The Cape Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus Pictus ), also known as the South Cape Wild Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, or the painted wolf, is native to Namibia and Southern Africa and a is a subspecies of Cape Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus), which means ‘painted wolf’.
The Cape Wild Dog is a canid (a member of the Canidae family of animals). Other canids include dogs, wolves and foxes. Wild Dogs are diurnal: this means that they are active during the day and are pack animals. Their packs range in size from under 10 to over 60 members, and Cape Wild Dogs have litters of 2 – 20 puppies. The young are looked after by the whole pack. Packs of Wild Dogs let the young eat first — even before the dominant male!
They are very fast runners: they have been observed running at speeds of over 60 kilometres per hour! Antelopes from the main part of the Cape Wild Dogs’s diet, but they also predate larger animals such as Wildebeest and smaller animals such as rodents and birds. Cape Wild Dogs are near the top of the food chain, but are often predated by lions.
The Cape Wild Dog plays a prominent role in the mythology of Southern Africa’s San people. In one story, the Wild Dog is indirectly linked to the origin of death, as the hare is cursed by the moon to be forever hunted by Wild Dogs after the hare rebuffs the moon’s promise to allow all living things to be reborn after death.
Another story has the god ǀKágge̥n taking revenge on the other gods by sending a group of men transformed into Cape Wild Dogs to attack them, though who won the battle is never revealed. ǀKaggen is Mantis, a creator and folk hero of the ǀXam people of southern Africa. He is a trickster god who can shape shift, usually taking the form of a praying mantis or Eland.
The San of Botswana see the Cape Wild Dog as the ultimate hunter and traditionally believe that shamans and medicine men can transform themselves into Cape Wild Dogs. Some San hunters will smear Cape Wild Dog bodily fluids on their feet before a hunt, believing that doing so will gift them with the animal’s boldness and agility. Nevertheless, the species does not figure prominently in San rock art, with the only notable example being a painting in the Erongo Mountains showing a pack hunting two antelopes. Once I locate the rock painting, I will post pictures.