Cat of the Month ~ September 2011
A healthy Caracal cat is sleek, muscular and highly territorial.
The Caracal is widely distributed across Africa, Central Asia, and south-west Asia into India. While it is relatively common, there is concern over the status of populations on the edge of its range in the Central Asian republics and in Pakistan. Its chief habitat is dry steppe and semi-desert, but it also inhabits woodlands, Savannah, and scrub forest.
Caracal prefer to live in open country, but only where there are scattered bushes and rocks from which it can spring to ambush its prey. A fully grown male Caracal typically weighs 13 to 18 kilograms. Though classified as a small cat it is indeed a heavy animal.
The Caracal has many aliases, being referred to as the African Lynx, Desert Lynx, Persian Lynx and Egyptian Lynx (and its head features in fact resemble the Eurasian Lynx), but it is not a member of the Lynx family at all! Besides, it has longer legs, shorter fur, and a slimmer appearance than a lynx.
In Afrikaans the Caracal is a called the Rooikat or "red cat" whilst in North India and Pakistan it is locally known as "Shyahgosh" or black ears. The word "Caracal" comes from the Turkish (or the ancient Persian) word "karakulak", meaning (you guessed it) "black ear".
The Caracal is now believed to be (genetically) related to the African Golden cat and the Serval. Its distinguishing features are its very long ear tassels (which it moves using 29 different muscles to listen for and locate nearby prey) and eye pupils which contract to form circles rather than the slits found in most small cats.
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