Painted Dog Facts

What is a painted dog?

Painted dogs (Lycaon pictus) are colourful carnivores that occur across Africa. They are recognisable from their fluffy white tails, tri-coloured coats and big Micky-Mouse ears.  The painted dog’s scientific name is Lycaon pictus, translating to ‘painted’ in Latin and ‘wolf-like creature’ in Greek.

Painted dogs are neither wolf or dog, they are Lycaon and cannot crossbreed with wolves or domestic dogs. Wolves and domestic dogs fall under the genus Canis.

Lycaon pictus common names:

The Lycaon pictus has many English common names – African painted dog, painted wolf, African wild dog and Cape hunting dog.

How many painted dogs are left?

There are approximately 6,500 painted dogs left in Africa.

Where do painted dogs occur?

Painted dogs occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their preferred habitat is savanna shrubland, grassland, forest and semi-desert.

Whilst the African painted dog is mostly found in savanna and arid areas, they tend to avoid forest areas because of their hunting preferences. However, they will travel to all areas in pursuit of their prey and have been documented in forests and wetlands throughout Africa.

What are the major threats to painted dogs?

Habitat reduction, human persecution and disease outbreaks are the leading threats to painted dog populations in Africa. Read more about painted dog threats.

Do painted dogs lives in a pack?

A pack of painted dogs can range between 2 to 30 dogs, but around 6 is the minimum for a successful hunting or breeding pack. Painted dogs are deeply social animals and are extremely caring towards their packmates. They work very efficiently as a team which makes them one of the most successful hunters in Africa.

Each pack is run by an ‘alpha’ male and female which make the decisions and take responsibility for the survival of the pack. Typically, the alpha pair are the only dogs to breed.

What do painted dogs eat?

Painted dogs mainly prey on small / medium sized antelope such as kudu, impala and duiker. They will sometimes prey on bigger animals such as buffalo, however these killings are rare and require a far higher energy output and strategy. Painted dogs will rarely scavenge, but have been observed to eat carcasses from other animals or those trapped in snares.

When are painted dogs active?

Painted dogs are crepuscular, meaning they operate at dawn and dusk. They are also active at night when it is a full moon.

Are painted dogs hyenas?

Many people often confuse the painted dog with hyenas; however, they would be wrong. Whilst hyenas are related to cats, painted dogs are mottled with big ears and share a common ancestor with jackals, wolves and coyotes.

Which animals eat painted dogs?

Painted dogs don’t have a large number of predators; however, lions have been recorded as a source of mortality for both adults and pups. Their strong pack culture makes them a fierce adversary to hunt and most predators will avoid them.

How long do painted dogs live?

Painted dogs will typically live up to 11 years old in the wild without threats from human-wildlife conflict or encroachment.

Do painted dogs kill humans?

There has been no recorded attack by a painted dog on a human in the wild.

Other painted dog facts

Painted dogs are thought to be the most successful hunters in Africa of all the continent’s predators, with 80% of their hunts resulting in a successful kill and meal for the pack.

No two exquisite painted dog coats look the same, each is unique to the individual dog like a human fingerprint.

The painted dogs only have four toes on their front feet. They are missing the dewclaw common in wolves and domestic dogs.

What is a group of painted dogs called?

A group of painted dogs is called a ‘pack.’