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The Caracal or Persian lynx (Caracal caracal, sometimes Felis caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat. Caracals are labeled as small cats but are the heaviest of all small cats as well as the fastest. The caracal resembles a lynx and is related to this genus. The length is 65 cm, plus 30 cm tail. It has longer legs and a slimmer appearance than a lynx. The colour of the fur is variable: it may be wine-red, grey or sand-coloured. Young caracals bear reddish spots on the underside; adults do not have markings except for black spots above the eyes. The most conspicuous feature of the caracal is its long, tufted black ears, which also explain the origin of its name--"karakulak," Turkish for "black ear."
Caracals are distributed over Africa and West Asia. Their habitat is dry steppes and semi-deserts, and they are solitary, territorial cats. A caracal may survive without drinking for a long period - the water demand is satisified with the body fluids of the prey. It hunts at night (but in colder seasons also in the daytime) for rodents and hares; rarely it may even attack a gazelle, a small antelope or a young ostrich. They are picky eaters, and discard the internal organs of the mammals they catch, partially pluck the fur off of hyraxes and larger kills, and avoid eating hair by shearing meat neatly from the skin. But they will eat the feathers of small birds and are tolerant of rotten meat. They are most well-known, however, for their skill with hunting birds; a caracal is able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. Caracals can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore. Since they are also surprisingly easy to tame, they have been used as hunting cats in Iran and India.
Because they are so easily tamed, caracals are sometimes kept as pets (especialy in the United States), and are said to adapt easily to living with humans. They are often viewed as vermin by farmers in Africa because they frequently climb over fences to eat chickens and other poultry.
- Caracal caracal caracal, East, Central and South Africa
- Caracal caracal algira, North Africa
- Caracal caracal damarensis, Namibia
- Caracal caracal limpopoensis, Botswana
- Caracal caracal lucani, Gabon
- Caracal caracal michaelis, Turkmenistan (endangered)
- Caracal caracal nubicus, Ethiopia, Sudan
- Caracal caracal poecilictis, West Africa
- Caracal caracal schmitzi, West Asia, Iran, Arabia, India
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