Often deemed as a desert lynx is the Caracal—a wild cat native to the African continent. It possesses a formidable mix of agility and strength, as it can kill prey that’s twice or thrice its size, making it one of the fiercest animals of its size.
Read further to know more about the Caracal.
What is Caracal?
This animal is a medium-sized wild cat that is native to Africa, Central Asia, India, and the Middle East. A German naturalist named Johan Christian Daniel von Schreber was the first to describe this wild cat as a “Felis caracal” back in 1776. A British zoologist named John Edward Gray was the one who categorized the species in the genus Caracal.
Its name was derived from two Turkish words: “kara,” meaning black, and “kulak,” meaning ear. This mammal is characterized by its long-tufted ears and robust figure.
The Caracal is categorized as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because its distribution is widespread across more than 50 countries. Though their global population is not facing an impending extinction, there are still potential threats to this species. These threats include agricultural and industrial expansion—the building of roads and heavy-traffic roads that go through Caracals’ habitats.
Its nine levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: C. caracal
A Caracal’s physical description
When you see a Caracal, the first feature that you will notice are its elongated tufted ears that grow 5 cm long. It has a brownish-red coat: a female Caracal usually has a lighter shade than a male Caracal. The undersides are white, and like an African Golden Cat, a Caracal has small spots. Its face is patterned with black marks located at the whisker pads, the area around the eyes, the center of the head, and nose.
Did you know that even the smallest Caracal is larger than a typical domestic cat? A Caracal weighs at an average of 14 kg and stands at 45 cm. A female Caracal is slightly smaller than a male Caracal, but both sexes possess long legs and slender bodies. A Caracal’s eye color varies from copper or golden to grey or green. There are recorded sightings of melanistic Caracals, but they are rare.
Caracal’s Habitat and Distribution
While Caracals in Asia are mainly found in forests, these “desert lynx” in Africa mostly take refuge in open habitats such as woodland savannahs, semi-deserts, scrublands, thickets, plains, and rocky hills. They are often found in the transition of the forest to grassland savannah. They prefer arid zones than wet ones, that’s why sightings of its kind were deemed ordinary in dry regions. They can survive long periods without drinking water.
During the hottest hours of the day, they take refuge under crevices. When hotness is more bearable for them, they hunt for animals.
The behavior of a Caracal
These wild cats are primarily solitary individuals, except during the mating period. Both male and female Caracals are territorial. Despite their intense territorial attributes, they are exceptional climbers armed with strong attitudes. A Caracal is also acclaimed for its ability to chase off predators that are twice its size.
Both sexes attain sexual maturity at the age of 7 to 10 months. During the mating period, Caracals cries a call that sounds just like a cough to attract another Caracal. When a female Caracal has several male suitors, the group of males may fight, or the female Caracal will choose her mate. Usually, it will go for the older and larger among the group. When the female Caracal finally picks a mate, they will move together and copulate for four days.
More interesting facts about the Caracal
Like any wild cat, a Caracal is a carnivore, feeding on several animals such as hyraxes, rodents, antelopes, small monkeys, and birds. It also preys on Kori bustards, Dorcas gazelles, reedbucks, and goats during nighttime. Occasionally, it eats grasses and grapes to cleanse its stomach and immune system from any harmful bacteria.
It’s a very agile and efficient hunter, able to kill a prey thrice its size. Despite its fierce attitude, it is not mischievous enough to attack human beings.
Caracals are notorious for killing livestock; that is why many locals kill them to protect their livestock.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: