The African wild dog, or painted dog, is a fierce predator found in the open plains to dense forests of sub-Saharan Africa. The Latin name, Lycaon pictus, means "painted wolf" and refers to the animal's mottled coat. African wild dogs may be mostly solid-colored or painted with patches of black, brown, red, yellow, and white. Each dog has its own unique pattern, although most have a white-tipped tail that helps members of the pack find each other during a hunt. They are long-legged animals with large, rounded ears.
Some characteristics of the African wild dog set it apart from other canines. Although tall, it is the bulkiest African canine. The average dog weighs 20 to 25 kg in East Africa and up to 30 kg in southern Africa. It stands about 60 to 75 cm from the shoulder, with females slightly smaller than males. The species lacks dewclaws and usually has fused middle toe pads. Its curved, blade-like lower teeth are unusual, only seen in the South American bush dog and Asian dhole.
African wild dogs have different fur from other canids. The coat consists entirely of stiff bristles that the animal loses as it ages. There is no underfur. While body marking is unique to each dog, most have a black muzzle with a black line running up the forehead. Although wild dogs communicate vocally, they lack the facial expressions and body language seen in other canids.
Sneezing to Vote
Wild dogs "sneeze" to vote on pack decisions. The sneeze is a sharp exhalation through the nostrils that signals assent or agreement. When a pack gathers and the dominant mating pair sneeze, departure for hunting is likely. If a less dominant dog sneezes, hunting may occur if enough members of the group also sneeze.