[Rumble, rumble]

No, that's not the end of the world you hear, although it has been fundamentally altered forevermore. This is Mythbri showing that she has depth, a diversified skill set, and yes - an affection for dogs in non-hotdog form (because hotdogs are gross, and puppies are cute). In order to more or less evenly space out my posts about canids and my Caturday posts, I've decided to go the alliterative route and do the Wednesday Woof. For consistency's sake, I'm also writing about the wild canids in alphabetical order.

The debut edition of Wednesday Woof features the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). The scientific name for the African Wild Dog comes from the Greek word for "wolf", and the Latin word for "painted," due to their striking and unique markings. Other common names for this canid carry on the theme - "Painted Dog", "Painted Wolf", "Spotted Dog" and "Ornate Wolf." They are second in size only to the Grey Wolf and are the largest extant species of wild canid in all of Africa. Adults can weigh up to 80 lbs. (36 Kg) and measure 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder. Their body length maxes out at 56 inches (141 cm) with a tail up to 18 inches (45 cm) in length. The dogs in southern Africa are the largest.

There are five recognized subspecies of African Wild Dog:

  • Lycaon pictus pictus
  • Lycaon pictus lupinus
  • Lycaon pictus manguensis
  • Lycaon pictus sharicus
  • Lycaon pictus somalicus

African Wild Dogs can produce litters of 2-19 (!) pups at pretty much any time of the year, although the average litter size is right around ten. They're typically weaned at 10 weeks and start running with the pack at 3 months. Packs themselves can consist of up to 100 individuals depending on the size and location of their territory. Sometimes the territories of different packs overlap.

The social structure of an African Wild Dog pack is divided by gender into hierarchies, male and female. This means that there's a boss male and a boss female. It was believed that the pack would fall apart if one of the alphas died or was killed, but this was discovered not to be the case. Other dogs within the pack take the vacant position, and the pack continues. Because of the familial composition of the pack, the dogs being closely related in many cases, dominance is established by submission rather than fights - lower-status dogs will give way to higher-status dogs, and it's the youth that rule the pack. They will typically beg for food from each other rather than fight or steal.

African Wild Dogs are cursorial hunters, which means that they pursue prey in a long endurance chase, wearing them down until the pack can come in for the kill. They are remarkably successful hunters - nearly 80% of their hunts end in a kill. Compare that to lions, another social hunter, which average only 30% of kills. The dogs will call to each other verbally to coordinate the hunt, using a variety of vocalizations (chirping, squeaking, barking). The bulk of their prey consists of large ungulate like springboks, wildebeest, impala, kudu, reebuck, and gazelle.

The hunts end messily, which gave the African Wild Dog a reputation for being a brutal, merciless killer. Early "conservationists" took great pride in exterminating entire packs, thinking that they were doing something to rid the ecosystem of a ravenous plague of canids.

The African Wild Dog population has been whittled down from more than half a million dogs spread over almost all of Africa, to 3,000 to 5,000 in fewer than 25 African countries. It is considered to be endangered, its greatest threats being poachers and loss of habitat. Cooperation between various national parks helps to accommodate the dogs' large territories, but of course all bets are off in the parts of the territories that are unprotected.