Photo of the Day #16: African Wild Dog


I have never heard sounds come out of a dog like the kind that I've heard out of a pack of excited African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), the individual pictured above being a member of a large group kept at the WCS-run Bronx Zoo. While their species once ranged over 39 countries and their numbers were estimated as being as high as 500,000, today there are only 3,000-6,000 individuals left in a handful of countries, pressure from predator competition, disease, and killing by farmers/livestock owners make life very hard for these unique dogs. Indeed, they differ from all other known canids in lacking a dewclaw and they each have their own tell-tale color pattern (one of their other common names is the Painted Dog), their bite force in comparison to their body mass being found to be the highest among the living members of the Carnivora.

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You take such pretty pictures. I'd ask you what kind of camera you use but any specs or brand names you might mention would be Greek to me. I should probably ask how expensive it is, and perhaps also, is it digital or film?

Beautiful animals! And they are the only other tetrapods, aside from wolves, to practice actual pack-hunting (according to that Deinonychus paper I summarized awhile back). I didn't know they lacked a dew claw, although it makes sense. I've always seen the dewclaw as a mammalian sort of vestigal hallux in theropods.

Thanks, Waterdog. I use an Olympus E-300 camera, usually with an automatic 40-140mm lens. I actually still don't know what half the buttons on it actually do, but it takes great pictures (you can get them on eBay for $300-$400, at least I was able to). The camera is a digital SLR and I absolutely love it.

Thanks Zach. I don't know about the pack hunting comment, though; other animals coordinate in groups during hunts, so I guess it all depends on how one defines pack hunting behavior (i.e. I would consider lions to be effective group hunters as well). Still, their pack sizes can greatly exceed those of extant felids, and their social structure really is very interesting.

Great picture. I've been watching the Planet Earth series recently, and the aerial footage of an African wild dog pack chasing impala through the Okavango is really quite remarkable.

Besides wolves and African wild dog, I would probably add the dhole and bush dog as other dedicated pack hunters. Spotted hyena and lion might also qualify, but I really need to go dig up that Deinonychus paper and see how true pack behaviour is defined.