Twycross Zoo - Follow Your Heart

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Bush Dog

Scientific Name: Speothos venaticus

Bush dogs are distinctive members of the dog family. They produce a strong scent that resembles vinegar. This has led to a local nickname of ‘cachorro-vinagre’,which means vinegar dog! They have a squat appearance with short legs, a stocky body and have reddish brown fur. Their reddish colouring may explain their other nickname ‘zorro’, meaning fox. Bush dogs are well adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle and have webbed feet to aid swimming.

Bush dogs live in family groups that may number 12 individuals, led by an alpha pair. They are active during the day and use abandoned nests of other animals for shelter at night. Only the alpha pair breed, the alpha female uses hormones to prevent the other females becoming pregnant. On average, four pups are born and all members of the group will protect, clean and help transport them.

Bush dogs are carnivorous, usually hunting in pairs or larger groups to take down agouti and paca (large rodents). There are some reports of groups successfully taking down animals as large as capybara. Bush dogs can hunt alone and when they do they will take smaller rodents, lizards and birds.

Bush dogs are classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened. Their threats are poorly understood, but include loss of habitat for farming, loss of prey species and an increase in diseases affecting canines.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened
  • Distribution: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname
  • Habitat: Swamp Forest, Temperate Forest, Tropical Forest
  • Diet: Birds, Small Mammals
  • Weight: 5 – 7kg
  • Gestation: 67 days
  • No. of young: 1 – 6
  • Life Span: 10 years