African Wild Dog Day Afternoon

African Wild Dog Oliver Crossing Stream PHOTO CREDIT: Tad Motoyama

African Wild Dog Oliver Crossing Stream; PHOTO CREDIT: Tad Motoyama

While the African wild dog may truly be a canine, its name is something of a misnomer. In fact, it’s not a “dog” at all, but rather a member of its own unique genus. The “wild” designation is also troubling to some—who prefer the term “painted” to describe these canines.

Wild Dog in the Grass PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Wild Dog in the Grass

Unlike true dogs, which have five toes, wild dogs have only four. They also have an exceptionally powerful bite, according to Curator of Mammals Jennie Becker: “Their jaw structure is very strong, and the teeth along their jaw—called ‘carnassials’—are razor sharp.” As a result, wild dogs can crush bone and are able to eat faster to outcompete rival predators like lions and hyenas.

Another trait that distinguishes wild dogs from domestic dogs is their vocal sounds. Instead of barking and howling, these “dogs” squeal and whine.

The Lycaon pictus is the second most endangered carnivore in Africa (after the Ethiopian wolf). According to the African Wildlife Foundation, there are only about 6,600 remaining in the wild.