four instances the dogs were tracked into paddocks containing calves and on no occasion was a calf taken. Twice the dogs took Duiker within 500 metres of calves which were not harassed. On the other two occasions Impala and Kudu were taken.