“Wild dogs know not the word ‘me’. They only know about ‘us’. Pack is poetry. ‘Loneliness’ only the dead know of. Wild dogs vocabulary is limited to collective nouns”- Heinrich van den Berg
You may think that living in the bush would teach you that nature is based solely on survival of the fittest and that animals would do anything to outcompete others in their quest to survive. Watching a pack of wild dogs however awakens you to the fact that this is not nature’s way. The truest model of nature and the greatest successes come from mutual aid and cooperation.
Recently I witnessed a rather incredible sighting of a pack of 14 wild dogs who managed to run down, kill and devour an adult kudu. This is an incredible feat when you consider that a dog weighs about 25kg and a female kudu about 170kg. How do these animals manage to kill something seven times their own body weight and then defend it against a clan of hyenas? The answer is simple, through teamwork.
Not only does this teamwork sometimes work and sometimes help to bring down big prey, it works pretty much all the time. A pack of dogs has a hunting success rate of about 70-80 percent, which is huge when you consider that the stalk and pounce method of a leopard only works about 20-30 percent of the time.
If a dog does manage to make a kill on its own, it will abandon the carcass and run off to find the rest of the pack so that they can share the meal together. This is hugely risky because other bigger predators could find the kill while that dog is away but the dogs understand that the health and nourishment of others in the pack is just as important as their own. Without the collective, there is no survival of the individual. In a sense dogs are offering themselves to the system rather than trying to figure out what they can get from it and as a result they are that much more successful.
Watching dogs feed on a carcass is even more fascinating. There is never a single snarl, bite or bit of aggression shown between the pack members. Everybody allows for others to feed and even the injured and infirm are given a place at the carcass thereby ensuring their survival. During the denning phase adults regurgitate their meal for the puppies. As one adult regurgitates another adult may eat a piece and will later regurgitate some of its own meat for another dog. The result is that the meal is shared so intimately that it has in fact come from the stomach of another pack member possibly on a number of occasions.
And not only do dogs ‘work’ so well together, they play so well together too. Old and young dogs alike will spend considerable time and energy every day boisterously greeting and playing with each other and enjoying one another’s company. I think that it is this joy of being together and this understanding of oneness that makes them so incredibly successful as a group and makes them the most efficient hunters. True love has no opposite. And you see this inherently in the ways of the pack.
The origins of the word ‘competition’ actually means to ‘strive together’. The Olympian model of competition is based on the concept that you become so good that you inspire others to rise up with you and create a space where someone’s extraordinariness invites you to become more extraordinary rather than exploiting someone weaker for personal gain.
If we could harness some of the wild dogs’ spirit, we too could emerge into a new world order, one based on cooperation rather than competition. And because the individual and the collective are so intricately woven, the changes that begin with us can have huge influence. If we can lend ourselves to the world, to others and to the greater consciousness then what is co-created and the influence we will have on the world going forward will be that much more formidable.
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”- Rumi
A video clip that demonstrates how wild dogs feed together peacefully and how they protect their food from animals much bigger and stronger than themselves by using teamwork:
Have you ever been fortunate enough to see the rare and endangered African wild dog? If so, what did you like most about these animals and what important lessons do you think we can learn from them?