African Wild Dogs

Topics: African Wild Dog, Canidae, Lion Pages: 5 (1617 words) Published: March 31, 2013
Lycaon pictus, the scientific name for the African Wild Dog, literally translates into “painted or ornate wolf” (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). African Wild Dogs are some of the most beautiful and social canines in the world, but, sadly, this species is endangered. This essay will focus on a basic description of the African Wild Dog, along with the threats it faces and the projected outlook for this species. (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”).

The African Wild Dog has a slender body with long, muscular legs (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). Typically, they will weigh between forty and eighty lbs. and can be anywhere from three and a half to five ft. long (including the length of the tail). African Wild Dogs are usually between two and two and a half ft. tall at the shoulder. The males also tend to be slightly larger than the females. Compared to wolves or coyotes, they are very lean and tall. Unlike other canines, the African Wild Dog has only four toes on its front feet, as opposed to the typical five. This is because their dew-claw is missing. Other distinctive qualities are their large, round ears. (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). It is said that these ears are essential for hunting, during which a pack may use long distance vocal calls (G. Rhodes, and R. Rhodes). These ears also help with heat loss and regulation (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”).

However, an African Wild Dogs most distinctive quality is its coat; this species has a coat blotched in yellow, gray, black, white, and brown (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). Most of the variation in color is on the body and legs (Creel, and Creel). The coloration on the dogs faces are all very similar, with a black muzzle shading to brown on the cheeks and forehead, a black line extending up the forehead, and blackish-brown on the backs of the ears. There is never white on the head. The back part of the head and the top of the neck are consistently brown or yellow. However, colors on the body and legs are unpredictable. (Creel, and Creel). The fur on its bushy tail is almost always white (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). An African Wild Dog’s fur is slightly longer around the head and body, and shorter on the legs (“African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)”). However, wild dogs tend to have sparse hair, though there is variation among individuals (Creel, and Creel). This variation is related to age—young pups and dogs have more hair than adult dogs, and old dogs can become almost hairless. Hair is particularly lost on the head, which begins to look grey as the skin shows through. (Creel, and Creel). Underneath its fur, African Wild Dogs have blackish/grey skin (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). Every wild dog has a different patterned coat with all the individuality of a snowflake or a fingerprint. It is the coat that can allow scientists to tell each animal apart. There has also been evidence to suggest that the dogs are able to use their distinctive coats to tell each other apart; this is why dogs can easily identify other wild dogs that are not in their pack, or spate packs that might pose a threat. (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”).

African Wild Dogs live in packs, and have a very unusual social system (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”). In their packs, only the dominant male and female are allowed to reproduce, which leads to alliances among dogs of the same sex. Packs can range anywhere from two to twenty seven individuals, and new packs form when a subgroup (usually females, and sisters) separate from their pack and join with another subgroup that is composed of males. The sisters typically separate once they reach sexual maturity. African Wild Dogs usually hunt in the cool of dusk and dawn in order to avoid other predators like lions, and the pups are usually allowed to eat first after prey has been killed. (“Lycaon pictus — Details African Wild Dog”)....
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