African Wild Dogs | On the Hunt on Safari

African Wild Dogs Hunting

Vegetarians… you might want to look away now.  This post is not for the faint of heart either.  This is a story of a little impala that could… err… then couldn’t.

But first…

Wild Dogs: they’re just like regular dogs, right?

Madikwe Game Reserve reintroduced the endangered African wild dogs, also known as the hunting dog or painted dog, to its lands over two decades ago.  Today, they are doing well and safari-goers stand a good chance of seeing the resident wild dogs.  Like we did.

We first caught up with these fury but ferocious animals while they were taking a snooze in the tall grass.  As highly sociable animals, they stay in packs and do everything together led by the alpha male or female.  Although they are wild, they do what most other dogs do…

Use their (big) ears to listen.

African Wild Dogs Hunting

Sit in a very sphinx-like pose.

They yawn… revealing their impressive canine teeth.

And even do the downward dog… does this make it a wild downward dog?  (I’ll ask a yoga teacher.)

African Wild Dogs Downward dog

Already pretty satisfied with a beautiful sighting of these painted dogs enjoying the moments of relaxed tranquility, it was to our delight 2 days later when this happened.

African Wild Dogs on the Hunt

We were off on a game drive looking for lions one morning.  We were a good ways away from the lodge when our guide hear his name on the reserve radio channel from another guide from our lodge.  In a calm and collect voice, he said: “Dylan, come in.  Can you please go to the private channel?”  So he did.

The next instruction came through like a shrieking, giddy school girl: “Get over here!! Now! Wild dogs near the lodge!”

Our guide turns to us and says to hang on.  We’re going on a “safari Ferrari” to make it back quick to see the wild dogs.  It was the start of one of the most thrilling experiences we had.  We sped through land, over trampled bushes, broken branches, shrubs and uneven soil.  Bouncing up and down in our seats, we hung on as the warm African air threatened to tear the hats off our heads.

When we arrived, the wild hunting dogs were in already in motion.  Spread out across the plains, their ears were perked up. They sniffed the ground around them.  They were on the hunt.

We quietly followed them along until there was some commotion.  The dogs picked up the pace and we were on their tails (pun intended).  Our guide (who must have as keen an eyesight as the animals themselves) shouted,  “Look at that impala go!”

We raced behind trying to catch all the action.   The impala was gaining ground until one of the dogs coming in from the wings cut it off.  The impala leaps into the air (I’m sure wishing at that point it had wings).  The dog jumps to catch it, does a back flip.  He’s unsuccessful.

The impala narrowly escapes.

Off into the bushes it goes.  More dogs come out in hot pursuit.  They are so fast we can’t keep up.

That is until we see them all stopped around in a huddle over a little impala carcass.  Teeth thrashing. Bones cracking. Yelps and growls adding to the symphony of sounds.

Within two minutes flat, the little impala that could was no more.  Small fights ensued over the leftover scraps and bones.  Some made off like bandits with a healthy portion all to themselves. The white fur on their faces, now pink.

And so, we sat in awe of the circle of life.  In awe at the efficiency and ferociousness of the highly organized pack of African wild dogs.

The don’t call them hunting dogs for nothing.

And if this doesn’t convince you to go on safari, perhaps my first post about the big 5 will.  We recognize we were incredible fortunate to see this drama unfold.  But it was mostly thanks to the excellent guides of Makanyane Safari Lodge.  I’ll go in depth soon about what you can expect when staying there. PS It’s nothing short of bliss.

My dear readers, if you like this post, leave a comment below.  And better yet, share it with the dog-lovers in your life. If you’re on Pinterest, pin it for later.

African Wild Dog On the Hunt on Safari Smalls Abroad Pinterest

And hey, thanks again for reading!  I’m linking up with #WanderfulWednesday with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Go check out other great travel posts to fill you with inspiration.


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  • David Small
  • Punita Malhotra

    These wild dogs look really ferocious, don’t they. Look at those huge ears. Isn’t it so marvellous how nature and evolution work by perfect rules.

  • Skye

    Wow! Your photos are incredible and what a story. Such an intense event to watch up close.

  • Lynne Sarao

    I love animals of all kinds so this was a fascinating story to read. Those dogs really are beautiful but I couldn’t help feeling bad for that poor little impala!

  • Gokul Raj

    That leap though….still could not save it. Poor thing….

  • Wow, that was amazing as well as a bit crazy for that impala. I love the coats on the wild dogs but they remind me of Hyennas thus I would hate to meet them in public

    • I think they do have a resemblance to hyenas. We didn’t get such a greatsighting of hyenas but did some cute little baby ones. They aren’t particularly attractive 😀

  • travelwithtarah

    Wow!! I did not know wild dogs like this even existed!! You captured some really amazing pictures of this experience!

  • Holy crap that was intense! Poor impala. I suppose thats how it is! What an amazing thing to have seen!

  • Wild dogs are such incredible creatures – and it’s totally true they are one of the most effective hunter in Africa. And I feel bad for the impala, but that’s the circle of life and it would have been an amazing thing to witness.

  • Nilabh Ranjan

    nicely written content on wild safari , you mange to capture it very well in the video as well . Everything is fair in wild !

  • Clare

    I have seen wild dogs in the zoo and they look scary!! I can’t imagine seeing them in the wild. Interesting safari to do, it’s something I need to do one day 🙂

  • Vyjay Rao

    It is a different game out there in the wild. It is all about the survival of the fittest. Yes do feel sad for the Impala, but then probably that was its karma and what the wild dogs did was theirs.

  • I’ve read a short story about a safari and how dangerous these wild dogs are! #wanderfulwednesday

  • I don’t mind the sight but I would have minded the sound of it – bones cracking… ahh, no thanks 🙁

    • The bones crunching was a bit unnerving… it’s incredible they can do that with their jaws. They eat every single fragment and leave nothing behind.

  • Corey with fifi + hop

    Wow what a thing to witness! We recently went to a wolf conservation center and it was fascinating to learn all the facts about them, and the role they play in the animal kingdom. But a very tame experience compared to yours out in the wild! #wanderfulwednesday

  • Wow, I am in AWE of the photography. I think the spotted fur of the wild dogs are beautiful. And what an incredible thing to witness. It really does make me sad to think about poor animals being eaten alive, but i know it’s nature and the circle of life, and this is exactly the kind of thing I would love to see if I ever get a chance to go on a safari. I can’t believe how fast and clean they stripped the carcass!

  • Your photography is AMAZING!!! I have to admit that some of these were hard to look at, but hey, that’s NATURE! I’m not sure I would have liked watching it live, but these pictures are beautiful and remind us that we’re all just part of the circle of life! (Corny, maybe, but so true haha)