The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is a medium-sized canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and other lightly wooded areas. It is also called the Painted Dog, Painted Hunting Dog, African Hunting Dog, the Cape Hunting Dog, the Spotted Dog, the Ornate Wolf or the Painted Wolf in Wildehond and Mbwa mwitu in Swahili. It is the only extant species in the genus Lycaon, with one species, L. sekowei being extinct.
Anatmony and ReproductionEdit
The scientific name "Lycaon pictus" is derived from the Greek for "wolf" and the Latin for "painted". It is the only canid species to lack dewclaw on the forelimbs.
Adults typically weigh 36 kilograms (100 pounds). A tall, lean animal, it stands about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100 cm) and a tail of 12 to 18 inches (30–45 cm). Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in eastern or western Africa.
There is little sexual dimorphism, though judging by skeletal dimensions, males are usually 3-7% larger. It has a dental formula of
for a total of 42 teeth. The premolars are relatively large compared with those of other canids, allowing it to consume a large quantity of bone, much like hyenas.The heel of the lower carnassial M1 is crested with a single cusp, which enhances the shearing capacity of teeth and thus the speed at which prey can be consumed. This feature is called trenchant heel and is shared with two other canids: the Asian Dhole and the South American Bush Dog.
A study established that the African Wild Dog had a Bite Force Quotient of 142, the highest of any extant mammal of the order Carnivora.The BFQ is essentially the strength of bite as measured against the animal's mass.
The African Wild Dog reproduces at any time of year, although mating peaks between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. Litters can contain 2-19 pups, though 10 is the most usual number. The time between births is usually 12–14 months, though it can also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. The typical gestation period is approximately 70 days. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as those of the Aardvark. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8–11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12–14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12–18 months.
Females will disperse from their birth pack at 14–30 months of age and join other packs that lack sexually mature females. Males typically do not leave the pack they were born to. This is the opposite situation to that in most other social mammals, where a group of related females forms the core of the pack or similar group. In the African Wild Dog, the females compete for access to males that will help to rear their offspring. In a typical pack, males outnumber females by a factor of two to one, and only the dominant female is usually able to rear pups. This unusual situation may have evolved to ensure that packs do not over-extend themselves by attempting to rear too many litters at the same time. The species is also unusual in that other members of the pack including males may be left to guard the pups whilst the mother joins the hunting group; the requirement to leave adults behind to guard the pups may decrease hunting efficiency in smaller packs.
A captive breeding and translocation program at Mkomazi Game Reserve, the first of its kind in East Africa, was founded in 1995 to provide dogs for a multinational effort to stabilize their numbers and to reintroduce the species to its traditional homeland. The dogs are allocated to four breeding compounds to maximize genetic diversity.