Dog Plays Dead to Escape Lion's Clutches in Award-Worthy Viral Video

A wild dog in Zimbabwe narrowly escaped becoming a lioness' latest meal by playing dead as the ferocious feline carried it around in its mouth.

Video footage from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest nature preserve, shows tourists gasping as an African painted dog hanged lifelessly from the jaws of a lioness.

According to Kruger Sightings, which posted the video on YouTube, the dog was part of pack dining on an antelope when the lioness approached.

"In the flash of a moment, she pounced and managed to grab one of the dogs," the company explained in the YouTube description. "The lioness held onto the wild dog for a long time, which seemed lifeless in her grip, and many already believed it was already dead, as it stayed completely still."

But when another member of the pack approached, the giant cat dropped her prey and attacked the interloper. That's when the "dead" dog sprang back to life and made his escape. Since it was posted last week, the video has been viewed more than 2.2 million times. (Kruger Sightings has confirmed both pups survived the encounter.)

African painted dogs—also known as Cape hunting dogs, painted dogs and painted wolves—are technically neither dogs nor wolves. They're the last living descendants of an evolutionary branch that's so far removed they cannot successfully breed with dogs or wolves.

African painted dog
Getty Images

Their mottled coats, long legs and large rounded ears (which help them pick up even the faintest sounds) make them efficient killers in their own right: Hunting in packs, they have a success rate of 80 percent or more.

While lions are a natural predator, the biggest threat to the nomadic African painted dog is the fragmentation of its habitat. According to the Union for Conservation of Nature, in 2012 the painted dog population was around 6,700 individuals—with just 1,400 mature adults capable of reproducing.

Their packs are very communal—one study found individual members vote on group decisions by sneezing—with only the alpha male and female breeding. "Notch," the canine who delivered the Oscar-worthy performance, is actually the alpha male of the pack at Hwange, nicknamed the "Kennedy pack" by guides.

In 2015, Cecil the lion, who lived on Hwange National Park for 13 years, was killed by poachers. The incident sparked international outrage and a call for a ban on big game hunting.

According to Kruger Sightings, the lion in the video was one of Cecil's daughters and "[she] is a bit of a celebrity there in Hwange National Park."

Dog Plays Dead to Escape Lion's Clutches in Award-Worthy Viral Video | World