Out of the apex predators in Africa wild dogs take the crown for being the most successful. In a pack they're a formidable force. Being endurance hunters they can run and run until their prey tires before bowling it over and tearing it apart in seconds.
I’ve seen leopard kills last for days but with wild dogs you’re lucky if there’s anything left after 20 minutes. They have voracious appetites. The local Mfuwe pack (5 dogs) once killed a juvenile puku and a bushbuck in the space of an hour and I managed to miss both by minutes!
To witness a kill you've got to be on the scene within minutes if you want to see any of it. It seems with dogs their favourite food are bushbucks. These shy dainty antelope look as if they've been sewn together from an assortment of mammals then spattered with paint.
On my first visit to the Kuyenda dog den I was able to witness them in full hunt mode, a young bushbuck flying past me at lightning speed being pursued by the dogs, low to the ground like greyhounds it was as if they were flying, hardly making contact with the ground. They continued on into the bush. I never knew the outcome but I didn't hold out much hope for the bushbuck.
Usually when I’d turn up at the den I’d be greeted by the dogs lounging around but on this particular morning there was nothing, not a dog in sight. Then there was a bark and the alpha female leapt from the den and headed off excitedly. It was unusual for her to be leaving the den so early. We followed and lucky we did, a little way down the road was the rest of the pack and they’d caught breakfast. Another bushbuck.
Wild dogs literally tear their prey apart. All the dogs gorge themselves but the alpha female and male get the best cuts. At this particular kill the alpha male had claimed ownership of the ribs, snarling and snapping at any dog that ventured too close.
My biggest problem was the location of the kill. They’d made it in long grass and from a distance you couldn't see much. Luckily we managed to get closer and I slid out of the car, sitting on the ground metres from these guys was incredible. They were preoccupied with their meal and weren’t bothered in the slightest. The lesser rank dogs were restless, moving back and forth around the kill hoping for the chance of a tasty morsel being made available to them. To make it more manageable the dogs would each grab a piece of skin and perform a tug of war, working together to each get a piece, pulling back and forth before the skin broke and they could gobble it down.
The alpha male wouldn't share his ribs, picking them up and moving away from the main kill.
Wild dogs when they haven't gorged themselves are streamline with greyhound like builds but after 20 minutes of bushbuck meat they’re like a human on Christmas day. With swollen bellies they waddle away to sleep it off in the grass. What little scraps might remain are vulture food.