Caracal caracal

The caracal is the largest of the African small cats. It is robustly built which together with its speed and agility makes it a formidable hunter. They are incredible jumpers and can pluck birds out of the air with 3 metre high jumps.

Conservation status : Least consern
Shoulder height : 45 cm
Weight : Male 14 kg, Female 10 kg
Life span : 10 years
Gestation : 2.5 months
Young : Up to 4

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Like all cats the caracal’s sense of balance is exceptional which enables it to land on its feet despite catching prey mid-air in an upside down position.

The phrase “to put a cat amongst the pigeons” comes from an old eastern blood sport where tame caracals were put in bird pens whilst spectators betted on which cat would kill the most birds in the shortest amount of time.

Caracals will use their excellent climbing skills to cache kills in the forks of trees, hunt roosting birds like tawny eagles and catch hyraxes in rocky outcrops.

The caracal will eat small birds in their entirety with the exception of a few feathers.

The Egyptians domesticated caracals with the animal being featured in wall paintings as well as embalmed caracal bodies being found in tombs.

Caracals have powerful hind legs which can propel them from a crouching position 3 metres into the air to catch birds, sometimes swatting two in one leap.

The speed, agility and robustness of the caracal makes it a formidable predator. It can take down antelope twice its size which it kills with a suffocating bite to the throat.