Kansas City is a pretty amazing place. It has more boulevards than Paris, was home to the first Walt Disney Animation studio, and birthplace of the "Happy Meal". Kansas City ignored prohibition in the 1920's, and they have more barbecue restaurants per capita than anywhere else in our country. All of this is incredible, and enough reason to visit, but what really had my attention while visiting the city was the opportunity to see one of the rarest dogs in the world, the African Wild Dog.
Lycaon pictus, the African Wild Dog
More commonly known as the "Painted Dog", these elusive canines roam only the most reclusive reaches of sub-Saharan Africa. These dogs exhibit many unique behavioral and physical traits, such as their four toes, as opposed to the five toes most canines have. The exotic pattern of their coat sets them even further apart from their domesticated cousins, featuring patches of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns.
African Wild Dogs have unusually large, round ears that help them hear vocalizations from the far ends of the African plains. This may come in handy - as they are often regarded as the most vocal amongst all canines, using intricate calls and chirps to communicate with the rest of their pack. These dogs travel in large packs of around 25 individuals, and have a higher hunting success rate than both lions and cheetahs.
African Painted Dog
Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus
Group Name: Pack
Average Life Span: 11 Years
Size: 29.5 - 43 inches
Weight: 39.5 - 79 Lbs.
Population: 1400 Mature ~ 6600 Total in 39 subpopulations
The African Wild Dog runs in packs that are socially adept on a level impressive for even the most intelligent canines. They roam the Southern African plains in packs ranging from 6 - 28 individuals, although larger packs were more prominent when the population was thriving. They communicate through a codex-like language of touch, actions, and vocalizations. A certain level of intricacy can be noticed in the subtleties of their body language, allowing them to work together seamlessly to tackle prey as massive as the African Wildebeest.
Interestingly, the packs are headed by a monogamous breeding couple that we like to refer to as "Mom and Dad". This is unlike many other canine packs, that choose to follow a singular alpha. The African Painted Dog cares intensely for it's pack family, and they'll even care for their injured or weak by bringing them back food and water.
Unfortunately, the African Painted Dog has a dwindling population. Numbers have consistently decreased over the years due to disease, habitat loss, and human conflict. Viral diseases such as rabies and distemper are easily contracted by the unvaccinated canine, and can spread to infect an entire pack. Habitat loss has caused these dogs to venture where they normally wouldn't, wandering onto the land of farmers and hunting livestock with little success. These ongoing conflicts are worsened by the exponential spread of human activities, taking away even more habitat space for prey, and thus the cycle continues. Through education and the efforts of animal welfare organizations like WWF, we here at The Dog Blog are optimistic about the future of these incredibly unique canines.
Leave a comment below and let us know about your experience with these animals!