Although their range is wide, these short-legged canids are actually quite scarce.
Bush dogs first became known from fossilized remains discovered in a Brazilian cave, rather than from a living animal. Their small size makes them hard to observe, particularly in rainforest areas, where there are numerous hiding places. Hunting in packs means that they can tackle larger quarry. Bush dogs have a distinctive whining call, which they use to keep in touch with each other.
Bush dogs live in wetlands and flooded forests in highly social packs of about ten dogs. Pack members hunt together, chasing ground birds and rodents. As with other pack-hunting dogs, the victims - which in this case include capybaras, agoutis and rheas - are often much bigger than the dogs themselves. These dogs are believed to be expert swimmers, sometimes diving into water in pursuit of their prey.
Bush dogs are diurnal (active during the day) and keep together by making high-pitched squeaks as they scamper through the dense forest. As night falls, the pack retires to a den in a hollow tree trunk or abandoned burrow. Little is known about the social system within the packs, but it is likely that there is a system of ranking.
Bush dogs are unusual members of the dog family, looking more like weasels or mongooses than other dogs.
Litters of two or three young are produced during the rainy season. The females only become ready to breed when they come into contact with male bush dogs.
Distribution: Ranges over a wide area in Central and South America, west of the Andes, from Panama down to northeastern Argentina and Amazonas state, Brazil.
Habitat: Forests and swampy grasslands.
Weight: 5 - 7 kg (11 - 15 lb); males are slightly larger.
Length: 68 - 88 cm (27 - 35 in); may stand only 25 cm (1O in) tall.
Maturity: 1 year.
Gestation Period: 63 days; weaning occurs at 8 weeks.
Breeding: Litter of 2-3 cubs born in rainy season.
Food: Carnivorous, hunting rodents such as pacas in particular and ground birds.
Lifespan: Up to 10 years in captivity.
Bush dogs have broad nostrils, which help them pick up trails close to the forest floor. They also have powerful, compact jaws.
The ears are relatively small, set low and located well back on the skull.
Adults are tan in colour but pups are dark grey at birth.
These are well-muscled, helping the bush dog to run or swim efficiently.
HUNTING IN WATER
The toes of bush dogs are webbed, helping them to swim more effectively, so they can pursue prey through the water.