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Werribee Open Range Zoo

African Wild Dog

This alert and agile hunter, with its companionable social network, promises a fascinating encounter.

African Wild Dogs used to live throughout sub-Saharan Africa but now are mostly limited to southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa. Populations have diminished as a result of of human activity and habitat loss and it's estimated that there are less than 6,500 African Wild Dogs remaining in the wild. They are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN red list).

The African Wild Dog has many aliases, including the ‘Hunting Dog’ and ‘Cape Hunting Dog’ and is also known as the ‘Painted Dog’, due to the unique patterns along their body. Their scientific name, Lycaon pictus, is Latin, meaning painted wolf.

The African Wild Dog is not closely related to other canids such as the jackal, wolf or domestic dog. They are not scavengers; rather they are voracious, relentless hunters with an acute sense of smell.

Preferring to use sight to hunt prey, their menu frequently includes small and medium antelope, warthog, zebra and ostrich. African Wild Dogs are endurance runners, able to pursue prey for many kilometres until eventually the target is overcome with exhaustion and wrestled to the ground.

To increase speed and agility, African Wild Dogs run on their toes. The four toes on each foot have strong, non-retractable claws that increase grip and allow for quick turns.

The African Wild Dog possesses large bowl-shaped ears and a long tasselled tail with a white tip. Both ears and tail are used to communicate to other pack members from long distances, such as when they are hunting.

At no stage of their life do African Wild Dogs choose to live alone. They live as a pack, which is highly organised and tightly knit, making them one of the most social of all mammals.


Born 2005

Dee is currently the dominant female of the pack. She has a white lower case letter ‘d' on her left thigh.


Born 2005

Swirl has a white incomplete circle or swirl on the left side of her chest.


Born 2006

Laura has two large white dots with a line (like a smiley face) on her left thigh.


Born 2006

Like her sisters, Haidee has stunning, unique patterns on her coat and is best identified by a dark ring around the middle of her tail breaking up the rest of the white colouring.

Wild Dog Dental Check Up

Dental check up for African Wild Dogs

Two of Werribee Open Range Zoo’s African Wild Dogs received a dental check-up in the Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital this week.

At nine years of age sisters Dee and Swirl are now entering her senior years.

16 October 2014
Swirl the African Wild Dog

It's a dog's life

In this month’s animal profile we take a walk on the wild side with African Wild Dog Keeper Katherine Quinn, who gave us a glimpse into the life of eight year old, Swirl.

8 August 2013
Slumber Safari 2016 YouTube video

Slumber Safari

Enjoy an overnight experience at the Zoo in our luxury safari camp. Your stay includes amazing close-up animal encounters, drinks and dips at sunset, a sumptuous dinner, unique night-time activities and breakfast.

  • Of the 39 African countries known to have had populations of dogs in the past, only six now hold significant numbers
  • In each African Wild Dog family there is a dominant male and female. In most cases, only the dominant male and female are permitted to reproduce
  • As wild dogs grow older, they go bald! Elderly wild dogs can be easily identified by large, dark bald patches over their body
  • African Wild Dogs provide ample space around a carcass for family members. Pups are provided with regurgitated food from any animal within the pack and injured or ill members are also given easy access to food without discrimination