Wild dogs are one of the rarest animals to catch a glimpse of while on safari, according to our guide in South Africa. So while they bear some resemblance to our “pack” of five pedigreed german shepherds at home when I was growing up, these guys struck me as being more sinister. Our guide said that packs of wild dogs might go unseen for months at Singita, so when they are on the reserve, most guides try to get a sighting for their guests. One of the two additional animals, along with the cheetah, to make up the “Magnificent Seven” — we were thrilled at the chance to “travel with a pack” for an hour or so, hoping they would go in for a “kill”…
Our guide got a message that there was a pack of wild dogs in the vicinity (say a kilometer or two away) so we sped up to try and find them and hang around to see if they would go on a hunt for antelope or other food sources. They were fascinating.
Beautifully marked, enormous ears, looked scrawny but actually were probably amongst the most lean and muscular of bush animals.
Apparently, when they get wind of prey the pack of 20-30 work together to chase and wear down the antelope at speeds of up to 50km per hour. Basically they freak the bejesus out of the prey and keep chasing them until they give up. And 80+% of the time, the prey gives up. So too bad if you are the target for the day, as your chances of escaping this seriously focused group of wild dogs are very slim indeed.
Their proportions differ slightly from domesticated dogs/pets. Their legs are longer and they look gawky, and they appear to be on crack, but its this constant energy, movement, anxiety, awareness and intensity that makes them so interesting!
We watched for say close to an hour or more, as they went roaming over hills (now I understand why those darned Rovers are so essential, we basically followed them wherever, driving over ginormous bushes and small trees!) and then they settled down to rest and play at a small watering hole.
They kept running and playing and grabbing for say 15 minutes straight. I got tired just watching them! If they decided to chase me, hopefully I would find a tree to clamber up or else I would be carpaccio without olive oil and freshly shaved parmesan in less than 300 meters or so.
At rest, they almost seemed adorable, but a glimpse of their teeth and the manner in which they run, dodged and jumped would give you the shivers.
I was more inclined to have a leopard as a pet than one of these guys… :)
Playing. Then suddenly, they took off and we tried to follow. We lost sight of them and spent 20 minutes together with another Rover also anxious to witness a kill trying to trace the wild dogs and were unsuccessful. Amazing how quickly they could disappear into light brush. We didn’t hear them make a kill and they seemed to vanish for the afternoon.
We ran into the pack again the next day, resting by a roadside, but we just took a few photos and went on our way.
Notice in this photo of another Rover with guests just how close the wild dogs were. They circled our own Rover in play, but let’s just say you are a bit on edge when 6-8 wild dogs are coming up to the sides of the vehicle. Mrs. MM was half expecting one of them to pee on a tire, which they didn’t, but we were just one little leap away from a face to face encounter with a wild dog!