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
"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
"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,
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
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
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
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.
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."
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
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 in North America as huge hyena-like animals, but not related to
Hyaenas, of which Borophagus, Hyaenadon and Hyaenognathus
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
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
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
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.
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
Sick or injured animals are usually looked after by the other
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 G 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.
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
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
When these details were made known all reports of stock
losses to dogs ceased. Amazing!!
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
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
The loss of one dog to a pack can have a devastating effect
on the survival of the whole pack.
Click here for dog vocalisations
Click here for Movie
18 September 2006