We are huge admirers of the Wild Dog we see when visiting The Last Word Kitara, and not only because they keep us so entertained. They are known for their mottled fur, cheeky nature and tactful hunting.
They are also occasionally called painted wold, the literal translation of their scientific name Lycaon pictus, a reference to their black, brown, yellow and white fur colourings. Every coat combines these colours in a different pattern, giving each wild dog a unique and interesting look. This not only helps to keep them camouflaged while hunting, it also enables us to identify different members of the pack.
They have an exceptionally powerful bite and use their specialised molars for shearing meat and breaking bone. This is accompanied by an extraordinary sense of smell, sight and in particular hearing. Their large rounded ears are lined with several muscles that allow the ear to swivel like radar dishes, gathering up the minutest of sounds.
Long legs, a lean form and swift muscle recovery all contribute in making this animal an impressive endurance hunter. They are estimated to have an 80% success rate when hunting, this is primarily attributed to the way in which the pack coordinates a hunt. As with many groups of animals, communication is key and each pack member will continually let one another know where they are and the location of their prey. They are highly intelligent animals and coordinate perfect teamwork, often adapting their plan to suit a changing scenario during a hunt.
Many predators will rely on stealth as their primary advantage when hunting, wild dogs have numerous tactics to use. They are built for high stamina chases and use their surroundings to their benefit. A typical hunt will involve the pack scattering out into a line to cover more ground and give each member the space they need to manoeuvre. The pack will test a herds’ strength and defences to find a suitable target, they look for young, old or weak members of a herd. Various manoeuvres are used to cause the herd to panic and separate, giving them opportunity to close in. Wild dog are also known for chasing an animal towards a body of water, instinctively they know that most animals are afraid of deep water due to the risk of crocodiles and will try to turn back when faced with water.
Wild dog used to be found across the African continent, but are now limited to countries in the south and east of Africa, making every sighting exceptionally special. A moment we treasure whenever we come across them in the reserve.
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