All About Caracal Cats
There are many different species of feline: lion, tiger, leopard, cheetahs, Persian and Siamese are just a few of them.
All of these big cats and house cats have one thing in common: they all belong in the suborder family of Feliformia in the animal kingdom.
Scientific Terms and Classification for Cats
Feliformia consists of wild cats, like lions and tigers and similar big cats, and smaller domestic cats, like the strays you see in the street occasionally. These subfamilies of the animal kingdom are the felinae cats (house cats) and the Pantherinae cat (wild cats).
The scientific names for the two groups are felis catus for domestic cats and Panthera for large wild cats.
One of the most fascinating and unique wild cats in the Panthera family are the big cats known as the caracal.
Where do Caracals Live?
The caracal cats live mostly in Africa, Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. They are mostly found throughout Africa, especially in central, east and southern Africa. While they are not typically found in tropical weather, most wild cat habitats, including the caracal, are found in woodlands, savannas and semi-deserts.
Some Historical Facts about Caracals
Caracals have been depicted throughout history with great reserve, especially in Egypt and India. You can still see pictures of the animal in ancient Egyptian scripture. It is believe that at one point, high ranking Egyptians and Indian princes would keep caracals as big house cats.
In recent history, a battalion with the Israel Defense Force created the Caracal Battalion in 2000, made mostly of females. The caracal was selected as its symbol because of the fact that men and women are allowed to serve in this battalion; ironically, a male caracal and female caracal look exactly the same. The only feature distinguishing a male caracal from a female are sexual organs.
The word “caracal” comes from the Turkish word “karakal” which means “dark ears” or “black ears.”
What Do Caracals Look Like?
Significantly bigger than a house cat but substantially smaller than its large cousins in the wild, caracals are medium sized cats, growing up to 4 feet long. Caracals, or also known as the “Desert Lynx” or the “African Lynx,” are mostly carnivorous, snacking on small animals like rats and snakes. However, like most wild big cats, caracals can climb trees to eat birds and even hunt near water sources for fish.
Caracals are mostly a tannish brown color in fur. Their chins and necks are typically coated in white fur and have signature black lines from its eyes to its snout. The black lines can also be seen on their foreheads. They are covered in short fur and even have tail that measures only a foot in length.
But the most obvious feature to caracals are their signature ears. Caracals have elongated, pointed ears with pointy fur on the top, similar to those of its cousin, the lynx. These ears can have up to 20 muscles in them and help the caracals hunt and detect prey closer than most other cats. In other words, their unique ears serve has satellite radar for food.
How Do Caracals Survive?
An advantage to the caracal’s small size is its hunting abilities. They are often compared to the cheetah, the fastest land animal in the world. But the “African lynx” has bragging rights of its own as one of the quickest animals alive. Because of this, caracals are capable to taking down prey that are 3 times their size. Males usually do the hunting, roaming large areas while the females stay in one neutral location to care for the young. Male caracals usually hunt in packs or in pairs but tend to hunt solo as well. They are most active in hunting at night.
These cats communicate by hissing, not so much by roaring like its bigger brethren, the lions and tigers. Zoo attendees are sometimes put off by zoo-kept caracals when they start to hiss, but it is usually a harmless conversation tactic with other caracals.
Caracal Reproduction and Survival Rate
Female caracals can have a litter a year at any time, made up of anywhere from one to 6 kittens. Baby caracals usually are dependent on their mothers for 9 months before moving out on their own to find their own territory.
The typical wild caracal can live for 12 years in the wild. If they are in the confounds of a zoo, they can survive for up to 17 years.
Odd Facts About Caracals
Interestingly, caracals are known to “pluck” their own fur, even to the point of baldness. Scientists do not know why the caracals do this but they suspect it is a seasonal behavior or a behavior when a caracal has an allergic reaction.
The biggest threat to caracals are humans. While bigger animals like rhinos (and even larger cats like leopards) are threatening to caracals, they are protected in many parts of Africa. However, in some countries, like Namibia, caracal hunting is allowed.
Fortunately, the caracal is currently not an endangered species.