Once widespread, the African
wild dog is now endangered

  • Spread the word

African Wild Dog

Conservation Status:


  • Approximately 6,600 remain in the wild
  • Endangered for more than 20 years
  • Pack range can cover 900 square miles

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Lycaon pictus


55 to 70 lb.


30 in. at the shoulder

Life span

10 to 12 years


Dense forest to open plains




2.5 months




Where do African wild dogs live?

African wild dogs are found mostly in arid zones and in the savanna. They can also be found in woodland and mountainous habitats where their prey lives.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Kazungula, Kilimanjaro View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is an African wild dog?

The African wild dog—also sometimes called the hunting dog or African painted dog—has a colorful, patchy coat; large bat-like ears; and a bushy tail with a white tip that may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting. No two wild dogs are marked exactly the same, making it easy to identify individuals. 

Behavior & Diet

African wild dogs have diverse tastes.

They hunt for a wide variety of prey, including gazelles and other antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. Like most predators, they play an important role in eliminating sick and weak animals, thereby helping to maintain the natural balance and improve prey species. They can run long distances at speeds of up to 35 mph. Of the large carnivores, African wild dogs are probably the most efficient hunters—targeted prey rarely escapes.

They are quite social and intelligent.

African wild dogs live in packs of six to 20. The aggression exhibited toward prey is completely nonexistent between members of the pack, and there is little intimidation among the social hierarchy.

The entire pack is involved in the welfare of the pups.

Both males and females babysit the young and provide food for them. The hunting members of the pack return to the den where they regurgitate meat for the nursing female and pups. Although litters are large, very few pups survive. Sometimes, the dens are flooded, or the pups die from exposure or disease. When pack numbers are reduced, hunting is not as efficient, and adults may not bring back sufficient food for the pups.

African wild dogs are very vocal.

Their large range of vocalizations includes a short bark of alarm, a rallying howl, and a bell-like contact call that can be heard over long distances. Elaborate greeting rituals are accompanied by twittering and whining.


  • African Wild Dog Nigel Dennis
  • African Wild Dog Ian Guthrie
  • African Wild Dog Barbara von Hoffman
  • African Wild Dog Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • African Wild Dog Scouts James Weis
  • African Wild Dog Scouts Paul Thomson
  • African Wild Dog Scouts Ian Guthrie

Human-wildlife conflict endangers African wild dogs.

Throughout Africa, wild dogs have been shot and poisoned by farmers, who often blame them when a leopard or hyena kills livestock.

Wild dogs are losing their living spaces.

As human populations expand, leading to agriculture, settlements, and roads, African wild dogs are losing the spaces in which they were once able to roam freely.


Our solutions to protecting the African wild dog:

  • Engage local communities.

    African Wildlife Foundation educates community members on protecting their local wildlife and equips them to do so. In the Samburu Heartland, AWF, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Dutch government, employed 12 scouts from five neighboring communities. These scouts monitor the African wild dogs, learning their movements and alerting herders when African wild dogs are present. By providing access to new employment, AWF is able to weave conservation and economic opportunity together to incentivize African wild dog protection. 

  • Mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

    Retaliation is the primary reason for wild dog killings. We work with communities to help them construct bomas—livestock enclosures—that protect livestock from predators.


Will you show the African wild dog your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital initiatives like constructing bomas and engaging scouts to diffuse conflicts between humans and African wild dogs. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the survival of this endangered species.

  • Lion protected by the Ruaha Carnivore Project
    Ruaha Carnivore Project
    Creating common ground for communities and carnivores

    A critical location for Africa’s top predators.

    Across the continent, Africa’s large carnivores are facing an uncertain future. Lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs have all disappeared...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • OL Lentille Lodge Paul Joynson-Hicks
    Ol Lentille Lodge
    Protecting Kenyan wildlife

    Kenyan wildlife is diverse but threatened.

    Kenya is home to some of Africa’s most diverse ecosystems and identifiable species. Lush savanna landscapes play host to the...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • African Wild Dog James Weis
    African Wild Dog Scouts
    Monitoring vulnerable wild dog populations in Kenya

    Wild dogs in danger.

    The African wild dog is seriously endangered due to human-carnivore conflict. Hunting and habitat loss has left fewer than 5,000 wild dogs in all...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • Maasa Steppe Predator Proof Boma Christina Van Winkle
    Maasai Steppe Predator-Proof Bomas
    Ending human-carnivore conflict in Tanzania

    Lions face violence from local pastoralists. 

    Lion populations across Africa face many threats to their continued existence. Habitat loss, disease, and violence all...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • Ol Pejeta Conservancy
    Livestock management and conservation in Kenya.

    Kenya’s herds are creating hurdles.

    Boasting a scenic landscape and extensive wildlife, northern Kenya supports a critical population of wild dogs, the second-largest...

    Read more
    All Projects

Get Involved

Become a member

Join African Wildlife Foundation as a member for just $25. Your partnership is vital to our mission to protect Africa’s most precious - and imperiled - creatures.

Join Now

  • Spread the word