The bush dog (Speothos venaticus) is a canid found in Central and South America, including Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, the Guianas, Paraguay, northeast Argentina (Misiones province) and Brazil (from the Amazon rainforest to the state of Amazonas). In spite of its extensive range, it is very rare in most areas except in Suriname; it was first identified by scientists as fossils in Brazilian caves and believed by them to be extinct. It is the only living species in its genus, Speothos.
In Brazil it is called cachorro-vinagre ("vinegar dog") or cachorro-do-mato ("bush dog"). In Spanish-speaking countries it is called perro vinagre ("vinegar dog"), zorro vinagre ("vinegar fox"), perro de agua ("water dog"), or perro de monte ("bush dog").
Description and habits
The bush dog (Speothos venaticus) has soft long brownish-tan fur, with a lighter reddish tinge on the head, neck and back and a bushy tail, while the underside is dark, sometimes with a lighter throat patch. Adults typically have 55–75 cm (22–30 in) of head and body, plus 13 cm (5 in) of tail, a shoulder height of 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and weigh 5–8 kg (11–18 lb). Legs and snout are short relative to body length: the typical height is only 25–30 cm (10–12 in). The teeth are adapted for its carnivorous habits, and uniquely for an American canid, the dental formula is
It is a carnivore and hunts during the day, preferably in wet savannahs and tropical and equatorial forests. Its typical prey are the paca (Cuniculus paca), agouti, and capybaras, all large rodents. Although it can hunt alone, the bush dog is usually found in small packs. The dogs can bring down much larger prey, including peccaries, rhea, even a 250 kg (550 lb) tapir hunted by a pack of 6 dogs. When hunting paca, part of the pack chases it on land, and part wait for it in the water (where it often retreats). The bush dog appears to be the most gregarious of the South American canid species. Bush dogs have skin growing between their toes, which allow them to swim more efficiently. It uses hollow logs and cavities (e.g. armadillo burrows) for shelter. Pack-mates keep in contact with frequent whines, perhaps because visibility is poor in the undergrowth where the animal typically hunts. During the consumption of large prey, parents position themselves at the ends of the animal, facilitating the disembowelment of the prey by pups.
The gestation period is 64 days, and a litter can have up to six dark grey pups. Lactation lasts approximately 8 weeks. The bush dog is sexually mature at 1 year and lives for about 10 years.
- Speothos venaticus panamensis (Panama)
- Speothos venaticus venaticus (Ecuador and Colombia (west of the Andes), Northern Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, Northern and central Brazil and endangered in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina)
- Speothos venaticus wingei (Southeast Brazil)
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