Creatures of the Amazon
The Amazon Bush Dog

By Mike Collis

There are 2 distinct species of wild dog in South America, this one is known as the Bush Dog and the other known as the Short-Eared Dog. Neither should be confused with feral dogs (wild domestic dogs).

The Bush Dog (Speothos venaticus) ranges from Panama in the north to north-eastern Argentina, and west to Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is very illusive and is seldom seen.

Range of the Bush Dog

Bush dogs are daytime hunters and are carnivorous. It likes to hunt in swamps and is well adapted to a semi-aquatic life with its partially webbed feet. Their typical prey are rodents like capybara etc. Although they can hunt alone, Bush Dogs are usually found hunting in small packs of about 6 individuals (although their social groups can have up to 12 members). In a pack they are capable of bringing down much bigger animals than themselves like tapirs and peccaries etc. Packs are usually made up of a male and female and their offspring. They normally hunt in an area of between 1.6 to 4 square miles around thier den. Only when they reach sexual maturity do they mate. The juveniles help with raising and caring for the young. When the pack has brought down a large animal the male and female eat from each end of the carcass while the pups rip open the stomach.

Mother with pups

The neck and head of the Bush Dog are red in colour, the back is brown but becomes much darker towards the tail. It has a squat body, more like a badger than a member of the dog family. It has short legs, a body of about 32 inches, a 5 inch bushy tail and a rounded muzzle and ears. Weight is usually between 11lbs to 18lbs. Because of their environment in the rainforests or swamps they regularly make calls to each other especially when hunting. Unlike the Short-Eared Dog with 42 teeth the Bush Dog has 38. Both males and females have musk glands either side of the anus which they use to mark territory and to attract mates.

Bush Dogs mate throughout the year; but only one dominant female produces offspring. Gestation is a few days more than 2 months when a litter of up to six pups are born although the norm is about 4. The young are born blind and helpless, and initially weigh 4 to 7 oz. The eyes open after 14 to 18 days. The young suckle from their mother’s 4 teats for around 8 weeks. The males hunt and bring food back to the female in the den. The young are weaned at around four weeks when they venture outside for the first time. They reach sexual maturity at about 12 months. The average life-span of the Bush Dog is thought to be around ten years.
The Bush Dog is considered a “near threatened” species.
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