Caracal Caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776)

Caracal (side view)
Photograph taken by Quinette Kruger

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Caracal
Species: caracal

The caracal is sometimes erroneously referred to as lynx, although the lynx is externally very different, being spotted and barred. The Turkish name is 'garah-gulak' or 'black ear' which presumably has become caracal in English; this translation is appropriate, for the characteristic features of the caracal are the black backs to the tufted ears, which contrast with the unicoloured body; the name rooikat (= Afrikaans) is very descriptive of its reddish body colour.

Caracals are solitary and predominantly nocturnal, even in undisturbed areas. Normally terrestrial, they are adept tree climbers, making full use of the powerful dew claws. When hunting, they are predominantly terrestrial. Individuals associate to mate, thereafter going their own ways.

The caracal is a hunter killer, generally averse to taking carrion, although they have been recorded doing so. They live predominantly on small and medium-sized prey, including the young of larger antelopes, birds, and small-sized mammals.
In South Africa, predation by caracals and black-backed jackals impact severely on the livestock industries, especially the sheep and goat farmers.
Typical of cats, caracals have the following dental formula:

  3    1    3    1
[ I – C – P – M – ] x 2 = 30
  3    1    2    1

Skinner, J.D. and Smithers, R.H.N., 1990. The Mammals of the Southern African subregion. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

For more information on this species, refer to the information leaflets on the Predation Management Centre (PMC's) Predators and predation web page.


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T: +27 58 718 5284

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