Painted hunting dogs

Did you know?

Family life

Wild dogs live in packs, made up on average of 7 to 15 members, and pack bonds are strong. Each pack is headed by an alpha male and an alpha female – they are the dominant breeding pair and tend to remain monogamous for life. The breeding female gives birth every 12-14 months after a gestation period of 10 weeks. Litter sizes vary. Pups remain in the den with their mother for 3-4 weeks, but once out and about they become the responsibility of the whole pack.

Band of brothers

On average a pack has more males than females. About half of young males stay with their father’s pack; the rest will leave and form a new pack. At maturity, females tend to leave their parent group to join other groups.

Fierce predators

As a pack, wild dogs are Africa’s most efficient hunters. Once prey is identified, an unrelenting chase begins and the target rarely escapes. The majority of chases end in kills.


Wild dogs communicate with each other vocally and by touch and action. Some vocalisations resemble those of domestic dogs; others – like excited “chirping” or “twittering” – are sounds particular to them.

Where we live

In the wild

They are classified as Endangered. Fragmented populations exist in south-east Africa. As wild dogs are non-territorial and nomadic, numbers in the wild are difficult to determine. Life span is 10-11 years.

At Hamilton Zoo

An enclosure near the Sumatran tiger exhibit is home to Zumo (male), born at Hamilton Zoo on 11 April 2007, and the female Rukiya, born at Wellington Zoo on 22 November 2005.

Sisters - Msaka and Tafari, were born at Perth Zoo on 23 May 2011 and arrived at Hamilton Zoo on 7 October 2015. Their enclosure is next door to the rhino houses and overlooks the savannah exhibit. Down her left hindquarter, Msaka has white markings roughly the shape of New Zealand, and Tafari has a white band above the base of her tail.

​Working with African wild dogs

These dogs are dangerous and keepers manage them according to strict safety protocols. The dogs are confined in yards while the keeper cleans the exhibit and leaves food or enrichment for them.

A hyena?

African wild dogs are sometimes mistaken for hyenas, but they are two separate scientific families. A few of the differences are:

  • One species of African wild dog; three species of hyenas - spotted, brown and striped.
  • African wild dogs bond strongly with other pack members; hyenas compete with other pack members for food or dominance.
  • African wild dogs are non-territorial; hyenas scent-mark their territory.
  • African wild dogs are led by a dominant male and female pair; hyena society is matriarchal.
  • African wild dog pups are cared for by the whole pack; hyena pups are cared for only by their mother.

How can I help when I live in New Zealand?

Wild dogs are Africa’s most endangered predators, with numbers estimated to be less than 7,000. The population continues to decline due to conflict with human activities, viral diseases like rabies and distemper, habitat loss and competition for food, mostly with lions.

We believe all actions help – from learning more and supporting conservation organisations to focusing on what you do at home.

African wild dogs at Hamilton Zoo

  • <p>Sisters Tafari (near) &amp; Msaka (far)</p>
  • <p>Msaka with the map of New Zealand on her rump</p>

Painted hunting dogs

Also known as African hunting dog, painted dog. Each dog’s colour pattern is unique.