Bush Dog

Speothos venaticus

©Adriano Gambarini

Standard English Name

Bush Dog

Scientific Name

Speothos venaticus

Brazilian common name/s

Cachorro-vinagre, cachorro-do-mato

Distribution Map - IUCN

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Physical Description

It has a distinct appearance compared with other canid species, having very short rounded ears and short legs and tail. They reach between 60 and 75 cm in length and weigh from 5 to 7 kg. The head and neck have a light brown colouration which becomes darker, turning to dark brown or black along the back and tail.

Ecology and Habitat

Although poorly studied, existing data indicates that the species was never abundant. There are records of its occurrence from Panama, Colombia, eastern Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Paraguay, north-eastern Argentina and eastern Bolivia. It lives in damp savanna areas and forests, and is usually found near rivers. It is the only Brazilian canid to live in groups of up to 10 individuals, living and hunting cooperatively. It displays a preference for daytime activity and groups live in burrows, tree stumps or holes that they dig themselves.

It feeds on large rodents, especially agoutis, paca, and capybara, small deer and emus.

Gestation lasts about 67 days and the female gives birth in a nest built in burrows of other animals (often armadillos). Litters consist of 1 to 6 puppies that are weaned at 8 weeks. The male brings food to both the female and pups.

Threats and Conservation

The species seems to be naturally rare in their region of occurrence and is very susceptible to habitat destruction and diseases transmitted by domestic dogs. The loss of vegetation causing the decline of Bush Dog prey species has greatly contributed to its disappearance. It is a poorly studied species and little is known about its biology in the wild. It is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as a vulnerable species and by IBAMA, as threatened with extinction.

General information

Average values with minimum and maximum in parentheses

Body / tail length (cm):

63 (58-75)a / 14 (13-15)a


Carnívora c

Weight (kg) / Height (cm):

(5-8)a / 20 (20-30)a

Living area (km2):


Number of puppies / Gestation (days):

(1-6) a / 67 a

Longevity (years):


Social structure:

Grupos de 2-12 indivíduos

Activity pattern:


a (Zuercher et al. 2004), b Dalponte, J (dados não publicados), c (Zuercher et al. 2005)

Online links

IUCN Canid Specialist Group – http://www.canids.org
Canid News – http://www.canids.org/canidnews/index.htm


Beisiegel, B. M., & Zuercher, G. L. (2005). Speothos venaticus. Mammalian Species, , 1-6.

DeMatteo, K. E., & Loiselle, B. A. (2008). New data on the status and distribution of the bush dog (Speothos venaticus): Evaluating its quality of protection and directing research efforts. Biological Conservation, 141, 2494-2505.

Deutsch, L. A. (1983). An encounter between bush dog (Speothos venaticus) and paca (Agouti paca). Journal of Mammalogy, 64, 532-533.

Kleiman, D. G. (1972). Social behavior of the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and bush dog (Speothos venaticus): a study in contrast. Journal of Mammalogy, , 791-806.

Lima, E. D., Jorge, R. S. P., & Dalponte, J. C. (2009). Habitat use and diet of bush dogs, Speothos venaticus, in the Northern Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil. Mammalia, 73, 13-19.

Michalski, F. (2010). The bush dog Speothos venaticus and short-eared dog Atelocynus microtis in a fragmented landscape in southern Amazonia. Oryx, 44, 300-303.

Michalski, F., & Peres, C. A. (2005). Anthropogenic determinants of primate and carnivore local extinctions in a fragmented forest landscape of southern Amazonia. Biological Conservation, 124, 383-396.

Peres, C. A. (1991). Observations on hunting by small-eared (Atelocynus microtis) and bush dogs (Speothos venaticus) in central-western Amazonia. Mammalia, 55, 635-639.

Silveira, L., Jacomo, A. T. A., Rodrigues, F. H. G., & Diniz, J. A. F. (1998). Bush dogs (Speothos venaticus), in Emas National Park, Central Brazil. Mammalia, 62, 446-449.

Wallace, R. B., Painter, R. L. E., & Saldania, A. (2002). An observation of bush dog (Speothos venaticus) hunting behaviour. Mammalia, 66, 309-311.

Zuercher, G. L., Gipson, P. S., & Carrillo, O. (2005). Diet and habitat associations of bush dogs Speothos venaticus in the Interior Atlantic Forest of eastern Paraguay. Oryx, 39, 86-89.

Zuercher, G. L., Swarner, M., Silveira, L., & Carrillo, O. (2004). Bush dog (Speothos venaticus: Lund 1842). In C. Sillero-Zubiri, M. Hoffmann & D. W. Macdonald (Eds.), Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (pp. 76-80). Gland / Cambrigde:  IUCN.

de Oliveira, T. G. (2009). Distribution, habitat utilization and conservation of the vulnerable bush dog Speothos venaticus in northern Brazil. Oryx, 43, 247-253.

Learn more about Brazilian carnivore species