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Africa Geographic
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Africa Geographic Travel
painted wolf, African wild dog, with puppies
Painted wolves, also known as African wild dogs, are incredibly social animals © Tailor Made Safaris
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While you have probably heard of painted wolves (African wild dogs), most have not seen these rare creatures in their natural habitat. Here are the five facts about painted wolves you may not know:


The painted wolf (Lycaon pictus) has many names, and is also commonly known as the African wild dog and Cape hunting dog. The name ‘painted wolf’ is a direct translation from its Latin name and refers to the blotchy colouring of their hair. Colouring and patterns are unique to every animal, and there are geographic variations in colouring and patterns as well. For more on this topic read What’s in a Name?.

Painted wolf, African wild dog
Each painted wolf has a unique colour pattern, like a fingerprint © Tailor Made Safaris


Painted wolves have been on the endangered species list since 1990 and are currently the second-most endangered carnivore in Africa after the Ethiopian wolf. According to the IUCN Redlist there are only 1,490 mature individuals left (the total population is approximately 6,500). In South Africa the two largest populations are in the Kruger National Park, which has a population varying between 200 to 400, and the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Painted wolves, African wild dogs, eating an impala
As their natural habitat decreases, food sources become limited © Tailor Made Safaris


Direct contact with human activity is responsible for over 50% of recorded adult mortality and, for packs living on the borders of national parks, mortality may be as high as 92% because of interaction with humans. Loss of suitable habitat due to encroaching humans is also causing declining numbers. A new strain of canine distemper with a mortality rate of 38% is also ravaging population numbers.

Painted wolf puppies, African wild dog puppies
Only the alpha couple breed, which limits the amount of pups born © Tailor Made Safaris
Africa Geographic Travel


Only the dominant pair in the pack breed, which also contributes to low population numbers. Painted wolves are different to other animals in that the females leave the pack when they reach sexual maturity, not the males. Once puppies are weaned, they are looked after by the collective group.

Painted wolf, African wild dog, with puppies at den
The cubs are looked after by the communal pack © Tailor Made Safaris


Painted wolves live and hunt in packs, and they chase prey until it is too tired to run. This is one of the reasons why they prefer open bushland or savannah rather than thick bush – they can see and track prey more easily. The bigger the pack, the more successful they are. The food is consumed quickly, and food is regurgitated back at the den for the puppies to eat.

These facts don’t even begin to explain their complex hierarchy and social structures. Still interested? Contact us if you’d like to see these beautiful animals in the wild. We know just where to find them!

Painted wolves, African wild dogs, running through river
Painted wolves hunt in packs © Tailor Made Safaris
Africa Geographic Travel
Tailor Made Safaris

Travel Southern Africa with Tailor Made Safaris if you want to spend as little time on the road whilst enjoying as much time experiencing destinations and activities! We provide self-drive tours & private guided tours, and cater for a mid-range to luxury budget. Visit our website to see what we do!