The lycaon, African wild dog


This wild dog with a variegated coat lives exclusively in Africa. Suffering from a bad reputation and although protected, the wild dog is in the process of disappearance in a range that has shrunk considerably over the decades. Focus on a canine sociable which pampers its young and takes care of its pack.

The lycaon, cousin of the dog

The lycaon (Lycaon pictus) is an African mammal belonging to the order Carnivores and the family of caninesjust like the dog and the wolf. Also called “painted wolf” or “African wild dog”, the animal has a coat dotted with spots and a jaw powerful that make it look like thehyena. The wild dog is 1 to 1.50 m long, 70 to 80 m at the withers for a weight varying between 20 and 30 kg.

The beautiful spotted dress of the lycaon

Mixing brown, black, fawn and white distributed asymmetrically over the entire body, the lycaon’s coat offers a perfect camouflage in its habitat. The mouth and cheeks are generally dark, and its long tail often ends in a white sleeve. His stature slender is designed by high paws slender, a relatively small head and a short, broad muzzle. The large, rounded ears are adorned with hair constituting a barrier against parasites and insects. Namely that the lycaon is the only canine provided with 4 fingers on each leg (the others have 5).

Lycaon: a greatly reduced habitat

The African wild dog is found in the center, east and south of African continent : South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Chad, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Its historic range was once close to 40 countries but now only concerns about ten States. Following the increase in grasslands, pastures and fenced areas, its habitat has indeed considerably diminished to the point that the mammal lives mainly in reserves and National parks Africans where it occupies the steppes and open or wooded savannas.

The wild dog eats bigger than him

Animal carnivorous mainly targets large mammals herbivores like zebras, antelopes, gazelles, impalas, wildebeest, cobes, kudus or warthogs. Occasionally, he also eats rodents and lagomorphs. The power of its jaws allows it to break and eat the bone of its victims. The wild dog consumes between 2 and 5 kg of food per day and hardly drinkswater because it satisfies its needs with its prey.

The lycaon, an organized hunter

To capture their prey, the pack relies on the experience of the alpha male who leads the hunt and chooses the target. The approach is slow and silent : the wild dogs progress with felted steps, with the elongated neck and the lowered head. During the assault, canines vocalize abundantly in order to coordinate their movements because, very often, a car chase commits. Very enduring, the predator can run for an hour at an average of 25 km / h and reach a top speed of 50 km / h. Wild dogs take turns so as not to lose track of their prey which ends up exhausting itself and allowing itself to be caught.

The lycaon, a very sociable canine

Endowed with a particularly instinct gregarious, the wild dog lives in packs of about fifteen adults governed by two hierarchies : that of the male and that of the female. The group is thus dominated by the alpha couple, the only one allowed to reproduce. Morning and evening, before setting out on a hunt, all the members of the clan greet each other according to a ritual well orchestrated: the animals leap towards each other and rub each other’s muzzle, nose and body while emitting cubs squeaks, like puppies. Postures and yapping are the signs that cement the cohesion of the clan. Then the dominant male gives the start. Once the hunt is over, the wild dogs – who fed on the spot – also bring meat back to the den to distribute to individuals. aged and sick. The Conflicts are rare in the group and occur mainly during meals or during rut.

Wild dog puppies protected by the pack

the dominant couple reproduces once a year, between March and June, depending on the region. At the end of the gestation which lasts 2 to 3 months, a dozen small puppies are born. Blind and almost naked, they suckle their mother and stay terrier during their first three weeks of life. Newborns are breastfed for almost 3 months and then consume the food regurgitated by adults. They gradually begin to follow their parents when they travel and hunt. Puppies spend a lot of time playing with each other under the surveillance close to the whole pack. They grow fast and are capable of killing small preys around the age of 8 months and larger animals, from one year old. Usually, females leave the tribe around the age of two and a half, while half of the young males remain in family. Wild dogs reach their sexual maturity between 12 and 18 months, but do not reproduce until around 2 years of age.

The endangered wild dog

Hyenas and lions are the wild dog’s natural predators. Wrongly considered dangerous and harmful, the canine has been massacred for decades. Today, he is still persecuted, especially by the breeders (who accuse them of attacking their cattle) or accidentally killed on the roads. At the same time, the mammal suffers from loss of its habitat and diseases transmitted by domestic dogs Its population of more than 100,000 individuals at the beginning of the 20th centurye century is now estimated at around 3000 heads spread across the African continent. Faced with a significant risk extinction, the species is classified as “endangered” on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The longevity of the wild dog is 12 years.