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Impurest's Guide to Animals #100 - Caracal

It’s here!! Issue 100 is here at last! Okay so obviously I’m a little overexcited about this, but to get this far, paticulary in an environment not totally suited for animal blogs is amazing. As such I want to thank everyone who reads and comments on these blogs, I couldn’t, wouldn’t have got this far without you.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

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Issue #100 – Caracal

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Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Mamalia

Order – Carnivoria

Family – Felidae

Genus – Caracal

Species – caracal

Related Species – Despite similarities with members of the genus Lynx, the Caracal is only distantly related to these species (1)

Range

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‘Black Ears’

Caracals are tawny coloured medium sized cats, with an average body length of just over a meter, and a weight of around 15kg. The most distinctive feature of a Caracal are the large black ears and the tufts of hair, which reach a length of 4cm, sprouting out the top. It is these tufts that led to the name Caracal, which comes from the Turkish word karakulak, which translates to black ears (2). It is theorised that these tufts evolved to break up the outline of the cat’s ears while hunting in long grass, with prey presumably being unable to distinguish the ears from the swaying grass around it.

Like all cats, Caracals are obligate carnivores, and hunt a wide range of prey, although they are most famous for their ability to intercept flying birds with its leaping abilities. Despite this success hunting birds during the day is rather low, and as such most Caracals hunt at night, silently ambushing prey while they sleep. Whilst small game is usually taken, Caracals will take prey as large as Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), juvenile Kudu (Tragelaphus sp) and Ostrich (Struthio camelus), although the latter is only taken during the birds breeding season when the male is incubating his nest.

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Caracals are solitary throughout their adult lives, coming together only to breed. Gestation takes two to three months, and a litter of one to six kittens are born in a den that the mother will have moved into during her pregnancy. The kittens are weaned within ten weeks of being born, but will generally stay with their mother for a year before leaving to find territories of their own. Predators of the Caracal include leopards (Panthera pardus) and humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) although the latter is in response to the cat’s preference for attacking and killing livestock, despite adequate wild food sources.

Five Fun Caracal Facts

The South African population of the Caracal has a more red fur, leading to the local Afrikaans name Rooikat (Red Cat)

Meanwhile in Swahili, the Caracal goes by the name Simbamangu or Secretive Cat, due to the animal being rarely seen.

The Caracal was one of the many animals considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians, and was the archetype for the ‘guardian cat’ who protected the tombs of the dead (3)

It wasn’t just the Egyptians who knew of the Caracal’s predatory prowess. The Persians and Historic Indian Rulers kept Caracals as hunting animals, and used them to catch small deer, antelope and birds.

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Finally the term ‘cat among the pigeons’ refers to an ancient sport where a trained Caracal would be let loose among a flock of birds. Wagers were taken to see how many birds the cat could knock out of mid-air in a single bound, with a well-trained Caracal being able to take a dozen birds in a single leap (4).

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://catsforafrica.co.za/main/page_caracal_overview.html

3 - Kingdon, J. (1977). East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume IIIA: Carnivores. Academic Press, London

4 - http://bigcatrescue.org/caracal-facts/

Picture References

1 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/98/98FEDF11-E2CB-449F-9F1D-C8E1BCBB57E0/Presentation.Large/Caracal-side-view.jpg

2 - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Caracal_distribution.png

3 - http://pixdaus.com/files/items/pics/7/52/299752_fe4f5abc8368fce1002b7b80a18a69a2_large.jpg

4 - https://retrieverman.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/caracal-with-hare.jpeg

Well that’s it 100 issues completed. That isn’t the end though, and while next issue won’t be until next year, I can guarantee that it will begin with a bang (also Issue 101). Until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks and Seasons Greetings

Impurest Cheese

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