The African wild dog is the largest member of the canid family in Africa standing at around 30 inches at the shoulder and weighing about 80 pounds. (Hyenas are much larger but are not canids.) These wild dogs have an interesting social structure. Packs consist of related males and half as many females, but only the dominant female will have pups - usually a litter of about 10 although they can number up to 20.
The entire pack helps care for the pups and if the mother joins the hunting group other adults are left to guard them. Once the pups are around three months old, they can run with the pack but not help with the hunting duties. Contrary to many social animals, pups eat before the adults. Females leave the pack at between one and two years old and usually join another pack that has no sexually mature females.
Prey includes gazelle, impala, springbok, and wildebeest calves, although much larger animals are also on the menu, especially sick and injured animals. African wild dogs have a large variety of vocalizations and even though lions work together to bring down a meal, the African wild dog has a much greater success rate with their very coordinated hunting forays. African wild dogs are endangered.
The Asian or Indian wild dog, called a dhole, live in large clans, sometimes as many as 40 individuals, but may split up into smaller groups to hunt. Native to Southeast Asia, living in such large groups comes in handy if there are tigers or leopards in the area.
While dholes with their red fur physically resemble a fox and sometimes vocalize with whistles like a fox, they are more closely related to jackals. Though dholes are canids like wolves, they have a looser hierarchy within the clan, and are less territorial. There may be more than one breeding female within the clan and pups have a faster growth rate than wolves. The hunting pack will bring back food to the nursing mom and will regurgitate food when the pups are weaned.
Dholes are endangered but have a fairly large range even though they occur in fragmented groups and can still be found in India, Tibet, Malaysia, Bhutan, southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Sumatra. Smaller than the African wild dog, height is about 20 inches at the shoulder and weights are up to 55 pounds.
The South American wild dog, known as the bush dog, looks more like a cross between a pig and a bear, than like either the dhole or the painted dog.
To make it even more confusing, Its more popular name in Spanish is perro vinagre or vinegar dog. It is much smaller than either the dhole or African wild dog with an average height of just a foot at the shoulder and a weight of about 30 pounds. Therefore, its typical prey are large rodents like capybara and agouti, although it can also bring down peccaries and tapir. Found across northern South America it also travels in small packs even though it occasionally hunts alone.
For a short video about African wild dog conservation, click here.