Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dogged Behavior

We continue to have excellent luck with a pack of wild dogs hanging out near Kiba. Wild dogs sightings are among the most exciting in the east African bush. It's not just because they are the rarest of all the large carnivores; it's also because they exhibit so much behavior that even when they're resting, there is almost always something to watch.

Dogs live in very tight-knit packs and the interaction of pack members is critical to their survival. The packs are led by an alpha male and an alpha female, who monopolizes breeding rights within the pack. Dogs scent mark prodigiously with their urine, especially the alpha pair who often mark together as a form of bonding. Sometimes they even get a bit acrobatic about it, such as this alpha male who marked while doing a handstand.

Dogs also have oversized ears that can move independently of each other, enabling them to pick up the slightest sounds. In this sequence of pictures, you can see the radial mobility of the ears.

As I mentioned in my last post, dogs are the best hunters. They are coursers, which means that they give chase until the prey is too worn out to continue. But they still will do their best to close the gap before they begin the chase. As demonstrated in this picture, dogs stalk prey shoulder to shoulder with their heads low, which helps them to avoid being spotted by antelope by hiding the most recognizable part of their silhouette.

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