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African painted dog

Scientific name: Lycaon pictus

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Canidae

FEEDING: Carnivore
STASTICS: Weight 55-70 lbs.; Height 29-43 inches

The name Lycaon pictus reflects the color of the African painted dog’s coat, which appears to be painted in red, brown, yellow, black and white areas. Each African painted dog’s coat is different. The African painted dog has short fur with no underfur, and at times their black skin can be seen through their fur. It has large rounded ears, a thin body and long muscular legs with only four toes on each foot.

South Africa and east of Sahara. Also found in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, and parts of Zimbabwe, Swaziland and the Transvaal.

Grasslands, savannahs and woodlands of East Africa, and semi-desert to mountainous areas south of the Sahara Desert in Africa. They are widely distributed across the African plains, but are not found in the jungle areas.

The African painted dog has developed incredible speed and endurance that enables it to catch prey. It has been clocked running at speeds of 37 miles per hour for over three miles. It has large bat-like ears and excellent auditory ability used for hunting and ritual ceremonies.


Each pack has a dominant breeding pair, which can be identified by increased urine marking. African painted dogs reach sexual maturity at about 12 to 18 months. Gestation is about 10 weeks and pups are born between March and July. Litters range from two to 20 pups.

The female gives birth to the litter in a grass-lined burrow that usually is an abandoned burrow of an aardvark. The pups remain with their mother for three to four weeks. Pups nurse from other females in the pack as well as their mother. Weaning usually occurs at about five weeks.

Predator to medium sized animals such as small antelope, impala, duiker and sick or injured wildebeest and zebra.
Prey to lion, and crocodile

Small amounts of grass, small mammals, warthogs, zebras, waterbuck, and Grant’s gazelle

Listed as Endangered with IUCN and is not listed with CITES. African painted dogs are roamers that frequently come into contact with farmers and their livestock. Farmers shoot and poison the painted dogs.


  • The Swahili name for the African painted dog is Mbwa Mwitu, which means “wolf.” African painted dogs are gregarious animals that form packs of up to 40 members. Packs have an alpha male and alpha female.
  • African painted dogs are non-territorial and do not have exclusive ranges. Their homes can range from 124 to 1,200 miles. They are nomadic and communicate through vocalizations, body posture and licking.
  • The African painted dog is also called the African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, and African wild dog.


  1. IUCN Red List: February 2009
  2. Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Volume I. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
  3. National Geographic: February 2009

Published: March 2009

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