Caracals are sometimes known as “desert lynx.” Caracals have longer legs, a slimmer body, and a tail that is far longer than real lynx. They also don’t have the ruff of hairs around the face that the northern cats do. Melanistic Caracals have been seen, although only on rare occasions.
In Turkish, the phrase Caracal means “black ears.” The most distinguishing characteristic of this cat is its large, tapering ears with five centimetre upright tufts of black fur that are utilised for communication.
In this blog we are going to learn more about this member of the cat family and what makes them such a special sighting to see on safari with us.
A consistent tawny-brown to brick-red colouring is broken up by black-backed ears, dark patches on both sides of the snout, black dots above the eyes, and a black stripe from the eye to the nose. The eyes are big and yellow-brown in colour. The underside of the short, thick coat is somewhat longer and whiter. Females are somewhat smaller than males.
Caracals, like the rest of the tiny cats, purr when they’re happy and emit a range of additional mews, growls, and hisses to show their mood. Caracals are normally silent, but if necessary, they may scream like a leopard. Furthermore, when caracals appear to be disturbed, they produce a “wah-wah” sound.
Caracals have smell glands between their toes and on their faces, which they use to communicate. The cats may sharpen their claws on a tree while both visually and olfactorily marking their territory! It’s possible that the aroma is used to keep other caracals at bay or to signal a readiness to reproduce.
The Caracal is mostly a dry-land mammal that has a wide range of habitat tolerance and is extensively spread. They may be found in Africa’s woods, savannahs, and acacia scrub; India’s jungle scrub and deserts; and Asia’s dry, sandy areas and steppes.
Their historical range is similar to that of the Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, and both are found near the distribution of many tiny desert gazelles. Nomads in North Africa refer to them as “gazelle cats.”
Three males’ home ranges in Namibia averaged 316.4 km2, while an Israeli research showed ranges of 220.5 km2, demonstrating the scarcity of prey species in dry environments. Adult male home ranges in a well-watered coastal protected region of South Africa were found to be 31-65/km2, whereas female home ranges were 4-31/km2. Males have overlapping home ranges with many females.
They can go for extended periods of time without drinking since they are desert animals. They sleep in cracks during the heat hours of the day and hunt mostly in the cooler morning, night, and evening hours. They have a similar pace to a cheetah, although they are not sprinters and would flee to the trees if followed by dogs. Despite the fact that they are the quickest cat of their size, they hunt using the stalk and spring approach, which is similar to that of domestic cats.
Caracals are exceptional jumpers, capable of leaping up to 3 metres (10 feet) into the air and knocking down startled birds with their paws. This method may take ten to a dozen pigeons at once, and the Caracal was previously domesticated and taught for bird hunting in India and Iran. This is where the phrase “to place a cat among the pigeons” comes from. They were placed in an arena with a flock of pigeons, and bets were placed on how many they could kill. In the same way that the Cheetah hunted antelope, hares, and foxes, they were also utilised to hunt antelope, hares, and foxes.
Caracals are solitary creatures who only get together to breed. The months of July and August are the busiest for Caracal kittens in the eastern Transvaal of Southern Africa. One to six kittens measuring 198–250 grams are born during a 78–81 day gestation period in a tunnel, fissure, or dense patch of brush coated with hair and feathers. Newborns have a darker and greyer skin tone than adults, as well as scarlet belly patches that diminish with age. The kittens’ eyes open on the first day of birth, but they don’t fully open for another six to ten days.
The exact number of wild Caracals is unknown. In Asia and North Africa, they are considered uncommon or endangered. They are widely distributed in Central and Southern Africa, where they are chased as poultry raiders or shot on sight wherever they are encountered. Ranchers also place poisoned corpses out to kill predators, which kill a range of carnivores.
During predator control activities in South Africa from 1931 to 1952, an average of 2,219 Caracals were killed every year. According to a government survey, up to 2,800 Caracals were killed by Namibian farmers in 1981.
Because natural prey quantities were low or missing, a researcher in the United Arab Emirates discovered domestic goats or sheep in 11 of 12 Caracal scats. The Caracals diet in a protected region of Iran consisted primarily of cape hare and rodents, with no reports of livestock predation. In addition, no cattle remains were discovered in 200 scats in a South African area with plenty of wild prey.
Caracals are most common in South Africa and Namibia, where their territory is growing, probably as a result of farmers eradicating black-backed jackals. Severe habitat loss is another danger. People are driving their prey species out of their region, and persecution is increasing.
— Bronwyn Reynolds, Fizzin