A pack that stays together

Written by: Ashley Gaia

One of ZooTampa’s newest growing families is the African painted dogs. This growing family is critical, as African painted dogs are an endangered species. For the month of February, we are giving you the inside scoop on how their pack works together and what makes them so unique.

Painted dog society is complex and cooperative. Packs range from around 6-12 individuals, however packs of 30-50 have been documented. Each pack has an alpha male and female, chosen by the pack for their ability to lead versus their size. The painted dog is one of the greatest predators in Africa. Working as a team, the pack brings down their prey, quickly fill their bellies and rush back to their dens. There, they will regurgitate some meat to feed any puppies or dogs that need extra care.

African painted dogs are genetically unique in the world of canids. One of the features that sets them apart from other canids is their feet, they have four toes per paw instead of five! They also have specially adapted carnassial teeth that help slice meat and bone more efficiently.  All painted dogs have big round ears, a dark muzzle, and white tipped tails. The rest of the coat is mottled in splotches of ebony, white, and golden tans. Every dog has a unique pattern, just as unique as our finger prints!

Our own painted dog family is excelling at parenthood. When the puppies were first born, Dad, Hatari quickly mastered his role of staying close to the den to be a literal “watch dog” while mom, Layla devoted all of her time into raising, and wrangling, their puppies inside their den.

Currently, the puppies are doing well and growing larger every day! At almost 5 months old, these guys are weighing well over 20 pounds each and they consume roughly 15 pounds of meat every single day. This family enjoys devouring shanks, whole rabbits, and whole chicks on a regular basis. The pups are quite playful at this age and are often seen chasing each other around their yard, wrestling, playing tug of war with palm fronds or sticks, or taking a quick dip in their pool. They are getting braver and more independent and can frequently be seen running or playing without mom close by.

Your own “pack” can have fun at the zoo and watch these puppies grow all year with a Family Plus Membership. For more information click here.