Wondernose: What animal lives in Africa, travels in a pack, and has fur so thin its skin shows through it?

by Emma Lapp | Jun 3, 2022 | 0 comments

Buffalo and African hunting dogs
African hunting dogs. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

This mysterious animal stands about 3 feet (1 m) high and weighs about 35 to 50 pounds (16-23 kg). It has a great variation in color. Mostly it’s black, yellow, and white spotted or splotched. Often the face is rather dark, and the tail has a tip of white. Its ears are long and rounded. Its body is fastened to long thin legs with four toes on each foot. Its jaws are strong and powerful. Have you guessed it, Wondernose?

Hyena?

Great guess! In fact, a hyena is probably nearer the same as our mystery animal than any other animal on earth. But there are still some things that are different. They both live in Africa and both have strong jaws, but the hyena eats carcasses and bones while the other catches its own food. Actually, sometimes they catch more than they can eat. With all these clues you’ve probably guessed it.

Congratulations, Wondernose! It’s the Lycaon pictus. A more common name might be African wild dog or African hunting dog. They are active by day and by night. Usually they hunt in packs of about five to ten, but occasionally they might be spotted with as few as four or as many as sixty.

Their prey is anything they can overpower, but their main food is often antelopes or gazelles. When they spot something, they stalk it silently, approaching from the opposite way the wind is coming so their prey can’t smell them coming. When they attack, they move in quickly, howling to each other. If the prey begins to run, the fastest dogs run ahead, cutting off its escape. They often go for weak or sick animals that are easier to kill. These dogs are not extremely fast, but seem to be tireless. In that way they run an animal down in relays.

These hunting dogs usually have one litter per year of six to eight pups. Most times they live to be about ten years of age.

So why can you often see their skin through their hair? They do not have an undercoat of fur. When the long guard hairs wear out, particularly on older animals, the skin shows through their coat. They can look almost hairless.

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