The African painted dogs that vote by sneezing and run on ‘shadow puppet legs’ | Helen Sullivan

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African wild dog pups are a dim black and look ancient, like old bronze, like the Capitoline Wolf

The African painted dog – also known as a wild dog or painted wolf – has ears that look as though they have been stitched together by a mad old toymaker. They are huge, bristly black disks – stretched upwards slightly and delicately pinned so that they form shallow bowls. At their bases are tufts of white bristles, for luck.

As a child in South Africa, I was forced more than once to watch – on a large pull-down projector screen in the school hall while it rained outside – Paljas, a uniquely, skin-crawlingly kitsch film set in a dusty railroad town that is visited by a travelling circus.

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