Hypnotic is the word for our African painted dogs. Like a mesmerising abstract artwork, we bet you find it's impossible to look away until you've fully taken in the dazzling dappled patterns of their gorgeous coats.

You'll also be entranced by their large rounded ears which can pick up the calls of other dogs in the far distance. They use their ears to communicate, moving them in different directions to signal to other dogs which way to go or what to do.

In southern and east African countries, researchers have kept track of individual dogs by noting down their coat pattern. In some cases, with dogs they have caught and released back into the wild, they also use microchips to keep tabs on animals.

This is extremely important because African painted dogs, also known as cape hunting dogs, are an Endangered species. There are only about 3,000 left in a handful of countries compared to 500,000 across 39 nations at the beginning of last century.

We support conservation efforts at Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania on the border with Kenya, where these dogs are now closely monitored and protected. By visiting the zoo or becoming a member, you help us to continue with that support.

Just so you know... our painted dogs have now moved to a new home and we will soon be bringing in a new pack as part of a breeding programme.

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Interesting facts

Where they live Mainly southern Africa but also found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Habitat Grassy plains, savannah woodland and semi desert areas.
Size 75cm shoulder height
Weight up to 35kg
Threats Habitat destruction; conflict with humans which leads to active persecution of animals; infectious diseases from domestic dogs eg. canine distemper.

Species Information

Scientific name Lycaon pictus
Order Carnivora
Family Canidae
Genus Lycaon
IUCN status Endangered
Roles in the zoo

Research (ex situ): This species is part of applied research that leads to evidence-based decisions regarding in-zoo management.

In situ Conservation Ambassador

Species conservation: This is a species for which we have a significant focus on in the wild, as part of our conservation projects and programmes around the world.


Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

Partnerships: This species helps demonstrate that we work in partnerships with other organisations to conserve nature and natural resources.

Chester Zoo: This species helps demonstrate that as a charity Chester Zoo’s mission is to be a major force in conserving biodiversity worldwide.

Visitor experience

Exhibit Enhancement: This species connects visitors with the geographic areas that they originate from and helps develop further understanding of the environmental issues facing the species in those regions.