An African wild dog sighting is a highlight of any safari. Yet this endangered carnivore was once classified as vermin, reviled for its supposedly ‘cruelty’, and shot on sight by farmers and game wardens alike.

Today we have learned to appreciate its sophisticated social structures and predatory prowess. This is just as well, as with fewer than 5,000 remaining across Africa, it needs all the friends it can get.

  • The African wild dog's average litter size of ten is the largest of any canid; exceptional litters of up to 19 have been recorded.
  • African wild dogs are the only canids not to endure the ‘copulatory tie’, in which a male and female become locked together after mating in order to increase the chances of fertilisation.
  • The hunting success rate of African wild dogs is as high as 80%, more than twice that of lions and the highest of any large predator in Africa.
  • African wild dogs once numbered more than 500,000 across Africa, with packs of up to 100 not uncommon.
  • The African wild dog is the only dog to have just four toes on the front paws; it lacks the ‘dewclaw’ – a raised fifth digit found in other species.
By Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

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