Despite their name, African wild dogs are more distantly related to domestic dogs than wolves are. Dogs and wolves, along with jackals, are all members of a group called Canis, but African wild dogs are part of a group called Lycaon. They’re set apart by their diets—African wild dogs eat a more meat-heavy diet than dogs and wolves—and by their feet. While wolves and most dogs have dew claws, small claws on their forelimbs (sort of their equivalent of a thumb), African wild dogs don’t.
Even though African wild dogs are more distant relatives of dogs than wolves are, it’s easy to see the family resemblance. African wild dogs are extremely social animals, living in packs of up to 27 individuals. They communicate with each other in many ways, including by sneezing—scientists think that the dogs “vote” on whether or not to go out hunting by sneezing to say, “Yes, let’s go!”
Photo by Bart Swanson