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Best places to see African wild dog

Wild Dog

Anyone who’s been on safari will know that it’s hard to track down the elusive “painted wolf” or African wild dog, the star of Episode 4 of the David Attenborough BBC Dynasties series.

Perhaps the most compelling, this episode came right from the heart of our home turf, Mana Pools National Park, northern Zimbabwe. The finest safari spot on the Zambezi River and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Did you know….Painted wolf facts

There are approximately 6,600 African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) living in the wild.

The endangered African wild dog is a member of the Canidae family.

The wild dog is Africa’s rarest carnivore, they’ve been hunted and affected by disease but their main predators are the lion and the scavenging spotted hyena.

One of the reasons they’re difficult to see on safari is their nomadic nature.

Extremely social animals, they live in packs where both the males and females have distinct hierarchies within their family groups. That said, when it comes to feeding, the little one always get to eat first!


The average wild dog pack consists of 5 to 8 adults with their offspring, possibly totalling as many as 25 members.

Wild dogs congregate in Africa’s dry savanna and grasslands, it’s here that they’re hunting techniques are most effective. Working as a pack they spot their prey (mostly springbok and impala) and start a chase which can last as long as 30 minutes, the wild dogs’ stamina outlasts that of their prey as they nip repeatedly at the legs of the animal until eventually it retires exhausted. Wild dogs will ambitiously chase wildebeest, warthog, zebra and cane rats, generally dividing the pack picking on a weak member of the herd to make it almost impossible for the animal to re-join the herd.

Where are the best places to see African wild dog?

It’s the burning question for anyone planning a safari… We all want to catch a glimpse of one of Africa’s rarest of carnivores.

We can’t offer guaranteed sightings of these elusive canines but for the best odds we suggest heading off to one of the following (wonderful) destinations …

Best places to see wild dogs

Why visit Mana Pools for a wild dog safari?

Put simply, Mana Pools is spectacular. The shoreline is dominated by wildlife rich floodplains and shallow pools with an abundance of buffalo and elephant. It’s also one of the best spots in Africa for seeing a wild dog pack.

Mana Pools is central to the larger Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, renowned for the best canoe safaris in Africa and regarded as one of the continent’s top walking safari destinations.  This combination of dramatic landscapes, large numbers of varied wildlife, including the Big Five and sable antelope, and the ability to cover wilderness on both land and water sets Mana Pools National Park apart. Exceptional guiding, small traditional tented camps and the “fly camping” option seal its reputation.

More fascinating facts about African wild dogs…

  • Africa’s rarest carnivore only has 4 toes on each foot
  • their height and body length is between 35-50 inches
  • shoulder height 27-35 inches
  • gestation period of between 69-73 days
  • litter sizes average of 6-9 but can be between 2-20 pups!

Wild dog pups

  • preys on impala, kudu, duiker, wildebeest and gazelle depending on location
  • hunts in packs of as many as 20 dogs but an experienced dog is very capable of hunting independently
  • average weight of 55 lbs but varies between weight 35-80 lbs
  • each dog has a unique coat pattern
  • African wild dogs can take down a wildebeest
  • white plume on their tail tip
  • allow their young and sick dogs to eat first
  • packs work well together and rarely display signs of aggression within the pack

For more than 20 years we have fine-tuned our wildlife, walking and canoeing safaris along the Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools national parks. Working with the top professional African safari guides we’ll take you to the fringe areas, for the best wildlife away from the mainstream safari routes.  Get in touch, and check out our recommended wild dog safari to the Luangwa Valley along with our options in Mana Pools.

Pick up details of a typical safari to a wild dog destination. 

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