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Painted Dogs at a Kill

Painted Dogs at a Kill
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-04-05
Categories: Mammals
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII
Exposure: f/2.8, 1/80 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): BEST OF: Wild Dogs, Dholes, & False foxes 1, CeltickRanger's favorite African animal photos [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-04-11 8:34
Viewed: 7158
Points: 52
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This was taken after the sun had set and the light was fading fast. I took about a hundred frames but most were blurred because of the bad light and the fact that the dogs were racing in all directions. Anyway, I like the effect of the tails and it is not too bloody!

I was extremely pleased to see Painted or Wild Dogs on my recent trip to South Africa. On every other visit to Africa I have ‘just-missed’ them. They were the reason for visiting Medikwe Game Reserve. There are two packs which are often seen, one of 8 and this one of 16. Not only did we find them – after about three hours of searching (they are highly mobile animals, rarely staying in one place long), they started to hunt a couple of minutes after we located them. This was one of the strangest things I have seen – they fanned out and took off at speed – as we followed (that is the guide and us) we came across a large bull elephant (why do you always find the perfect specimen when you positively don’t want one)!? The elephant took exception to all the commotion and came charging up to us – however, we got past him fairly quickly and got to the dogs about 90 – 120 seconds later. By this time they had killed a juvenile impala, though I would not have known if our ranger had not told us – it was in several pieces by this time (I was very glad not to see the kill – it is quick though – see below). Within 5 minutes there was absolutely nothing left!!

The African wild dog or African hunting dog, Lycaon pictus, is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas. It is also called cape hunting dog, spotted dog, or painted wolf in English, Wildehond in Afrikaans, and Mbwa mwitu in Swahili. It is the only species in the monotypic genus, Lycaon.

The wild dog has a pelage (fur) with an irregular pattern of black, yellow, and white, distinctive for each individual. Lycaon pictus means "painted wolf" in Greek. It is the only canid species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs.

African wild dogs hunt in packs. Like most members of the dog family, they are cursorial hunters, meaning that they pursue their prey in a long, open chase. During pursuit, they may reach speeds of up to 45 mph. Nearly 80% of all hunts end in a kill. Members of a pack vocalize to help coordinate their movements. Their voice is characterized by an unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird.
After a successful hunt, dogs regurgitate meat for those that remained at the den during the hunt, such as the dominant female and the pups. They will also feed other pack members such as the sick, injured or very old that cannot keep up.

Their main prey varies among populations, but always centers around medium-sized ungulates such as impala. While the vast majority of their diet is made up of mammal prey they do sometimes hunt large birds, especially ostriches.

A few packs will also include large animals in their prey, such as wildebeests and zebras. Hunting larger prey requires a closely coordinated attack, beginning with a rapid charge to stampede the herd. One wild dog then grabs the victim's tail, while another attacks the upper lip, and the remainder disembowel the animal while it is immobilised. This behaviour is also used on other large dangerous prey such as warthogs, cape buffalo and giraffe calves and large antelope-even the 1 ton giant eland. Though it may appear brutal, this method actually kills large animals far more quickly than the strangle hold used by big cats, which can take 10 minutes or more to kill.

Remarkably, this large-animal hunting tactic appears to be a learned behavior, passed on from generation to generation within specific hunting packs, rather than an instinctive behaviour found commonly within the species. Some studies have also shown that other information, such as the location of watering holes, may be passed on in a similar fashion.

jaycee, vanderschelden, PaulH, XOTAELE, Necipp, Proframe, CeltickRanger, gracious, uleko, nglen, rcrick, Luis52, rousettus, ramthakur, jcoowanitwong, gannu, joey, eqshannon, boreocypriensis, angybone, loot, Leace, Adanac has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-04-11 8:44]

Hi James,

It's wonderful to finally get to see these Wild Dogs. On our trip to Africa we, too, were told we "just missed them." A wonderful shot of this group and I appreciate that it's not too graphic. The tails are amazing.


Hello James,
1/80 almost impossible to get these guts sharp , I suppose. Nevertheless you saw them. I didn't in 20 days...not one.
Quite an experience, I think.

Hola James.
Interesante comentario y preciosa imagen.
Tu presencia no ha sido pasada por alto: te observan.
Saludos, JL.

Hello James as you say light was poor but you did well to get some good detail here. It's great that one of them turned round to pose for the cam :-) tfs rgds Necip.

Hello James
This is a fascinating sight and it seems like you had a real adventure to capture it with the Bull Elephant making an untimely visit..Great work in low light with a minimal shutter speed...Your note as well is a fascinating read.

  • Great 
  • Arjun Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 358 W: 7 N: 1237] (7593)
  • [2008-04-11 9:59]

hello sir,
beautiful picture...

Hi James,

Excellent capture for you aswell as the dogs.
Great note and wonderful colors and details.
What I most like in this image is the way just one of the dogs is looking towards you and thus the viewer.
Due to that the scene is, although busy with all those dogs with there wonderful plumed tails in the air around the prey, not busy for the eye of the viewer because the most attention does go to the dog looking backwards.
Excellent work again. Great note also.

Best regards and have a great weekend,


  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-04-11 11:13]

Hello James,
The dog which is looking at you makes this photo so beautiful. He's getting the attention. The white tails around this dog makes the composition extraordinary.
Great sharpness and natural colours.
Have a good weekend,

Hello James,
Many thanks for your effort for sharing this wild dogs that we do not have much changes seeing them that close! the pattern on the body is just awesome and good moment to have one turning towards your camera that we can see the face of the dog looks like!
also thank you for the informative notes
have a wonderful weekend, James

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-04-11 12:03]

Hello James,
What a fine capture of this pack of Painted dogs. They sure have very beautiful tails that add to the effect here! An excellent composition showing sharp details and fine colours.
Many thanks, Ulla

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-04-11 12:17]

Hi James . You were lucky this time to get the wild dogs and to see them feeding. I see what you mean about the tails all in the air , One even had time to look at you to see what was going on. TFS. very interesting notes too.
Have a good weekend.

Hi James,

Wonderful shot of this pack of wild dogs, what an experience to witness, excellent detail, well presented.

Cheers Rick :)

  • Great 
  • Luis52 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1175 W: 8 N: 4240] (15809)
  • [2008-04-11 17:04]

Hola James.
Interesante foto. Muy buen manejo de la camara y el lente, a pesar de la poca luz, esta es una muy buena foto. La nota escrita muy buena tambien y de gran valor.
Saludos James.
Take care.

Hello James
great capture of painted wild dogs. Greatly composed. Sharp details, POV, eyes contact and colors very nice. Great work from South Africa. TFS, have a nice weekend

A picture of great documentary value, James. I am impressed to know you went 'hunting' for these Painted Dogs in Africa and eventually got them!
Excellent timely shot while the entire pack eat together. You got 9 tails and one face minus the gory part. I too get jittery when I see that kind of stuff.
Great shot and thanks for sharing it.

Hi James,
I can imagine, from your note, that these wild dogs are amazingly quick in hunting and eating it prey. They are beautiful to look at. Great that you can see them working together in pack. Very well done and tfs this exciting experience.

hello James

great shot of these African Wild Dogs, fine POV and DOF,
i love the action of the image and the one turned
his head to you, excellent shrpness and details, TFS


  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-04-12 9:56]

James, what are they doing there. Nice composition and clarity Ganesh

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-04-12 10:03]

Excellent capture of this pack of Wilde Dogs having their dinner!
The lighting and colours are very natural.
Excellent composition too.
Superb notes.
Must have been one adrenaline-filled trip!

Cheers James!


Very unusual markings as natural on the wild ones...From a ways they look friendly...HA! Very nice image James.

What a great pattern on these painted dogs. It's quite obvious how they got their name. You take us to so many fascinating places around here. That's awesome!!!!

  • Great 
  • loot Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
  • [2008-04-14 5:01]

Hi James

Excellent capture of this pack of wild dogs. I was fortunate enough to see 3 different packs during my last Kruger trip, but nothing as spectacular as this. I agree with you, the effect of the tails is something special on this shot. It seems like you had a fruitful and joyful time during your visit to South Africa. That is good. This beautiful country is in so much need of some positive words / accounts from visitors, but enough said about that.

I like the "hidden" aspect of this posting. As you said, "…not too bloody", but it is clear that the dogs are feeding on their catch yet one can not see it. One just knows that somewhere between the grass and those milling bodies there lies the remnants of an Impala. The blood in the face of the one dog looking back at you clearly displays the truth of the story. A brilliant nature shot telling its own story in a thousand words.

Well done and TFS.

Hi my friend James,
Splendid shot of these wild dogs in feeding with excellent details, DOF and POV!
Greetings from Cyprus,


  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2008-04-15 2:55]

What an amazing experience James! Thanks for sharng it with us. This is a great shot of the pack feeding frenzy and i really like that one has turned round and appears to be looking directly at us!
Great shot, you made the most of your opportunity!

  • Great 
  • Leace Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 30 W: 0 N: 61] (292)
  • [2008-04-18 8:26]

I agree this is a fascinating photo - with their tails up and I love that the one dog looked back with a bit of food.
How lucky you are to be able to travel to Africa and of course to have been able to photograph this event.

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2008-04-19 15:22]

Hello James,
Excellent work here with the low light. Wonderful capture of this rarely seen animal. Thank you James.

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