Caracal jump extremely well and can bounce up to three meters high. Large black ears with “spikes” of black hair are their most specific characteristic.
This cat got its name from the Turkish words “kara” which means black and “kulak” which means ears. Large black ears with five-centimeter spikes that make up black hair and are used for communication are probably the most specific physical characteristics of these cats.
The black upper part of the ears, black dots on both sides of the muzzle, black dots above the eyes and a black line from the eyes to the nose, break the otherwise uniform color, which is from dark brown to brick red.
Their eyes are large and yellow-brown. Short thick fur is slightly longer and lighter on the chest and abdomen. Females are smaller than males. Although they are called desert lynx, the caracal has longer legs, a thinner body and a tail that is significantly longer than a real lynx. They also do not have wrinkled fur around the head, which is characteristic of northern cats. Caracal with pigment mutations (such as the black leopard) have been observed several times, but are not as common.
Habitat of Caracals
It is essentially an animal that lives in dry areas, but it can still adapt to different habitats. They are found in the forests and savannas of Africa, the deserts and jungles of India, and in the sandy regions and steppes of Asia. As desert animals, they can survive for a long time without water.
In the hottest parts of the day, they rest in the cracks of the rocks and hunt mostly when it is cooler in the morning and in the evening. Their way of movement is similar to that of a cheetah, but they are not sprinters and run to a tree if they are chased by dogs. Although they are considered the fastest cat of that size, they still hunt by stalking and jumping prey, similar to domestic cats.
Males have larger territories than females and the area of one male includes several females. And like other animals that live alone, individuals mate only for mating.
In South Africa, the adult male covers an area of 31 to 65 square kilometers, while the females have 4-31 kilometers. Caracals jump extremely well and can bounce up to three meters high, to catch and knock down birds. With just one such move, they can collect ten to twelve pigeons. Caracals were once groomed and trained to hunt birds in India and Iran. They were also used to hunt antelopes, wild rabbits and foxes, similar to cheetahs in Africa. When they feed on birds, they pluck larger specimens before eating them, and swallow smaller ones whole. Other prey consists of rodents, wild rabbits, small antelopes, dead animals and reptiles, including poisonous snakes.
Sometimes they also eat fresh grass and fruit, probably as a source of water. The prey is usually dragged to a hiding place where they can eat it in peace. They cover large prey with grass after the first feeding to complete the meal later.
Caracals and Cubs
After 78 to 81 days of gestation, one to four kittens are born in their shelter, which is covered with fur and feathers. Cubs are darker and grayer than adults with reddish spots on the abdomen that fade as they grow older. When they are about three weeks old, the mother takes them out of the den where they were born and moves them to another location and continues to do so regularly.
When they are four to five weeks old, they are very active and make a chirping sound like a bird. At about ten weeks, they stop sucking, and stay with their mother for up to a year. They reach full maturity around 12 to 16 months. These cats are common in zoos and are easy to raise. They live up to 19 years in captivity.
Endangered Animal Species
The exact number of caracals in the wild is not known, but they are considered rare and endangered in Asia and North Africa, while they are widespread in southern Africa.
Hunters shoot them whenever they see them, and farmers use them occasionally to protect their livestock. Namely, caracals poison and leave them to larger predators and thus kill more carnivores.
Caracals are most numerous in South Africa and Namibia, where their numbers are increasing, probably because farmers are exterminating some species of jackals. An additional threat to caracals is the significant loss of natural habitat.