David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Painted Dog Facts

Painted dogs are known by many names, but how much do you know about them? You can find out more in our FAQs below.

What are painted dogs?

Painted dogs are canines, so true members of the dog family. However, they sit within their own group, as they have different dentition to typical dogs (adapted to their predominantly carnivorous diet), as well as lacking dew claws. 

They are also pack hunters, forming large family groups led by a dominant pair. Groups of same-sex adults will split off from larger packs to form new breeding groups.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

There are 39 sub-populations of painted dog


Weighing up to 36kg, painted dogs are the largest canines in Africa.


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

Why are painted dogs endangered?


We cover this in more detail here, but in short, painted dogs are endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, and poaching and killing carried out by humans.

Painted dogs are losing ground to humans, literally. There is a continuous and growing demand for land that is assimilated into new grazing for livestock, as well as settlement and agricultural growth.

Exposure to humans also means exposure to feral, stray, and domestic dogs, which can carry diseases fatal to painted dog populations, such as distemper. 

Across much of their traditional range of west Africa, painted dogs suffered persecution as agriculture needs and livestock herding grew. Significant numbers were poisoned and trapped. Even in their existing strongholds today, snaring and trapping of painted dogs is a severe threat to vulnerable and isolated populations.

Nicholas Dyer
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

How many painted dogs are left in the wild?

Painted dogs are one of the most threatened predators in Africa, with fewer than 6,000 painted dogs remaining across the continent in 39 sub-populations.

How big are painted dogs?

Painted dogs can weigh in at anything between 40-70 lbs. (18-36 kg) and can stand 30-43 inches (76cm-1.1m). Females are typically slightly bigger than males. They are the largest canines in Africa.

What do painted dogs eat?

Painted dogs are specialist hunters that favour medium-sized antelope species. Alongside the cheetah, they are Africa’s only primarily diurnal (daytime) hunters. Gazelles are the most common prey species, but packs will also target wildebeest, zebra, and ostrich. Smaller prey items, such as birds, rodents, and hares might be taken by individuals. 

Packs adapt their hunting methods to different prey species. Antelope are usually approached silently, then run down and exhausted over distance. Wildebeest are panicked and rushed with excited yikkering, barking, and howling to separate the herd – so weaker and vulnerable animals can be targeted. And potentially dangerous animals such as warthog and porcupine, are usually attacked and dispatched at the head, to avoid injury.

Why are painted dogs known by different names?

Painted dogs have been labelled as wolves, as well as wild dogs. Studies revealed that being known as wild dogs was proving detrimental to their conservation, due to an inaccurate association with feral domestic dogs. They are also a separate genus from wolves and shouldn’t be classed as such.

You can support our work to save endangered animals from extinction by adopting today.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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