African wild dogs are usually thought of as cooperative pack hunters that chase large prey for long distances across the open plains, tiring out their quarry before going in for the kill. But their hunting behaviour is in fact much more varied than that.
Research in Botswana and Kenya has revealed that in woodland savannah habitats wild dogs often target considerably smaller animals, such as dik-dik and hares. To catch them, pack members are more likely to pair off or even hunt alone, flushing their prey from the undergrowth before chasing it down. Hunts of this type often result in multiple kills – after all, one dik-dik doesn’t go far among lots of hungry dogs.
Wild dogs despatch their prey by tearing it apart, as opposed to the suffocation strategy used by big cats. This has earned them something of a bad reputation, but kills are usually quick and efficient. Meals are consumed as fast as possible to avoid them being stolen by hyenas.
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