Caracals - Everything You Need to Know | The Big Cat Sanctuary

A guide to the Caracals

Everything you need to know

What is a caracal?

The caracal is a medium-sized wildcat that is often referred to as the desert lynx, however, they are more closely related to the African golden cat and the Serval. The name ‘caracal’ comes from ‘karakulak’ – a Turkish word that means black ear (you can probably guess why!).


What does a caracal look like?

Caracals are medium-sized cats with slender bodies and long legs; they are the largest of the African small cats. The Caracals’ fur is short and dense and is tawny-brown to reddish tan colour with whitish underparts. Their face is marked with dark lines and white spots around their eyes. The backs of their ears are black with long tufts at the top that grow to around 1.75 inches long. Their ears have around 20 muscles which allow them extra movement, and it’s thought that the tufts enhance the sound going into their ears as well as help them to communicate.


How big is a caracal?

Caracals can weigh between 8-18kg and can reach up to one meter in length. Males usually weigh more and are bigger than females. 


How fast is a caracal?

The caracal can reach speeds of up to 50mph (80kph) when in full flight!


How high can a caracal jump?

Caracals have outstanding agility and can leap up to 4 meters in the air to catch their prey.  


Where does the caracal live?

The caracal can be found in the deserts, forests and savannas across much of Africa as well as parts of the Middle East. They can also live from the Arabian Peninsula through Northwest India.


What family does the caracal belong to?

The Caracals is a member of the Caracal lineage which falls under the Felidae family.


How long are caracals pregnant for?

Gestation lasts between two and three months, resulting in a litter of one to six kittens. Females will raise their kittens solo, without any help from the males. They will nurse their young for four to six months and once they are nine to ten months old the children will be ready to leave their mothers.


What does a caracal eat?

Caracals are carnivores meaning that they live on a meat-based diet. They are also excellent hunters and will target any prey that they can find. They will eat a wide range of animals including mongoose, rodents, hyraxes, birds, small antelope and even small monkeys. Unlike many other small African cats, the caracal won’t hesitate to target prey larger than themselves, including young kudu and springbok.


Does the caracal have any predators?

The biggest threats to the caracal are hyenas, lions and humans.


What is the habitat of the caracal?

The caracal is a wild cat that is native to a wide range of habitats in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Caracals are adaptable animals that can live in a variety of environments, including grasslands, savannas, scrublands, and forests. In Africa, caracals are found in a variety of habitats, from desert regions to savannas and forested areas. In the Middle East, caracals are typically found in deserts and arid regions, although they are also known to inhabit more wooded areas. In Central Asia, caracals can be found in a range of habitats, including grasslands, rocky terrain, and desert areas.


Are caracals an endangered species?

No, caracals are not an endangered species. On the IUCN Red List they are classified as of ‘Least Concern’.


How long does a caracal live for?

The average lifespan of a Caracal can be up to 12 years in the wild but much longer in captivity, around 16 years. 


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