The caracal , also known as the desert lynx, is a wild cat that is widely distributed across Africa, central Asia and southwest Asia into India. In 2002 the IUCN listed the caracal as Least Concern as it is widespread and relatively common. The felid is considered threatened in north Africa, and rare in the central Asian republics and India.
The German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber first described Felis caracal in 1776 from a specimen collected from Table Mountain, South Africa, which is considered the type locality of the species. The generic name Caracal was first used by the British naturalist John Edward Gray in 1843 on the basis of a type specimen collected near the Cape of Good Hope.
The word caracal is derived from the Turkish words “kara kulak”, which means “black ear”.
The caracal has been classified variously with Lynx and Felis in the past, but molecular evidence supports a monophyletic genus that is closely allied with the African golden cat and serval.
The caracal is distinguished from Felis by the presence of a long tuft on the tip of the ear, exceeding half the length of the ear. There is no trace of pattern in the coat, except a few spots on the underside and inside of the fore legs. It is a slender, long-legged cat of medium size with a relatively short tail. The fur on the back and sides is generally of a uniform tawny grey or reddish, frosted-sand colour. The belly and the undersides of the legs and chest are whitish and spotted or blotched with pale markings. The tufted ears are black-backed. Black caracals also occur. The skull is high and rounded. The jaw is short, stoutly built and equipped with large powerful teeth. About 92% of caracals lack the second upper premolar teeth.
Facial markings comprise a dark line running down the center of the forehead to near the nose, and another one running from the inner edge of the eye to the nostrils. The pupils of the eyes contract to form circles. A light-colored ring encircles the eyes, and a rather indistinct dark brown patch occurs over each eye. There are white patches on either side of the nose. The inner surface of the pinna is covered with small white hairs. Numerous stiff hairs are growing from between the pads and are probably an adaption of moving through soft sand.
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