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Why Do African Wild Dogs Have a Taste for Poop?

The science of animal behavior is not new to humans. Nonetheless, many aspects of animal behavior still amaze us. Coprophagia is an example.

What is coprophagia? Coprophagia is a fancy name for consuming faeces, stool, or poop. Coprophagia is a natural phenomenon that takes place in the animal kingdom. Animals such as rabbits, poop beetles, and dogs have been observed practising this absurd and outwardly revolting act.

While on safari in the Kruger National Park, trail guide Mohammed Kathrada witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. He provided with some intriguing images and information.

Smells good?

“Patrolling the H1-1 tar road in the Kruger, searching for the elusive and sought-after African wild dog. My guests and I were pleasantly surprised to find the resident pack strutting along the main road.”

“After following the pack for a considerable time with no prey insight. The dogs became playful and started jostling with each other and racing among the cars. That’s when I noticed this intriguing behavior known as coprophagia. One of the dogs stumbled across a pile of relatively fresh elephant dung and began sniffing intensely.”

Wild Dog with elephant dung

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Wild dogs are social creatures and move in packs of up to 30 individuals. Wild dogs hunt, play, and investigate together as one family group.

“A wild dog then bit into the pile of dung on the road and at first spat the morsel out. He then took another bite, but this time, instead of discarding the piece of dung, he proceeded to consume it. Revolting? Yes! Amazing? Most definitely!”

Eating poop

The big question is: why eat poop if there are so many other food options on the menu? To humans, this may seem disgusting. Animals, however, rely on this phenomenon to gain nutrients that they lack in their bodies. It is not uncommon for an animal to consume its faeces to replenish the body with a nutrient not absorbed the first time. Other times, it will be animals consuming the faeces of other animals to gain a nutrient that was perhaps lacking in their diet.

Wild dogs playing

Another reason the wild dogs could have dove into the pile of poop was to eat not the poop but rather the insects in the poop. Dung beetles lay their eggs in elephant poop and are often found in large numbers around elephant and rhino dung. Perhaps the curious dog found a little snack hidden in the pile of poop.

Written by Mohammed Kathrada

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