African wild dog or die Afrika Wilde Honde in Afrikaans, is a wilding with as many nicknames as, well, a pack of dogs: African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, wild dog, hyena dog, painted wolf, painted dog, or – my favorite – ornate wolf. To the scientific world it is known as Lycaon pictus.
Enjoy the next installment in the series Babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa.
Why Wild Dogs Hunt Impalas and Zebras
When the Ndebele people migrated southwards in the 17th century, along the eastern coast of Africa, pushed by winds and floods, they brought with them their colorful geometric patterns, their beads, and their large, bright smiles. A century or so later they were joined by the Nguni people fleeing eastwards, away from the wars of King Shaka in Natal.
Be it a folktale drawn from a hunter’s observations, or a tale meant to teach youngsters a lesson, it is to them that we owe the story of why the wild dogs hunt impalas and zebras.
At the beginning of time, their story goes, right after God had finished creating all His animals and was wiping his brow, His creatures would all play and live together. It was exciting to be alive, to smell the wind and taste the water, to feel the rain on one’s fur – or skin, or scales, or feathers – and to bask in the sun, and wonder at the stars.
So when the first wild dog became sick – it was a mother wild dog tired after taking care of a big litter of pups – naturally that all the other animals showed their concern.
An Impala with softly curved horns went to seek Hare right away, for Hare had great healing knowledge. Hare gave Impala a calabash full of medicine for Mother Wild Dog. Then he warned Impala not to turn back on its way back to Wild Dog’s den.
Alas, soon Impala’s nostrils flared picking up the fresh scent of a leopard – instinct above all – and she turned back, looking for a safer path. She held the calabash tightly in her mouth, she did, Oxpecker saw her, and everyone knew that Impala and Oxpecker were as close as heat to fire. Matriarch saw her too. Yet the medicine inside the calabash spilled nevertheless, as Hare predicted. Had Impala perhaps leaped too? She could have… poor Impala.
Zebra went to see Hare next, to ask for medicine for Mother Wild Dog. By now word of Impala’s misfortune had reached Hare, so he wasn’t in the least worried that he had to brew the same potion, for the same patient. Yet when he handed the medicine-filled calabash to Zebra, he gave her the same advice. Do not turn back from your path.
Zebra neighed softly in agreement, a small cloud of steam leaving her nostrils in the cool African dawn. Her short mane shook a bit too, and then she was off at a leisurely walk. Not even a drop will she waste, careful as she was not to spill the calabash. She loved Mother Wild Dog who always made sure to share her findings of fresh grass. Tiny clouds of dust lifted as her hooves touched the ground, the earth still full with moisture and morning dew.
On Zebra went, and the shadows were still long. Focused on her path she was, till something caught her eye. A movement in the grass. A long shadow, a slither. Zebra’s long lashes battered against her soft cheek, her nostrils flared, and more of her front teeth showed off for in the grass, near the road, Black Mamba was nesting. Waiting.
Instinct took over and Zebra turned from her path and, no matter how hard she held onto the calabash, it broke. The medicine spilled, a dark patch on the sandy road still visible today, the Ndebele people whisper.
Zebra neighed like she never neighed before, an anguished high-pitched sound. Her ears flicked back and forth, her eye rolled in her head and she even flicked her tail, lifting then lowering it.
It seemed to last forever, and nobody could tell when the Zebra’s neigh stopped and when the dog’s yelping and howling started. For the Wil Dogs’ den was right behind the turn in the road. The den where Mother Wild Dog lay sick.
Alas, they all knew that the terrible had happened. Mother Wild Dog did not make it.
Wild Dog stepped outside his den and saw Zebra standing over the broken calabash just like he’d seen Impala the day before. Next, Wild Dog howled, and as he lowered his head the call turned into a cackle of laughter, then a rumble of short raspy shouts.
In a blink of an eye another wild dog joined the call, then another, and another. It was heartbreaking to listen, yet everyone knew that things will not end there.
It didn’t, for to this day Wild Dog and his family chase and hunt Impalas and Zebras, this being their revenge for the death of Mother Wild Dog, who could have been saved if only Impala and Zebra would have listened to Hare’s advice and not turn back from their path.
Copyright © 2021 Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.
African Wild Dog
Wild dogs live like wolves in a pack led by a male and female pair. Soon, their annual litter becomes the center of their daily lives. The cubs stay with the pack for about two years. Afterwards, some will break away to form their own packs, while others will remain with their mother and father. The average pack consists of ten to fifteen dogs.
AfricanWild Dogs start and end each day with a greeting ceremony, wrestling and playng. If one of the dogs gets hurt, the other dogs will take care of him. They will lick his wounds and bring him food.
But the cubs get the most attention. The mother gives birth to up to fifteen babies. There are a lot of mouths to feed and each member of the pack has to help take care of the cubs. At first the pups stay close to the den and they often have a babysitter while the other dogs hunt. When the big dogs return, they bring along meat for the cubs. Sounds whimsical, and it is, as the little ones love these bits of fresh meat.
Young wild dogs start moving along with the pack from the time they are three months. The older dogs will hide them in the bushes before a hunt and will always fetch them after the prey has been caught. The cubs then stand at the front of the feeding queue.
Herds of wild dogs use all kinds of sounds to talk to each other. They bark, chirp and cry.
At one time there were wild dogs in sub-Saharan Africa almost everywhere, but now they only live in a few places. In South Africa there are only 400 left in the wild and they are southern Africa’s most endangered meat eater. The largest group of wild dogs is located in the Kruger National Park.
Wild dogs live in groups of up to fifty and are very social. They migrate over large areas and that’s why they started colliding with people’s new habitats, as humans started building villages and farming on the wild dog’s land. One way to preserve the wild dog is to release herds into new, safe areas.
Die Afrika Wilde Honde
Wildehone leef soos wolwe in ‘n trop wat deur ‘n mannetjie en ‘n wyfie gelei word. Hul jaarlikse werpsel word die middelpunt van hul daaglikse lewe. Die welpies bly vir omtrent twee jaar in die trop. Dan kan party van hulle wegbreek om hul eie trop te vorm, terwyl ander by hul ma en pa blye. Die gemiddelde trop bestaan uit tien tot vyftien honde. Hulle begin en eindig elke dag met ‘n groetseremonie: hulle stoei en speel hasieoor dat dit klap. As een van die honde seerkry, pas die ander honde hom op. Hulle lek sy wonde en bring vir hom kos.
Maar die welpies kry die meeste aandag. Die ma kry ‘n werpsel van tot vyftien babas. Dis ‘n klomp monde om te voer en elke lid van die trop moet help om die welpies te versorg. Eers bly die kleintjies naby die gat en hulle het dikwels ‘n babawagter terwyl die ander honde jag. Wanneer die grotes terugkom, bring hulle vleis vir die welpies op. Klink grillerig, maar die kleintjies is dol oor dié happies.
Jong wildehondebegin op drie maande saam met die trop trek. Die ouer honde steek hulle voor ‘n jagtog in die bosse weg en gaan haal hulle nadat ‘n prooi gevang is. Die welpies staan voor in die tou vir kos.
Troppe wildehonde gebruik allerhande klanke om met mekaar te praat. Hulle blaf, kwetter en huil.
Op ‘n tyd was daar suid van die Sahare byna oral wildehonde, maar nou leef hulle net op ‘n paar plekke. In Suid-Afrika is daar net 400 in die natuur oor en hulle is suider-Afrika se mees bedreigde vleiseter. Die grootste groep wildehonde is in die Kruger-wildtuin.
Wildehonde woon in groepe van tot vyftig saam en is baie sosiaal. Hulle trek oor groot gebiede en dis hoekom hulle met mense begin bots het. Mense het op hul grong begin dorpe bou en boer. Een manier om die wildehond te bewaar, is om troppe in nuwe gebiede los te laat.
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