African wild dogs live in a competitive environment. These canine predators go up against lions, leopards, and hyenas in the hunt for food. This sometimes leads to exciting battles between top predators that can result in casualties.
Wild dogs don’t just have to watch their backs for competitors while hunting. In special cases, they can end up being the prey too. Keep reading to find out more about African wild dog predators.
What Animals Kill Wild Dogs?
Before getting into the African wild dog’s predator (the animal that eats them), it seems right to look at what kills these creatures without eating them.
Whether it be because of conflict over prey or natural instincts, African lions appear to have the painted dog on their hit list.
Although wild dogs don’t feature in a lion’s diet, this big cat is number one on the list of wild dogs’ biggest killers.
Lions are in a completely different weight bracket to wild dogs, giving them the advantage in a fight.
They are the heavyweights, between 118 and 225 kg. Wild dogs weigh in at between 18 and 36 kg, showing they’re not really a match for these hefty felines.
Lions are the mortal enemies of wild dogs and appear to kill them whenever they get the opportunity.
Strangely, although lions kill these African hunting dogs, they do not eat them. This raises a question: why would they kill these animals if not to eat them?
The belief is that lions kill wild dogs because they compete for food sources. If lions are hungry and a nearby wild dog pack has a successful hunt, the felines won’t hesitate to try and steal the kill. And they will cause harm or death to any African dog pack members that get in the way.
There are also reports of unprovoked fights where lions just randomly kill and attack wild dogs without prey nearby.
This hints at an instinctual blood feud between these predators. Wild dogs and lions’ behavior of killing each other’s cubs and pups whenever they get the chance appears to confirm this idea.
What Eats African Wild Dogs?
Lions kill painted dogs without putting them on the menu. So, what animal actually eats a wild dog? Take a look.
Now, Nile crocodiles wouldn’t pick the wild dog as their first choice of a meal. A wildebeest rump or impala fillet would go down far better. Yet, on occasion, the wild dog will feature as a food source.
Crocodiles are opportunistic, ambush predators. If wild African dogs just happen to be at the waterside at the wrong time, then they can end up as prey.
Since the wild dog isn’t the largest of animals, this puts them at a disadvantage against a crocodile. The canine would need to rely on speed or the defense of their pack to get out of trouble.
What Fights With the African Hunting Dog?
It seems the African wild dog isn’t the most popular in the African predator circle. Aside from lions and crocodiles, they also fight with two other predators.
Possibly one of the most well-known rivalries in the bush, hyenas and wild dogs battle constantly. The reason for this is that hyenas are often an irritation for the wild dogs.
Hyenas are effective hunters, but usually prefer to scavenge kills than do the heavy lifting themselves. They are opportunistic and good at sniffing out the potential for a good meal.
Spotted hyenas, especially, will regularly follow hunting wild dog packs. These canines have incredible hunt success rates compared to other predators. Hyenas are more likely to get some scraps following these predators around than leopards or lions.
As you can imagine, this annoys the wild dogs who have worked hard to get their kill. As a result, there will often be scuffles between the two species.
The scavengers dart in and try to steal kills. The wild dogs will use their numbers to mob hyenas and drive them away. A lot of noise and a few injuries are a consequence.
Sometimes the hyenas win and sometimes the wild dogs are the victors. Luckily for both species, these confrontations over food don’t usually end with fatalities.
Elusive leopards also have occasional skirmishes with wild dog in Africa. And, it’s for a similar reason to hyenas.
When the dog pack feasts on the kill, there are usually a few members that won’t eat. These animals keep a lookout for predators. Sometimes, a leopard will cause these sentries to jump to attention.
The smell of the dogs’ kill or noise around it can draw a nearby leopard to the hunt site. This, like the hyena, is because the large feline hopes to steal the carcass.
In cases like these, the African painted dogs will use their pack strength to chase the leopard away. As leopards are solitary creatures, the pack can usually scare them off.
Yet, don’t underestimate a leopard’s strength. These animals can very easily hurt, and even kill, an African wild dog puppy or young adult separated from the pack.
How Does the African Hunting Dog Survive?
African painted dogs share food sources like zebras and impalas with lions, leopards, and hyenas. With so much competition out there, you might wonder how these canines hold their own.
This is where order and pack strength are in the dogs’ favor. When these African dogs make a kill, the pack eats in a speedy fashion. They post lookouts and rotate them so each member can eat.
This structure to their mealtime helps the animals to protect themselves and eat their fill before predators arrive.
Pack strength comes in handy when the wild dogs face up to a solitary lion, leopard, or a few hyenas. Hyenas are not great team players so they can be easily overwhelmed by a wild dog pack.
When lions or hyenas harm wild dogs, the members look after one another. The injured animal will receive decent portions from the pack’s kills until it is fit again. Other members will also lick the wounds, which helps the injuries to heal more quickly.
Wild Dogs in Africa: Strength in Numbers
The wild dog is a predator with an impressive hunting success rate. Unfortunately, this means it gets a lot of attention from opportunists like the leopard and hyena. Lions have a seemingly intense hatred of these canines, which can make life difficult.
Luckily, pack strength and organization help to defend their packs and kills from known African wild dog predators. However, they need to watch out when visiting the water – the crocodile’s natural element.
Book a safari to see the African painted dog and its fellow predators in action!