The cheetah is known for its title of world’s fastest land mammal—reaching speeds of 97 kilometres per hour in only three seconds. What most people probably don’t know about cheetahs is that they often get their food stolen.
“Cheetahs are wimps,” says Luke Dollar, a biologist who leads National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative.
Dollar went on to describe cheetahs as gracile, or in other words, built for speed, not combat. “They’re not particularly robust when it comes to confronting any of the similarly sized predators that are out there.”
So when a pack of African wild dogs, also called painted dogs, zeroes in on a cheetah kill they have little to no chance of claiming victory.
CHEETAHS VS. WILD DOGS: WHO WILL WIN THIS FOOD FIGHT?
Wild dogs, Dollar says, are his favorite animals to watch in Africa. “They’re so dynamic; they’re such amazing hunters,” he says. “Any one of them is not a particularly powerful animal but when you have a pack, I think they’re the most effective predators out there.
“They go from catching their prey, which is still alive when they start devouring it, to there being nothing left of it in two minutes or less,” says Dollar.
African painted dogs hunt in formidable, cooperative packs of 6 to 20 or more, usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. They typically hunt antelopes and occasionally larger prey such as wildebeests. They have an astonishingly high kill rate per chase of 80 percent, which is attributed to their intelligence and pack coordination.
WILD DOGS VS. HYENA
Cheetahs also hunt antelopes, and they feed on smaller animals such as birds and hares. They, like painted dogs, rarely scavenge. Although they do not remain long with their kill compared to other big cats, other carnivores predate much of what they catch.
Both African wild dogs and cheetahs are endangered due to habitat loss. Wide-ranging in nature, they require large areas of safe, open space to roam and hunt. African painted dogs also face persecution due to livestock predation and are susceptible to disease.
Currently, estimates show that there are only around 660 packs left in the wild or about 6,600 adults. According to Dollar, cheetah estimates placed originally at around ten thousand were recently found to be closer to that of the African painted dog, at 7,100. The African painted dog and the cheetah are recognised by the IUCN Red List as endangered and vulnerable, respectively.
The African wild dog’s shrinking numbers coupled with their extremely wide hunting range make sighting them in the wild a rare experience.
And spotting a pack of them with a cheetah? Even more rare. “The people who made this video should feel lucky,” says Dollar.