Home Species We Protect Painted Dogs

Painted Dogs at a Glance

Painted dogs are known by many names, including ‘African wild dog’, ‘Cape hunting dog’, ‘Hyena dog’, and ‘Ornate wolf’. For an animal so widely known by so many different terms. It is sadly ironic there are so few of them left.

Artwork by Florence Cadene
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

is the No. of mature individuals in population (21% of overall number)


is how much populations have decreased by


is the No. of painted dogs left in the wild

Painted Dog Species and Status

Painted Dog Conservation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Painted dogs are the only species within their unique genus (Lycaon) inside the canid family. They have different dentition to other dogs, with teeth that have adapted to a hypercarnivorous diet (where typical consumption is 70% meat or more). They also lack dew claws, and painted dogs are the largest wild canines to live in Africa.

There are five recognised subspecies, referring to distinct regional populations. Cape painted dogs are considered the largest. East African painted dogs are distinguished by a very dark coat colour. Somali painted dogs are smaller, with coarser fur and notably weaker dentition. Chadian painted dogs have larger, fuller brain cases. And the west African painted dog is limited to two populations totaling 70 animals, split across national parks in Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

An estimated half a million (500,000) painted dogs used to roam across much of Africa and were only absent from the driest desert regions and thickest lowland forests. However, they have all but disappeared from north and west Africa, mainly due to extermination by local tribes through poisoning and trapping. Their numbers are also greatly depleted in central and northeast Africa.

Painted dogs are now found in just a fraction of their former range.

Due to the huge losses their populations have sustained, as well as the impact on the survivability of the remaining packs, painted dogs are classed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Leon Molenaar

“As an artist, I was drawn to painted dogs as a subject. As a conservationist, I was moved to try and save them before it was too late.”

David Shepherd CBE. 
Leon Molenaar
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Adopt a Painted Dog

How to Protect Wild Painted Dog Populations

Painted dog populations have become increasingly vulnerable to disease and natural disasters as their populations have become more isolated. It is vital that genetic diversity of these distinct populations is maintained by protecting the habitat they have left and creating wildlife corridors to reverse their isolation.

Education and engagement programmes are also pivotal. We need local communities to understand the value of painted dogs and to be directly involved in their protection. Otherwise, painted dogs become targets for herders and agriculturists looking to protect livestock and land.

Painted dogs also need our direct protection. Without dedicated ranger teams patrolling their strongholds, painted dogs fall victim to snares and other traps laid out by poachers and hunters.

Snared to death

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) funds and supports ranger protection for a key population of painted dogs in Zimbabwe. These rangers have had to release every adult member of one pack, numbering 12 adults, from snares on multiple occasions. One male, estimated to be 7 years old, has been rescued four times.

You can help safeguard the future for painted dogs, and support our conservation partners on the front line, by adopting a painted dog through DSWF today.

Theo Bromfield
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Painted dogs left in the wild

Painted Dog Art

The beautiful, mottled fur of painted dogs makes them an enchanting subject for artists. From one-off originals to limited prints and postcards, you’ll find a broad choice of mediums at every price range and featuring painted dogs in our shop. With every purchase, at least 50% goes directly towards funding and supporting our conservation projects and partners.

Look out for our ‘Artist of the Month’ and ‘Art for Animals’ special events that often feature specific pieces centred around our chosen species too.

How Donating Can Help

DSWF is dependent on the generous donations of people like you. From money raised through sales of artwork donated by our partner artists, to one-off and regular givers, nothing we do can be achieved or maintained without your help.

Your donations train wildlife rangers and put vital equipment in their hands. Through your generosity, we can support a force of 60-strong rangers in Zimbabwe, who engage local communities, enforce protection against poachers, run educational programmes in district schools, and carry out vital research and monitoring. We, and they, really can’t do any of it without you. Please donate today.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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All donations will help us continue our vital work conservation work to protect endangered species and turn the tide on extinction.

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