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The Caracal

Scientific name: Caracal caracal

The word caracal comes from the Turkish word "karakulak", meaning "black ear". Although it has traditionally had the alternative names Persian Lynx, Egyptian Lynx and African Lynx, it is no longer considered to be an actual lynx.

Interesting Facts about the Caracal



They are described as...
"The superstar of the animal world. This carnivore is perfect."

and

"This is the most enthusiastic jumper of all the cats"
(Amanda Barrett about the caracal)

"The ultimate stealth hunter."

and

"The caracal is a champion in bird catch."
(Tim Green about the caracal)

"In terms of stealth, agility and sharpened senses, it's one of the most efficient cats in the world."
(Rob Harrison-White about the caracal)

* The black markings and black backs of its tufted ears make the caracal's face strikingly expressive, especially when its ears are turned down or back in aggressive or defensive threat.

* Caracals typically use abandoned burrows or rock crevices for maternal dens.

* Caracals prey on rodents, hares and small antelope. They will also kill prey larger then themselves, such as adult springbok or young antelope. The caracal is well known for catching low-flying birds.

* A caracal's hind legs are noticeably longer than his front legs.

How to identify a Caracal


Males typically weigh 13-18 kgs (28-40 lbs), while females weigh about 11 kg (24 lb). It has a tail nearly a third of its body length, and both sexes look the same. The caracal is 65-90 cm in length (about 2-3 ft), plus 30 cm tail (about 1 ft). Compared to lynxes, it has longer legs and a slimmer appearance.

Young caracals bear reddish spots on the underside; adults do not have markings except for black spots above the eyes. Under parts of chin and body are white, and a narrow black line runs from the corner of the eye to the nose.

The pupils of a caracal's eyes contract to form circles rather than the slits found in most small cats. The most conspicuous feature of the caracal is elongated, tufted black ears, which also explain the origin of its name, karakulak, Turkish for "black ear". A juvenile has black on the outside of the ears, which disappears as it becomes an adult. Its ears, which it uses to locate prey, are controlled by 20 different muscles.

Habitat and diet


The chief habitat of a caracal is dry steppes and semi deserts, but you will also find this cat in woodlands, savannah, and scrub forest. It dwells either alone or in pairs. The caracal may survive without drinking for a long period, the water demand is satisfied with the body fluids of its prey.

The Caracal hunts at night (but in colder seasons also in the daytime) for rodents 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 among the smallest felids to attack prey larger than itself.

It is best known for its spectacular skill at hunting birds, able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. It 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, and 17 years in captivity. Since it is also surprisingly easy to tame, it has been used as a hunting cat in Iran and India.

Reproduction


Mating may occur at any time of year; however, it is more likely to occur when nutrition status is optimal, which stimulate estrous in females. Gestation last 68–81 days, and litter size ranges from 1 to 6 kittens.

For litters born in their natural environment, the maximum number of kittens of three; however, larger litters are more likely to occur in captivity where nutrition needs are adequately met.

Kittens reach independence at 9 to 10 months of age, but do not successfully mate until 14 to 15 months of age.

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