I’ve often seen painted dogs in threes, particularly in the Kalahari. 3 seems an ideal number to include in a painting. It shows multiple animals living together as a pack, without including so many animals that it becomes distracting. My previous post about Boraro – Painted Dogs (which means 3 in Setswana) is a perfect example.
Sometimes when I’ve seen threes, it may have been groups of young females or males who’ve left their natal packs looking for partners with which to form new packs. However, it could also signify a pack in trouble, with few remaining adult dogs, struggling to survive. Fewer hunters means fewer meals and fewer calories. If they have pups they may be unable to spare an adult dog to leave as a ‘babysitter’, allowing other predators to kill their pups. This is critical because raising pups is key to the future growth and success of the pack.
Consistently small pack sizes in an area usually indicate trouble – places where dogs are frequently killed by snares, prone to disease, run over on roads or persecuted by people. So in these cases three painted dogs is not a crowd, in fact 3 is not nearly as big a crowd as they need.