40+ Caracal Questions Answered (the Ultimate Caracal FAQ 2021)

Caracal facts

If you want to find out more about caracals, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve gathered 40 of the most asked questions about caracals on the internet and gave them an answer. You can use the menu to jump to the questions you’re the most interested in or hell, why not read the whole thing. You’ll be a caracal expert in no time!

GENUS: Caracal

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Caracal caracal

COMMON NAME: Desert lynx and Persian lynx

HEIGHT: 16-20 in (40-50 cm)

LENGTH: body: 31-43 in (78-108), tail: 8.3-13.4 in (21-34 cm)

WEIGHT: 16-42 lb (7-19 kg)

LIFESPAN: 12 years (19 in captivity)

Watch our short video on caracals

1. What is a caracal?

Caracal is a robust wild cat that is of medium-size and is often confused with the lynx cats. Caracals are carnivores like all cats and are very secretive. They were religiously significant in ancient Egypt, and they occur in paintings and as bronze figurines. Their sculptures are thought to have guarded the tombs of pharaohs. Chinese emperors used caracals as gifts.

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2. Male vs female caracals

Caracals are sexually dimorphic and so the females are smaller than the males in features like size and weight.

3. How many species of caracal are there?

There are three species of caracals:

  • Southern caracal (C. c. caracal) – occurs in Southern and East Africa
  • Northern caracal (C. c. nubicus) – occurs in North and West Africa
  • Asiatic caracal (C. c. schmitzi) – occurs in Asia

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4. How to pronounce caracal?

It’s easy to pronounce; there are three syllables: “KARR” + “uh” + “kal”.

5. What does caracal mean?

The name caracal literally means cat with black ears and comes from the Turkish language. Its Turkish name is ‘Karrah-kulak’ or ‘Kara-coulac’.

6. Why do people call caracals lynx?

Caracals were in the same genus as lynx until 1843 when it was decided to attribute this cat to the caracal genus of the same name. The caracal is still known as desert lynx and the Persian lynx.

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7. Where do caracals live?

Caracals are native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India where they roam the savannas, deserts, and forests. They prefer the more scrubby, arid habitats.

By BhagyaMani – Avgan, B.; Henschel, P.; Ghoddousi, A. (2016). “Caracal caracal”. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T3847A102424310. DOI:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3847A10121895.en., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77402465

The countries caracals inhabit, as per IUCN, include: Afghanistan; Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iran, the Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Lesotho; Libya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, the United Republic of; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zambia and Zimbabwe.

8. What do caracals eat?

Caracals are very capable and efficient hunters that prey on a wide variety of animals but mainly mammals and rodents. They are able to take down prey two to three times its size and tend to focus on the most abundant source of animals for food.

Some of the animals that caracals prey on are the Cape grysbok, the common duiker, sheep, goats, bush vlei rats, rock hyraxes, hares, and birds, but also larger antelopes such as young kudu, bushbuck, impala, mountain reedbuck, and springbok may also be targeted.

To clear their stomach of parasites, caracals will eat grasses and grapes on occasions.

9. How do caracals hunt?

The agile and fast caracal often has to compete with foxes, wolves, leopards, and hyaena for prey. They’ll stalk the prey until close enough to rush into sprint to snatch the animal. If it’s a bigger animal, like an antelope, they’ll suffocate it with a throat bite. Smaller prey gets killed by a bite on the back of the neck.

Caracals able to take down prey two to three times its size.

10. How high can caracals jump?

Caracals are real athletes of the animal world. They can not only run fast but they can jump up to 10 feet in the air. For this reason, caracals were in the past exposed to a flock of pigeons and people would bet on which caracal would kill the largest number of pigeons.

11. Can caracals climb trees?

If you combine agility and speed you get a really good climber. Caracals can often be seen climbing trees and leaving their prey on tree branches for later consumption.

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12. What is the caracal’s size?

Caracals are not the biggest cats out there, and look tiny beside a lion or a leopard. Males can reach up to 20 inches (50 cm) in the shoulders compared to 47 inch (120 cm) tall lions.

13. What is the caracal’s weight?

Caracals are medium-sized cats. Male caracals, which are typically larger and heavier than females, weigh between 16 and 42 lb (7.2 and 19 kg) and females weigh between 15 and 35 lb (7 and 15.9 kg). Both male and female caracals are robustly built yet slender.

14. Is caracal diurnal or nocturnal?

Caracals had to adapt, like other animals, to intense heat during the day. They did it by sleeping during the day and staying active during the night to hunt and do other stuff. These nocturnal cats often have to cover great lengths to find suitable prey during the night. But, at least it’s cooler then.

15. Are caracals endangered?

They are widely distributed in over 50 range countries and are therefore listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002. In general, caracals are not endangered, but they do face serious threats in some territories and countries. For example, it is thought to be close to extinction in North Africa, Critically Endangered in Pakistan, Endangered in Jordan, but stable in central and Southern Africa.

16. Why is caracal endangered in some countries?

Caracals face many threats that many other animals face as well; habitat loss due to human expansion, hunting, and pet trade. Expanding roads, settlements, and farming land are major obstacles to the caracal’s population. In Turkey and Iran, caracals are frequently killed in road accidents while farmers in many other countries will kill caracals to protect livestock, or in retaliation for its preying on small livestock.

17. When did the caracal become endangered?

The Central Asian caracal population is listed as Critically Endangered in Uzbekistan since 2009, and in Kazakhstan since 2010.

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18. How many caracals are there still left?

The exact number of caracals in the wild is not known, but it’s thought that there are large numbers of them out there. The International Species Information Service lists 169 caracals in zoos worldwide, with 52 being in the U.S.

19. Are caracals dangerous?

Wild caracals can be dangerous and unpredictable, for sure. They have sharp fangs used to kill and tear apart their prey, powerful, sharp, and retractable claws that can easily shred you to pieces. Luckily they do not attack, kill, or eat humans but they are dangerous to pet and small kids. Many, many cats and dogs have lost their lives to caracals.

Are caracals dangerous?
Caracal sneaking up

20. What are caracal’s predators?

Although caracals are often the top predators in their territory, their most feared predator is definitely the human. Ranchers, hunters, and poachers all kill or catch caracals for their own reasons. Ranchers and farmers for retaliation or prevention, hunters for their own sick pleasure, and poachers for money. Other than humans, lions and hyenas will give caracals a run for the money.

21. How do caracals defend themselves?

When they do sense danger, their main line of defense is camouflage and to lie down flat on the ground. If they do get made, they will either try to run away or use their powerful claws and long canines to defend themselves.

Caracals can leap up to 10 feet high and grab birds from midair.

22. How does caracal sleep?

Caracals usually sleep during the day when the heat is the worst and stay active during the night to hunt. They sleep in burrows, crevices among rocks and fallen trees, dense bushes, or even on branches high in the trees.

23. What are caracal’s babies called?

Caracal babies are called kittens.

24. How do caracals reproduce?

Caracals start to reproduce when they’re around 12 months old. That’s when they’re already sexually mature. The breeding takes place throughout the year, and unless the females are pregnant, they’re in heat one to three days every two weeks.

Births take place in dense vegetation or deserted burrows of aardvarks and porcupines.

25. How many babies do caracals have?

Caracals can have one to six baby caracals or kittens in one litter. They are born after two to three months of gestation.

26. What does a baby caracal look like?

Caracal kittens are born with a coat that is similar to that of adults but with a spotted belly. Their eyes and ears are closed when they’re born and it takes around 10 days for them to open and even longer to see clearly. The ears become erect and the claws become retractable by the third or the fourth week.

Caracal kitten
Caracal kitten

27. How do caracals adapt to their environment?

Caracals have many excellent adaptations to the environment. Perhaps the biggest one being that they can go a long time without drinking water which comes in handy in their arid habitats. They get most of their water from their prey.

Their eyes also appear to be narrowly open due to the lowered upper eyelid, probably an adaptation to shield the eyes from the sun’s glare.

28. What does the caracal do?

A study has shown that caracals in South Africa are most active when the air temperature drops below 20 °C (68 °F) and activity typically ceases at higher temperatures. They are solitary cats with huge territories. In Israel, male caracal’s territories are averaging 220 km2 (85 sq mi), while female’s averaged 57 km2 (22 sq mi). In Saudi Arabia, the male territories vary from 270–1,116 km2 (104–431 sq mi).

They typically spend their days sleeping or resting and their nights preying upon small mammals, birds, and rodents.

29. Best place to see caracals?

If you don’t live in one of the many countries where caracals live or you don’t want to go to a safari or something similar, there are 169 caracals in zoos worldwide, with 52 being in the U.S.

30. Can you buy a caracal?

You can buy caracals from online and offline sellers for around $7,000. Most of the folks selling caracals are located in Tennessee or Florida. If the price is not a deterrent to you, there are plenty of hidden costs and requirements associated with owning an exotic animal. From getting permits, finding and paying for a vet that knows his way around exotic cats, ensuring a livable and safe environment, etc. you will be paying through the roof. Not to mention that finding a babysitter will be near impossible.

Ancient Egyptians embalmed their bodies and placed them in tombs.

31. Can you have a caracal as a pet?

Caracal is classified as an exotic pet in many countries and states. Many of these states have permit, insurance and minimum caging requirements.

Pet caracal
Pet caracal

32. What does the caracal sound like?

Like servals, they mostly communicate by hissing, which can sound threatening but also by trilling which kinda sounds like a laser beam.

33. Do caracals purr?

Caracals do indeed purr just like almost all of the other cats do. It always amazes me how even the wildest of animals have emotions and can, in case of cats, purr when content (or distressed).

34. Do caracals meow?

Not only do caracals meow and purr but they can even growl, hiss, spit, and make other noises.

35. Do caracals like water?

Caracals mostly live in areas where water is scarce and so they do not spend much time around it or in it. They can also survive long periods of time without drinking water as they get most of their fluids from their prey.

36. Do caracals have night vision?

Caracals have a superior ability to see in the dark and have the ability to pick up on more detail in the dark than humans can. Their larger pupils let in more light and enhance their vision in low light which comes in handy when hunting of course.

37. Can caracal kill a dog?

Caracals can and have killed dogs, cats and other pets in communities that overlap their territory. I guess that it’s a price we pay when we build or expand our communities into wild animals’ territory.

38. How fast is a caracal?

Caracals can run up to 50 mph (80 km/h) which is much slower than a cheetah but is faster than a leopard can run. They have excellent acceleration though, and the ability to jump up to 10 feet in the air.

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39. Caracal vs lynx vs bobcat

Although caracal is also known as desert lynx, and is often confused with lynx, they are in fact two separate genera of wild cats. They both have tufted ears and somewhat similar faces, but lynx’s coat is spotted and blotched, while the caracal shows no such markings on its coat.

40. Caracal vs serval

Caracal (Caracal caracal), the African golden cat (Caracal aurata), and the serval (Leptailurus serval) form the Caracal lineage. The latter two can be easily distinguished from our caracal by the lack of tufted ears, but also because it has white spots behind the ears, spotted coat, longer legs, longer tail, and smaller footprints, in comparison to a caracal.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.