Category: Carnivore

Location: Foot Safari

About Bush Dogs 

Bush Dogs are the smallest wild pack hunting dog on the planet. They are small members of the canid family and originate from Central and South America. It isn’t clear as to which species is their closest living relative, however, many believe it could either be the Maned Wolf from South America, or African Hunting Dog.

Bush dogs stand at only 12-15” tall, which is about the same height as a basset hound. They may be small in stature, but these carnivores are adept at taking down prey including capybaras, armadillos and even rhea which can grow up to 5 feet tall.  

Packs consist of a single mated pair and their offspring, who all work together to hunt both on land and in water. Their webbed toes make them great swimmers, allowing them to live in areas where many other predators cannot survive, such as lowland forest where flooding often occurs. 

You can find our bush dogs on our Foot Safari.


Name: Bush Dogs

Location: Central and South America. 

Population: Estimated 15,000 

Status: Near Threatened

Threats: Habitat loss from farming, loss of prey species and increase in diseases threatening canines.

Fun facts about Bush Dogs 

Bush dogs have an appearance more like a mustelid, such as otters and badgers, rather than a dog species. Before visiting our mysterious furry friends, take a look at these interesting facts and learn about what makes these animals so unique!

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    They are known as Vinegar Dogs as they emit a scent similar to vinegar.

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    A bush dog weighs under 18lbs - and that’s at its heaviest.

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    Bush dog pups are born with all black fur. It isn’t until they grow up that they develop their reddish brown colourings.

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    Pregnancies usually last between 9-11 weeks, and usually produce a litter of 4 pups.

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    Packs usually consist of around 10-12 bush dogs.

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Bush Dogs - Your questions answered!

A bush dog looks like a miniature bear, although it’s actually a member of the canid family. These small carnivores have short legs and long, reddish hair.

The reason for a decline in population is unknown, however it’s most likely caused by human encroachment. The destruction of rainforests is also a contributing factor.

Bush dogs are also called Savannah dogs as they are found in forests and wet savannahs of Central and South America. They inhabit lowland forests and flooded areas, as well as open savannahs and open plains.

Bush dogs can usually live up to 10 years in captivity, however their longevity in the wild is unknown.

They can reach 20-30cm in height and 57-75cm in length. Their tails are usually 5 inches long.

Bush dogs hunt large rodents in groups, such as paca and agouti. Solitary hunters take on smaller rodents, including snakes, lizards and birds. Larger groups of bush dogs also occasionally eat larger prey, like capybaras, which is much larger than a lone bush dog.

They squeal, whine and growl - almost like a high-pitched screech. Within the social group of the bush dog, there is a hierarchy based on age, pair-bonds, physical condition and sexual state. These vocal signs are used to claim territory, ward of aggressors and communicate with each other.

They cooperate in a pack to hunt down their prey. Half of the group will flush out the prey on land, while the others wait in the water to ambush. Working together, they’ll kill their prey with sharp incisors and strong molars.

Yes! Bush dogs live in social groups of up to 12 individuals. They are social creatures, living together, sleeping close to each other, hunting and feeding together and following each other around their habitat. Packs consist of just one mating pair whilst the other adults assist in the rearing of up to 6 pups at a time.

They sure are. They have partially webbed feet which make them strong swimmers, as well as stopping them from sinking in the mud in woodlands.

Where to see the Bush Dogs at Knowsley Safari

You’ll find our little bush dogs strolling around as you walk through the Foot Safari. As you pass by the bush dogs, you’ll find the giraffes, tigers and meerkats. Make sure to peek around the bushes to catch a glimpse! PLEASE NOTE: Our bush dogs are temporarily located on the Safari Drive while work is completed on their habitat.


Conservation of Bush Dogs 

Bush dogs are classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, which means the wild population is rapidly reducing and may well be considered threatened in the near future.

The largest threat to bush dogs is human expansion and tourism in natural habitats.

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