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Caracal Caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776)
Least Concern
Because of its short tail and prominent ear tufts, the caracal is often called the desert lynx but it is not closely related to the lynxes. Smaller than a true lynx, the caracal is about the size of a labrador dog. It has a long slender body and long legs. Hind legs are notably longer than the forelegs. Compared to the similarly sized serval, the legs are moderately long and stout. The tail tapers sharply at the tip, and is considerably longer than those of the lynxes.

Caracals have a pronounced sexual size dimorphism; females are significantly smaller than the males.

The anterior upper premolar is absent.

The distinctive ears provide the caracal with its name, an anglicised version of the Turkish “Garahgulak” which means “black-ear”. They are narrow and pointed, black on the outside, tipped with black tufts. These tufts are longer than those of any other cat, and have been measured at 4.5 cm. It has been reported that the tufts help the caracal to pinpoint sounds. Invariably there are white hairs mixed with the black ear fur and they can appear to be silvery rather than black. Kitten’s ears are all black.

The pelage of the caracal is dense and relatively short, a uniform reddish-brown in colour. This varies from individual to individual and it can be quite long and soft and very red. The chin, throat and belly are white. A ring of white surrounds the eyes, and there are small black marks above the anterior corners of the eyes. Narrow black lines run from the eye to the nose. The tail is reddish brown above and pale sandy below.

All black or melanistic specimens have been recorded. Mendelssohn (1989) describes a dark colour form, which appears to be grey. The kittens of these animals are almost black.

Caracals have been classified in the same genus as lynx (Lynx) and also with the other small cats (Felis). Wozencraft (1993) elevated the caracal to its own unique genus in the most recent review of cat taxonomy.

Principal Dimensions
Overall Males Females
Head and body lengths (cm) - - -
Height at shoulder (cm) - - -
Tail lengths (cm) - - -
Weight (kg) - - -
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