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What Is a Caracal?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A caracal is a “small cat” that lives in dry woodlands, savanna, and scrub land in Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia, although the numbers in North Africa and Asia are dwindling down. This small cat is also known as the African lynx or desert lynx, even though it is not certain whether the relationship to the lynx is true. In India and Iran, people tame this cat for hunting purposes. In other places, the caracal is a pest because it feeds on livestock and, as such, people will kill the animal. The caracal has a longer life span when kept in captivity, living up to 17 years; in comparison, that cat in the wild has a life span of about 12 years.

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Heavy and fast, the caracal is different from the lynx in that the caracal has longer legs and a leaner body. The cat measures 3 feet (about 0.91 meters) long, and has a tail that is 1 foot (about 0.30 meters) long. An adult has a short, red-brown coat with a white belly, as well as a white chin and throat. On the face, this cat has a black line that goes from each of its eyes to the nose, with the eyes themselves featuring circular pupils instead of the slits normally found in many of the small cats. The most distinguishing feature of the caracal is the long black hair tufts that tip the ears, which is actually the feature that suggests the connection between this cat and the lynx.

The caracal is a nocturnal animal and hunts during the night. A carnivore, it eats birds and rodents, as well as any other animal that it captures. Sharp claws and the ability to jump high enable this cat to be an agile at hunting, stalking and then capturing its prey with one quick leap. In fact, this cat is so good at jumping that it is known for its ability to capture birds that fly low. Sometimes after capturing its prey, the cat will store its catch in a tree.

Usually a solitary animal, the male and female caracal will come together to mate, but the female will raise the young on her own. She will give birth to between one and six young, with the average litter size being three. The female will make a den to hide her young in a burrow, crevice, or hollow tree. When the kittens are born, their eyes are sealed shut and they will open them after ten days. Kittens are a bright red-brown color and have black on the back of their ears; they rely on their mother until they are about a year old at which time they leave the home.

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