African Wild Dogs – Hunting

This is not about your father’s hunting dog. These are not household dogs which when set free in the wild become feral survivors. They are indeed a species unto themselves. Wild dogs of Kenya are a dying breed. The pack must have more than five dogs to maintain a threshold below which reproductive failure is likely. The area requirements of five wild dogs are estimated to be 65 to 150 square kilometers. Because they are a pack animal, they are transmitting rabies among one another. There is no one to care for this deadly disease and because they are not a high priority species. Because of environment change and disease they may become extinct. They are pack animals which work to hunt as a team just like the lions. Their method is different from lions where they run their prey down to exhaustion. That can run at 40 mph for hours. When the dogs take down their prey, they exercise dogged precision.

The featured image is a portrait of a Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). The Wild Dog (AKA Painted Dog) is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Perhaps only one thousand remain.

The ear of the lead dog lying in the shade of the tree around 5:00 PM. He is one of about a dozen. It is dinner time.

We saw a pack of about 12 resting in the shade of a tree with deep soft grass. The entire family was together and appeared to be contented. They lay down through the heat of the day in close contact with the soil for cooling. In the afternoon a head or an ear pops up showing that they are not sleeping but alert. As sunset neared the pack leader stood up all rose at the same time and began a fast-paced loosely grouped walk. They apparently had a powerful agenda in mind. We followed them and they in turn were in fast pursuit of dinner.

Within minutes of awakening the pack found the scent. It will take them only 15 minutes.

The pace picked up as they reach the Savanna where the woods thinned out. The chase was on despite our not seeing the target. The walk turned into a fast trot as the team members took their strategic positions; two groups in flanked positions and a lead attack group. In their favor the dogs had nose work, group communication, pack coordination, speed, endurance and survival instinct.

The chase is on. Impala are in the area. Long shadows suggest that we are nearing sunset.

Distracted by the action of the group one of these Impala will be split off and isolated.
The dogs see the prey.
For the Impala fast and agile gets you far but the dogs are made for endurance and have the power of the pack. They use a strategy of three groups one on each side and one down the middle of the run.

Then it was a full running chase of their prey through the deep brush. The impala had no chance to outrun the pack. They had it cornered in a dense brush area where the speed and agility of the lone impala couldn’t help. We were in the chase vehicle riding over the rough terrain with no road at about 25 mph. We lost sight of them in the bush for a minute.

When we finally caught up with the lead group the impala was half consumed. The lead dogs finished eating and the remaining carcass was devoured by the other chase members of the pack. The total running and eating time was about 15 minutes. It was a sight of efficiency defying the imagination. (Faster than a drive through for a burger and fries)

The dog hunt compared to the lion hunt: (CAUTION ! If you don’t want to know, don’t read. I did not publish the more graphic scenes.)

The hunting patterns of the dogs was different from the lions in two specific ways; attack and kill. The lions arrayed the pride in a rough semicircle around the target . They had a specific female led attack crew of three that was headed by one lioness. The remaining members of the pride sat or stood watching the action and the young in the rear appeared to observe and hopefully learn. The dogs had another attack method. Their hunting team worked like a trident. The three phaylanxes approached in parallel. There were no watchers and all were running in hot pursuit. In the kill the lion grabbed from behind and brought the prey down. Then the lion bites into the throat to asphyxiate the prey. Once the catch is dead then the feast begins where the lead male to eats first. The dogs behaved differently. The first-to-catch team downs the prey and begins to eat indifferent to the kill. In this instance the prey was eaten to death. The catch was devoured boarding house rules, first-come-first-get. There was no hierarchal devision of the catch.

In the previous description of the lion hunt they were not successful. In this dog hunt they were very successful.

We were an 90 minutes from the camp and it was nearly dark already. There was no light left when we arrived.

We departed the area as the full moon was rising in the east. We began the one-hour race back to camp across the Savanna and through the woods at 45 mph to beat the setting sun. This was despite the lessening visibility, deeply rutted roads and sloppy creek bed crossings. We were to be back before total darkness. When we were two miles out of camp riding the deeply rutted road, twilight nearly over, we were nearly run over by a herd of 8 Cape buffalo running at full gallop through the dark dense woods. They crossed our road 20 feet in front of us escaping from a pride of lion in hot pursuit. Then we rolled into camp fifteen minutes late. Our driver was skillful, with quick reactions and strong hands. He could give endurance race drivers a few lessons. The dogs ate. Now it was dark as a black hole and time for our dinner.

#dogs #antelope #hunt #Africa #Kenya #Maasai Mara #Wild dogs #endangered #pack #hunt #painted dog #

References:

Wild Dogs Journey

Wild Dogs Environment

Wild Dogs special anatomy

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2 responses to “African Wild Dogs – Hunting”

  1. nicholaswittner1069 Avatar
    nicholaswittner1069

    This was my absolute favorite part of the safari. Great write-up. My adrenaline rushed as I continued to read. Trident yes! “Dogged precision” – you are indeed a punster.

    Nick

    Like

  2. John Avatar

    When we return to Africa we can include more video with audio. That should bring it even more to life.

    Like

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  1. This was my absolute favorite part of the safari. Great write-up. My adrenaline rushed as I continued to read. Trident yes! “Dogged precision” – you are indeed a punster.

    Nick

    Like

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