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All Things Caracal.
Information and pictures on Caracal.
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.

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The Caracal (Caracal caracal), also called Persian Lynx or African Lynx, is a fiercely territorial medium-sized cat. The Caracal is labeled as a small cat, but is amongst the heaviest of all small cats, as well as the fastest.

Description
Males typically weigh about 13-18 kg (28-40 lbs), while females are smaller. The Caracal resembles a Eurasian Lynx and for a long time it was consideredCaracala close relative of the lynxes. Recent DNA research, however, has shown that the Caracal is not a close relative of lynxes at all, but is instead related to the Serval.

The Caracal is 65 cm in length (about 2 ft), plus 30 cm tail (about 1 foot). It has longer legs and a slimmer appearance than a lynx. The color of the fur is variable: it may be wine-red, grey or sand-colored. Melanistic (black) Caracals also occur. Young Caracals bear reddish spots on the underside; adults do not have markings except for black spots above the eyes.

The most conspicuous feature of the Caracal are its long, tufted black ears, which also explain the origin of its name - karakulak, Turkish for "black ear". Its ears are controlled by 20 different muscles to help it find its prey. The tufts of fur help pinpoint its prey.

Habitat and Diet
CaracalThe Caracal is distributed over Africa and western Asia. Its habitat is dry steppes and semi-deserts, but also include woodlands, savanna, and scrub forest. It is a solitary, or paired, territorial cat. The Caracal may survive without drinking for a long period, the water demand is satisfied with the body fluids of its prey.

It hunts at night (but in colder seasons also in the daytime) for rodents and hares; rarely it may even attack a gazelle, a small antelope or a young ostrich. It is a picky eater, and discards the internal organs of the mammals it catches, partially plucks the fur off of hyraxes and larger kills, and avoids eating hair by shearing meat neatly from the skin. However, it will eat the feathers of small birds and is tolerant of rotten meat.

It is most well-known for its skill with hunting birds; the Caracal is able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. The Caracal can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore. Its life expectancy in the wild is 12 years, or 17 years in captivity. Since it is also surprisingly easy to tame, it has been used as a hunting cat in Iran and India.

Conservation
Because it is so easily tamed, the Caracal is sometimes kept as a pet, and is said to adapt easily to living with humans. It is often viewed as vermin by farmers in Africa because it frequently climbs over fences to eat chickens and other poultry.

The Caracal is almost impossible to see in the wild, not because there are very few of them, but because it hides extremely well. Game drives in countries such as Kenya and Botswana widely encounter other animals, but a sighting of a Caracal is extremely rare.

Subspecies

  • Caracal caracal caracal, East, Central and South Africa
  • Caracal caracal algira, North Africa
  • Caracal caracal damarensis, Namibia
  • Caracal caracal limpopoensis, Botswana
  • Caracal caracal lucani, Gabon
  • Caracal caracal michaelis, Turkmenistan (endangered)
  • Caracal caracal nubica, Ethiopia, Sudan
  • Caracal caracal poecilotis, West Africa
  • Caracal caracal schmitzi, Israel, West Asia, Iran, Arabia, Pakistan, India
Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Caracal
Species: C. caracal
Binomial name
Caracal caracal
(Schreber, 1776)
Type species
Caracal melanotis
Gray, 1843 (= Felis caracal Schreber, 1776) by monotypy
Synonyms
Felis caracal
Common Name/s:
AFRICAN CARACAL    (Eng)
ASIAN CARACAL        (Eng)
CARACAL                    (Eng, Fre, Spa)
DESERT LYNX            (Eng)
LYNX DU DÉSERT      (Fre)
LINCE AFRICANO       (Spa)
Distribution
Country Names:
Native: Afghanistan; Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Lesotho; Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; Malawi; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Range: The caracal is widely distributed across North Africa, Central Asia, and south-west Asia.
Population: While it is relatively common, there is concern over the status of populations on the edge of its range in the Central Asian republics and in Pakistan.
Habitat and Ecology: The caracal is found in the drier habitats, including savannah and woodland, as well as desert, and are absent only from the tropical rainforest. Caracals take a variety of prey, including relatively large prey such as gazelles, and they are known for their exceptional ability to catch birds. Leaping high into the air to knock them down with their front paws (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Threats: Caracals are capable of taking small domestic livestock, and records from South Africa show large numbers of caracals trapped by farmers each year (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Conservation Measures: Populations in Asian range states are included in CITES Appendix I; populations in African range states are included on Appendix II. Hunting of the species is prohibited in Algeria, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the caracal is protected from hunting in about half of its range states; in Namibia and South Africa, it is classified as a Problem Animal (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

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