A Wild Chase

Sightings of Wild Dogs are usually very exciting. Not only because of how fortunate we are to see them, but also because of their behavior. Firstly, they’re one of the world’s most successful hunters, with a hit rate of 60-90%, depending on a few factors. They live in packs, usually from 6-20 dogs, but sometimes up to 30. Because of this they can spend up to 3.5 hours a day hunting for all individuals to be fed well enough.

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The scientific name for the African Wild Dog is Lycaon pictus, which in latin means ‘painted wolf’.

Wild Dogs hunt by chasing their prey relentlessly for sometimes several kilometers. Their light build and incredible stamina allows them to reach speeds of 50-60 km/h for long periods of time. Once the prey becomes exhausted it will be disemboweled by the dogs. This, in fact, terminates a life faster than the suffocating techniques of the cats.

See… they’re not as brutal as everyone makes them out to be!

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A lot of people will tell you that Wild dogs hunt in ‘relays’, but this is in fact not as clear cut as it sounds and only partially correct. The prey often does not flee in a straight line but will make turns, forming ‘S’ bends. As this happens, one of the trailing dogs will cut the corner and take over as the lead dog in the hunt.

The following series of photographs are from an incredible sighting we had of a pack of Wild dogs attempting to hunt a small herd of waterbuck.

On a late November afternoon, we arrived at a dam to find the pack slowly walking away from us towards a hill. Another guide had told us that they just had recently been seen chasing waterbuck, but their hunt was a failure.

We lost sight of the dogs and decided to assess the situation and stick around for another 5 minutes before continuing on. We knew they would be on the hunt again soon. Suddenly, we began hearing a rumbling sound coming from the same area. All we saw was dust coming over the hill. Then we realised that they were chasing three more waterbuck and they were coming straight for us!

We had a few seconds to make sure the camera settings were good to go. The waterbuck were chased across the road in front of us and in typical waterbuck fashion, retreated back to the dam and ended up isolating themselves on a small island. The Wild dogs were not prepared to follow them into the water and slowly retreated once again after surrounding our car to decide what to do next.

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The hooves of ungulates really become handy when escaping predators on this type of terrain.

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The lead dog wasn’t too far off.
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The trail dust here shows the path of the waterbuck bending and eventually leading towards the water nearby.
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The Wild dogs decided very quickly that they would not be following the waterbuck into the water!
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Time to regroup…

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The beautiful large ears of the African Wild Dog

One of my guests also managed to get a video of the action!

African Wild Dogs are one of the worlds most endangered mammals. Their population is estimated to be around 6 600 individuals and this number is still rapidly dropping due to habitat loss, conflict with humans and infectious disease.

Although they are still widely known as African Wild Dogs, they are also known as Cape Hunting Dogs and efforts are being made for them to be referred to as Painted Dogs or Painted Wolves to help dignify their image and make sure people don’t confuse them with stray dogs.

For more information check out the following sites:

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Wildlife Act

Painted Dog Conservation

4 thoughts on “A Wild Chase

  1. Awesome shots!!
    One of a few animals that have been evading me for years 🙂 I saw them while they were still kept in a camp before they were released in the park a few years back.


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