Wild dog

African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)

General overview

African wild dogs, also known as the Painted Wolf and Cape Hunting Dog, once occupied the sub-Saharan Africa in every habitat except jungle or desert. Nowadays they merely occupy a few isolated pockets, with a total population estimated around 5,000 animals for the whole of Africa. Over the last decades the African wild dog has disappeared from 25 of the 39 countries in which it waWild dogs formally recorded.  The African wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered predators and is therefore classified as Endangered on the IUCN global Red List. Most of the remaining populations are found in northern Botswana, north-east Namibia, western and northern Zimbabwe, southern Tanzania and the Kruger N.P.  in South Africa. In West- and Central Africa the African wild dog has almost disappeared from its former range, but still survives in some small populations.

The African wild dog hunts in packs. Successful packs can have more than 30 members, similar to most members of the dog family. They pursue their prey during a long, open chase. Nearly 80% of all hunts end in a kill. Their diet varies, mainly depending on pack size. African wild dogs are known to catch prey no larger than the size necessary to satisfy the energy demands of the pack. Prey species thus range from smaller ungulates such as duiker species, Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeest juveniles up to larger antelopes such as adult wildebeest or even roan antelope. While the vast majority of its diet is made up of mammal prey, it sometimes hunts large birds. A pack’s home range varies enormously from 200 until 2000 km², depending on the size of the pack and the nature of the terrain. The African wild dog occupies a range of habitats including short-grass plains, semi-desert, bushy savannas and upland forest. Adults typically weigh between 17-36 kilograms.

West- and Central Africa

A distribution map of the wild dog populations in Africa

The African wild dog has become extremely rare in most of its former range in West- and Central Africa. Small populations are believed to survive in small pockets. Recent surveys in North Cameroon concluded that the species is functionally extirpated in that part of its distributional range. Data on the status of African wild dog in other countries of W/C Africa are lacking. There are indications that the African wild dog in West- and Central Africa may be a distinct sub species. Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in eastern or western Africa.


  • Poaching
  • Illegal hunting
  • Pest control
  • Prey depletion
  • Habitat fragmentation, degradation, loss and conversion
  • Diseases

The African wild dog is, after the Ethiopian wolf, the most endangered carnivore in Africa. Because of human encroachment, land clearance, urbanization, and other factors, the populations of wild dogs are now mostly restricted to parks and reserves. Inside and outside the parks the dogs are snared, shot, and poisoned by farmers/poachers/pastoralists. Despite the dramatic declines throughout their distributional range, recovery of populations in well-managed protected areas and buffer zones is likely, since the species is known for its resilience.