The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat that lives in Africa, the Middle East, Persia and the Indian subcontinent. It reaches 40–50 cm (16–20 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 8–18 kg (18–40 lb). The coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, while the ventral parts are lighter with small reddish markings. The caracal is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth. It was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. Eight subspecies are recognised.
Typically nocturnal (active at night), the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe. It is territorial, and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds and rodents. It can leap higher than 3 m (9.8 ft) and catch birds in mid-air. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 m (16 ft) of it, after which it runs it down, the prey being killed by a bite to the throat or to the back of the neck.
The average lifespan of the caracal in captivity is nearly 16 years.
The caracal inhabits forests, savannas, marshy lowlands, semi-deserts, deserts, and scrub forests. The caracal is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. Its survival is threatened by habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and desertification; caracals are often persecuted for killing small livestock. Caracals have been tamed and used for hunting since the time of the ancient Egyptians until as recently as the 20th century.
The caracal is a slender, moderately sized cat characterised by a robust build, a short face, long canine teeth, tufted ears, and long legs.
The prominent facial features include the 4.5 centimetres (1.8 in) long black tufts on the ears, two black stripes from the forehead to the nose, the black outline of the mouth, and the white patches surrounding the eyes and the mouth. The eyes appear to be narrowly open due to the lowered upper eyelid, probably an adaptation to shield the eyes from the sun's glare. The ear tufts may start drooping as the animal ages. The coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, though black caracals are also known. The underbelly and the insides of the legs are lighter, often with small reddish markings. The fur, soft, short and dense, grows coarser in the summer. The ground hairs (the basal layer of hair covering the coat) are denser in winter than in summer. ... The hind legs are longer than the forelegs, so that the body appears to be sloping downward from the rump.[
The caracal is often confused with the lynx, as both cats have tufted ears. However, a notable point of difference between the two is that the lynx is spotted and blotched, while the caracal shows no such markings on the coat.The African golden cat has a similar build as the caracal's, but is darker and lacks the ear tufts. ...
Its speed and agility make it an efficient hunter, able to take down prey two to three times its size. The powerful hind legs allow it to leap more than 3 metres (10 ft) in the air to catch birds on the wing. It can even twist and change its direction mid-air. It is an adroit climber. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 metres (16 ft), following which it can launch into a sprint. While large prey such as antelopes are killed by a throat bite, smaller prey are suffocated by a bite on the back of the neck. Kills are consumed immediately, and less commonly dragged to cover. It will return to large kills if undisturbed. It has been observed to begin feeding on antelope kills at the hind parts. It may scavenge at times, though this has not been frequently observed. It often has to compete with foxes, wolves, leopards and hyena for prey.
...Caracals appear to have been religiously significant to the ancient Egyptians. Caracals occur in paintings and as bronze figurines; their sculptures were believed to guard the tombs of pharaohs. Embalmed caracals have also been discovered. The ear tufts have been elaborately depicted in some tombs, and referred to as umm risha't( "mother of feathers").
Chinese emperors would use caracals, as well as cheetah, as gifts. In the 13th and the 14th centuries, the Yuan rulers bought numerous caracals, cheetah and tigers from the western parts of the empire and Muslim merchants in return for gold, silver, cash and silk. According to the Ming Shilu, the subsequent Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries) continued this practice. Until as recently as the 20th century, the caracal was used in hunts by Indian rulers to hunt small game, while the cheetah was used for larger game. In those times, caracals would be exposed to a flock of pigeons and people would bet on which caracal would kill the largest number of pigeons. This probably gave rise to the expression "to put the cat among the pigeons".
In the present day, caracals may be kept as pets. They can adapt well to domestic surroundings and are not generally aggressive toward domestic cats and dogs. However, they are typically declawed as their scratches might be dangerous. Caracals should be kept away from pet birds, as they may prey on them.