Getting to know African Wild Dogs

By Focus Online Team on July 31, 2023

Over the past few years, the African Wild Dog has become a symbol of stamina and survival on the African continent. It is estimated that there are only about 3000 to 5000 individuals left in the wild, classifying the wild dog as the most endangered canine in Africa after the Ethiopian wolf. In spite of their endangered status, Madikwe Game Reserve is an excellent place to see these predators in their natural environment.


The wild dog’s Latin name is Lycaon pictus, which translates to “painted wolf” and, considering the splotches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow on their coat, we’d say this is a pretty apt name.

They reach about 76 cm in height and weigh between 18 and 30 kg.

Hunting Strategy

If you’ve heard anything about wild dogs, it’s probably about their high success rate when it comes to hunting. They are among the most effective predators in the world, using teamwork and coordination to bring down around 80% of the prey they pursue. Lions, by comparison, only have about a 10% success rate.

At a sprint, wild dogs can reach speeds of 60 – 70 km/h, but they can’t maintain this pace for long. Their success in hunting is due to teamwork and stamina. Once a pack has set their sights on an animal, they will chase it tirelessly, wearing it down to exhaustion.

They mainly hunt medium-sized antelope like impala, but an experienced pack is capable of bringing down something as large as a wildebeest (250 kg).

As they hunt, wild dogs communicate with one another using calls and body language. When the dog at the head of the hunt tires it falls back and is replaced by another member – it truly is something to behold!

Pack Life

African wild dogs live incredibly rich social lives and form close bonds with their pack members.

These hierarchical packs, averaging between 7 and 15 members, have an alpha male and an alpha female who breed. A litter usually numbers between 6 and 10 pups, though some don’t survive to adulthood.

Adults regurgitate food for the pups, but interestingly, this courtesy has also been observed towards older or sick members of the pack who are unable to participate on hunts. Wild dogs are rarely aggressive towards members of their pack, often whining to communicate displeasure rather than fighting.

A sweet ritual occurs before each hunt, with members of the pack touching one another and playing before they set off as a group. It’s almost as if they’re “psyching” eachother up for the coming hunt.


African wild dogs are nomadic and continuously on the move, except when the pack is rearing young pups or “denning”. Within their territory, which ranges between 400 and 1500 square kilometres, wild dogs can easily cover up to 50 km a day!

The best time to spot wild dogs is at twilight, when they are at their most active.

Wild Dogs of Madikwe

The Madikwe Game Reserve boasts the largest population of African wild dogs in South Africa. This is largely thanks to ‘Operation Phoenix’ of 1994, which saw six African wild dogs relocated to the reserve in an effort to bolster the population’s numbers. By all accounts, it was a resounding success!

Our ability to grow our wild dog population is also thanks to our guests, whose support means that we can continue to do the worthy work of keeping them safe.

At Tuningi Safari Lodge, our guides are well attuned to the movement and behaviours of the animals that call Madikwe home. Your chances of seeing African wild dogs on a morning or evening game drive is excellent!


  • The African Wild Dog is an endangered species with only 3000-5000 individuals left in the wild.
  • African Wild Dogs are known for their unique appearance, with splotches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow on their coat.
  • African Wild Dogs have a high hunting success rate of around 80%.
  • Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa is a great place to see African Wild Dogs in their natural habitat.

Visit Tuningi Safari

For a safari experience like no other, visit Tuningi Safari Lodge in the heart of the Madikwe Game Reserve. We adhere to the traditions that make safaris so extraordinary, from impeccable service to luxurious lodgings. The wildlife, untouched African bush and endless horizon is calling.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly reservations team directly at or click here to use our online booking platform.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *