I really try not to play favorites.
But this is one of my favorites.
The first image here was taken by a Niner. Now, since the thread in which this picture was originally posted was way back when on the OldDeck, I can't find out who. But I did want to at least make the effort to attribute it to someone among our awesome community.
The Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized cat that can be found Africa, central and southwest Asia. It's also known as the Desert Lynx, due to its size and appearance, and indeed it was originally classified with both the Lynx and Felis genus, but molecular evidence indicates that it's much more closely related to African Golden Cat and Serval.
Caracals can reach body lengths of up to 42 inches (106 cm), with a short 13-inch (34 cm) tail. They can weigh up to 44 pounds (20 Kg). Male Caracals are typically larger than females. In general, their coats are tawny gray or tawny red, although melanistic Caracals have also been observed. Their tufted ears give them a distinct look, as do the markings on their faces.
Caracals are widely-spread throughout their range, and can be found in a variety of habitats, like desert, scrubland, savanna, and forested areas. There are eight recognized subspecies, categorized by range:
- Caracal caracal caracal (South Africa)
- Caracal caracal nubicus (Nubia)
- Caracal caracal algira (Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco)
- Caracal caracal lucani (Angola to the Congo River Basin)
- Caracal caracal schmitzi (Palestine, Syria, Pakistan and India)
- Caracal caracal poecilotis (Northern Nigeria)
- Caracal caracal damarensis (Southwest Africa)
- Caracal caracal limpopoensis (Transvaal)
The bulk of the Caracal's diet consists of animals that weigh 11 pounds (5 Kg) or less, like gerbils, mice, hares, hyraxes, and springhares. They can take down larger prey like springbok, duiker, antelope, mountain reedbuck and goitered gazelle, but they are not always able to consume the entire carcass at the time of the kill. When this happens, Caracals will bury their prey and return to finish the rest later, or even stow the carcass in a tree.
Female Caracals will give birth to a litter of one to six kittens after a gestation period of 69 to 81 days. They do not dig their own birthing dens, but will use caves, ready-made burrows or tree hollows for protection during the birthing process. Female Caracals will raise the kittens on their own, until the young are ready to find their own territory. Caracals are generally solitary, but have been observed to travel in pairs and many have territories that overlap with that of other Caracals.
Caracals are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, since they have a large and diversified range and most populations are healthy. But Caracals in northern Africa are threatened by agriculture and desertification. Caracals carry cultural significance for the ancient Egyptians, as many wall paintings of Caracals exist, and embalmed Caracals. Sculptures of Caracals and other cats were made to guard tombs.