Hanging tree dog temperament
Hanging tree dogs are a subset of tree-living wild dogs, a group of predatory canids that are native to the Afrotropic and Australasian ecozones. They inhabit the canopy of trees in a variety of forest habitats. Like all wild dogs, they are primarily nocturnal and crepuscular in their activity, preying mostly on small to medium-sized vertebrate prey. As with other members of the canid family, hanging tree dogs are typically solitary hunters that are highly wary of potential human or domestic animal prey, and may be more prone to scavenging and socializing. Hanging tree dogs are most likely to be observed in dense primary forest, but are sometimes also sighted in fragmented patches of tropical moist deciduous forest.
Taxonomy and evolution
The hanging tree dog was first described by British zoologist Oldfield Thomas in 1910 as the subspecies Canis adustus adustus from a sample of the black-backed wild dog from the central forests of Cameroon. In 1912, American zoologist Charles Hamilton Smith identified a second form from the Congo and named it Canis adustus camerunensis. A third form was described from the western coast of Cameroon as Canis adustus occidentalis by South African zoologist George William Evans in 1917. Finally, the fourth and last recognized form is Canis adustus camerunensis occidentalis, which Evans recognized as a distinct species in 1923.
Evans (1923) based the species name camerunensis on the location of the subspecies within the Cameroons, where its distribution overlapped with the geographic range of the red bush dog (C. rufus rufus) to the north. He also based the name camerunensis on the Cameroonian vernacular, Cameroun, describing the subspecies as a 'Cameroonian species, closely allied to the red bush dog, which is also known as 'Kamerun Dog'', as well as the name camerunensis from a comparison of the subspecies to the dog that was hunted in the Cameroons. The first three subspecies are usually treated as subspecies of the red bush dog, Canis rufus, a species of bush dog which occurs in West Africa. In contrast, the fourth and most widely distributed form of the hanging tree dog, the Cameroun hanging tree dog, has usually been considered a distinct species since Evans first described it as C. adustus camerunensis occidentalis in 1917. However, some zoologists consider Canis occidentalis camerunensis as a synonym of Canis camerunensis camerunensis, while others consider it as a separate subspecies, C. camerunensis camerunensis occidentalis, of the grey-faced bush dog (C. anedomorphus).
Evans (1923) based his description of C. adustus camerunensis on a skull and mandible collected by British missionary William Henry Boulenger in the western region of the Cameroons. The skull and mandible had a distinctively rounded forehead and a very long and narrow muzzle that is often compared to that of the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus. In addition, it shares an elongated, canine-like toothcomb with the red bush dog, Canis rufus. It also shares a slender build with the grey-faced bush dog, Canis anedomorphus, and can be distinguished from Canis rufus by its larger size. However, Canis occidentalis camerunensis can be distinguished from the latter two species based on its shorter head-and-body length, less acute frontal zygomatic arches and more rounded canines.
Evans (1923) listed C. adustus camerunensis as a "small dog" with a "long narrow muzzle and a rounded head." He noted that the canine teeth are "very elongated and the canine toothcomb is prominent. They are not unlike that of the red bush dog and can easily be mistaken for it." However, he also recognized the hanging tree dog's larger size and different-shaped head as distinguishing features. He compared the species to Canis lupus, Canis aureus, Canis aureus intermedius and Canis aureus lupus, noting that it was "clearly a smaller animal."
Hanging tree dogs have been described in many publications as small-sized canids, ranging from in total length and in body weight. However, the skull and body measurements of the Cameroun hanging tree dog are relatively large compared to other African canids, suggesting that it is large for its size. It has been estimated that the body mass of C. camerunensis camerunensis could range between, with females weighing and males weighing.
C. camerunensis occidentalis can be distinguished from the Cameroun hanging tree dog and the red bush dog based on a number of characteristics. It has a smaller head-and-body length and a longer, narrower muzzle, compared to both of these species. In addition, it has a more acute and squared off frontal profile, a longer, narrower skull and a less elongated canine toothcomb, compared to the Cameroun hanging tree dog.
The Cameroun hanging tree dog can be distinguished from the grey-faced bush dog on several morphological and behavioral differences. The Cameroun hanging tree dog has a broader head, a broader and more elongated skull and a longer, narrower muzzle. In addition, it has a longer