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Update: Painted Hunting Dog Pack Killed Two-Year-Old, Not Fall; Identity Released

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 6th, 2012


African Painted Dog Lycaon pictus. Public Domain Image.

Update: A medical examiner’s report confirmed that the toddler who fell, after bouncing off some netting below a railing, landed in the Pittsburgh Zoo Lycaon pictus exhibit still alive. The boy, named Maddox Derkosh, was killed by the African wild dogs, not the fall, the president of the Pittsburgh Zoo said on Monday, November 5th.

++++Earlier details++++

On Sunday, November 4, 2012, a two-year-old boy who was placed up on a railing by his mother lost his balance and fell into the painted hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) exhibition at the Pittsburgh zoo. The boy was mauled to death by the African painted dog pack. (The dog has many names. Lycaon pictus is a canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and lightly wooded areas. It is variously called the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf.)

Authorities didn’t release the name of the woman, but say she is 34 years old and lives in Pleasant Hills, just outside Pittsburgh. The boy’s father arrived on the scene soon after the accident, police said.

Zookeepers and armed police officers tried to ward off the pack of the eleven naturally aggressive dogs but the pack succeeded in killing the child before the gathered onlookers. It’s not yet clear whether the boy died from the fall or the attack, said Barbara Baker, president of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Zoo officials at first estimated the boy fell 14 feet, but police said it was 11.

Authorities said that zoo staff and then police responded “within minutes,” but visitors described that time as being filled with screams for help. Zookeepers called off some of the dogs, and seven of them immediately went to a back building. Three more eventually were drawn away from the child, but the last dog was aggressive and police had to shoot the animal. According to witnesses on the scene, zookeepers fired darts and a police officer opened fire. The effort killed one of the African painted dogs which is considered an endangered animal. The dogs are among the most deadly predators of the Serengeti Plain.

Their hunts end in a kill 80 percent of the time while lions have a success rate of just 30 per cent.


One of the archaic names for the African wild dog or “painted wolf” (as we now call it) is “Hyaena dog.” In German, it is still called the Hyänenhund. Artist John Gerarrd Keulemans created this (now public domain) painting of his African wild dog as if it was a cross between a Lycaon pictus and a striped hyena. But hyenas aren’t dogs, and African wild dogs aren’t hyenas. Hyenas actually are more closely related to cats than any species of dog.

See also another news report video.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


13 Responses to “Update: Painted Hunting Dog Pack Killed Two-Year-Old, Not Fall; Identity Released”

  1. Sordes responds:

    The name “Hyänenhund” is today only very rarely used for the african hunting dog in German. The common name for them is “Afrikanischer Wildhund” what means just “african wild/feral dog”.

  2. Hambone responds:

    Mother needs to be held responsible for this. African dogs only do what they are suppose to do and that is kill. And officer shoots one of the endangered dogs because it wouldn’t leave the body? Really the baby was already dead, why did that matter for that, why not dart the dog?

  3. BukitTimahMonkeyMan responds:

    True. The mother was the one who placed the toddler on the railings, so she should be held responsible. I’m only 12 and even I know that doing so will be extremely dangerous and stupid. The dogs should not be blamed, they’re just following their instincts. When fresh meat falls into their exhibit, they will attack it, naturally.

  4. PhotoExpert responds:

    Hambone–You posted exactly what I was thinking. Why even tempt fate by putting your child up on the railing, especially when 2 or 3 year olds are unpredictable at best. One would almost count on the child having an accident or actually trying to get with the dogs. Why not just hold the child or lift them up and put their legs around your neck so they are secure.

    I hate to say it but it’s just plain stupidity!

  5. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    Officer should be arrested. The child was already dead, the animals only did what was natural to them. Where was the mother? Why wasn’t she watching the kid. Me and my sister took my 6 year old nephew and my 2 year old niece to the Cincinnati Zoo. The weren’t even allowed near the walls around the enclosures. Kids can fall in, if parents are ignoring them. It’s a sad situation, but it could have been avoided with responsible parenting.

  6. irisw12 responds:

    While I agree that is was the mother’s fault I cannot believe that anyone would think it was ok to leave a baby’s body to be further savaged by animals. It is not the animals’ fault but human decency dictates that we rescue the child’s body as soon as possible.

  7. scotteb responds:

    As much as I agree the mother is to blame, the officer had to shoot the animal. With perhaps a crowd of people watching, and probably being filmed by someone, could you imagine the possible lawsuit “if he did nothing”. I am assuming a dart takes a little time to have any affect? Maybe if he had a beanbag gun or another quick means of detering the attack, sure. Endangered or not, it is the mother to blame for two deaths at this point. Sad.

  8. Goodfoot responds:

    Agree, reluctantly at first, that shooting the dog was the right thing to do. How could anyone reasonably expect the parents (and other horrified humans) to watch the boy, still living, to be eaten alive by feral animals. WHO WOULD WISH THAT?

    How closely related are these to hyenas? They look pretty indistinguishable to me, and I had never even heard of these.

  9. Goodfoot responds:

    …I mean, REALLY? You think the parents should watch their baby be EATEN? What is WRONG with you people?

  10. kittenz responds:

    @Goodfoot:

    They’re not feral animals; the name “African Wild Dog” is an unfortunate misnomer. They are a distinct, very old species, not closely related to dogs or wolves, and not at all related to hyenas, except that they are both within the Carnivora. “African Painted Wolf” or “African Painted Dog” would be a better common name for them, so that people would not assume they are just wild or feral domestic dogs. They are among the most intelligent of canids and among the most endangered animaals on earth.

    The Pittsburgh Zoo is one of only two zoos in the world that has ever successfully bred and raised them. Five of these animals were from a litter born at the zoo a couple of years ago. (There were ten puppies in the litter, but the mother died shortly of a ruptured uterus after the birth, and the puppies were hand-raised at the zoo.) They have a very well-respected and justifiably famous partnership with a conservation program in Africa to try to save these astonishing animals from extinction.

    I agree that it was unwise of the mother to lift the child up to the rail; a child that age can easily overbalance and fall, and they are just the size, shape, and weight to be difficult to hold onto. But having raised my own children safely to adulthood, I can’t find it in my heart to trash the mother; it’s such a common thing to lift a child up so that they can see, when the little guy is begging and surrounded by big people blocking their view. I’m sure she never dreamed that she would lose her grip on the child, or that something so tragic could happen so quickly.

    I agree that the dog who would not leave the body had to be shot. Dogs and wolves in a pack begin to eat the animals they pull down while the animals are still alive. If there was any chance at all that the little fellow was still alive, they had to get him out of there. I don’t want to imagine the horror that was for the people who had to watch. They couldn’t just let the dog eat the baby in front of all those people.

    The fact that they were immediately able to call most of the dogs away speaks volumes about the animals’ intelligence and tractability. I hate that they had to shoot one, but they made the right decision.

  11. Goodfoot responds:

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but I got the distinct impression she wasn’t holding onto the child AT ALL. That would certainly be negligent, if true. But she has to live with it the rest of her days. Adding legal punishment is probably overkill.

  12. kittenz responds:

    The news reports didn’t say, but I can’t imagine anyone standing a 2-year-old on a 4-ft-high rail without holding him. Here’s a linkto a more recent update on the story.

  13. Goodfoot responds:

    I can’t understand, for the life of me, how he could fall if someone were holding him. He’s only a toddler. He’s got a shirt to hold onto, if nothing else. Maybe we’ll never know. Probably it doesn’t matter if we know or not.



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