In documentaries like The Hunt, Life Story, and Planet Earth wild dogs are portrayed as the ultimate endurance hunters and the most efficient predators in Africa, relying on teamwork and stamina to bring down some 80 percent of their prey.
Or are they?
In the first study of its kind, a team of scientists led by Alan Wilson from the Royal Veterinary College fitted a pack of wild dogs with collars that recorded their position, speed, and acceleration. The collars gave the first unbiased view of the dogs’ hunts, revealing what they do in places where the scientists couldn’t see them.
The data revealed that the dogs chased almost all of their prey over short runs rather than long pursuits. They didn’t coordinate their attacks, and they never showed signs of teamwork. On average, they killed just 16 percent of their targets.
Wilson suspects that scientists and film-makers have focused on aspects of the dogs’ lives that could be easily observed—hunting larger prey over open grassland—and such conditions produce the kinds of behaviour one expects from the dogs. “Maybe we see what we want to,” he says.
photo: WILDLIFE GmbH, Alamy