The Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized carnivorous felid mammal in the Felides family of wild cats.
The Caracal has reddish, tan-coloured or sandy-coloured fur. Its sides are lighter with small, reddish markings, and its underbelly is white. It has a strong build, and long legs with large broad paws. It has a short face with black markings on its whiskper pads and around its green, grey, or golden-brown eyes. It has long canine teeth. It has large black ears with ear tufts. It has a short tail. The female is lighter in colour than the male, and shorter.
It measures 40-50 centimetres (16-20 inches) at shoulder height and 62-91 centimetres (24-36 inches) in length. Its tail is 18-34 centimetres (7-13 inches) long.
The Caracal is native to Africa (especially in Namibia and South Africa), the Middle East, central Asia, and India. It can live in a wide range of habitats, such as woodlands, scrublands, plains, mountains, and rocky hills. It prefers dry areas with minimum vegetation. It is not usually found in deserts and tropical areas.
It is terrestrial, living on the ground, but it is also a proficient tree climber. It is a solitary animal. It is also territorial, chasing away other Caracals from its territory.
It is mainly nocturnal, hunting at night. It is carnivorous and hunts hares, rabbits, hyraxes, gazelles and other antelopes, birds, and some reptiles. It leaps onto its prey and kills it with its sharp teeth and claws. Unlike leopards, it does not take its killed prey to a tree limb to eat later. It oftens hides its dead prey in a shallow hollow on the ground and covers it with soil. It will return to it to feed.
Its predators include lions, leopards, and hyenas.
The female is pregnant for 68-81 days, before giving birth to 1-6 young, called cubs, kits, or kittens. The young are dependent on their mother for 4-6 months and are fully independent after 9-10 months. The mother moves her young several times to keep them safe from predators. She usually hides them in tree cavities or caves.
The Caracal lives, on average, for around 12 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
[Location of photographs: Paris Zoo, France]
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM