African Caracal cat (Caracal caracal)
Caracal Standing by Gerald Hinde from the book Cats Of Africa

Caracal Key Facts

* Largest of the small cats

* Black tufted ears

* Leaps to catch birds

Caracal Facts


Caracal caracal

African Caracal, African Lynx, Asian Caracal, Persian Lynx, Caracal Lynx, Desert Lynx


The name Caracal comes from Turkish word "karakulak" meaning 'black eared'. The Swahili name for Caracal is "Simbamangu" which means 'secretive lion' or 'secretive cat' as they are rarely seen.

The Caracal has distinctive long dark tufts on its large, pointed ears. It is one of the few cat species that don't have any spots or stripes on its coat.

Caracals occur throughout Africa and South East Asia but are absent from the extreme desert regions and rainforests.


Caracals are capable of tremendous aerial acrobatic jumps. They can leap into the air and knock down 10-12 birds at one time (see video).

Caracal females can reproduce any time during the year, although births may peak at certain times in areas of distinct seasonal variation. Two to three Caracal kittens are born in a litter and kittens will remain with the female until nine or ten months old.


Caracals were once tamed and trained for bird hunting in Iran and India. They were put into arenas containing a flock of pigeons, and wagers were made as to how many birds the cat would take down. This is the origin of the expression "to put a cat among the pigeons".

Further Information

The following professional organizations have well researched and accurate information on Caracals:

Articles about African Caracal Cats

Here is a list of articles about scientific research conducted on Caracals in Africa:

Cape Town’s caracals have metal pollutants in their blood – an environmental red flag ~ The Conversation Africa

Caracals exposed to Metal PollutantsExcerpt:

The Urban Caracal Project, a research and education initiative based at the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Wildlife and Communities in Africa, is dedicated to studying Cape Town’s caracal population. It aims to better understand the effects of urbanisation on the city’s wildlife and to discover some of the secrets of how they are able to survive in this challenging landscape.

But surviving in a rapidly expanding city isn’t easy. Indeed, it can be downright dangerous thanks to, among other issues, the increasing presence of environmental pollutants.

As conservation biologists, we are interested in how caracals become exposed to the multitude of pollutants associated with city-living. To do this, we tested the blood of caracals in Cape Town and found worryingly high numbers of different metal pollutants present. Exposure to these metals, including aluminium, arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury and lead, most likely occurs via the prey species that caracals consume.

This raises important environmental concerns for all the city’s residents – both wildlife and human.

Read the full article at:

Cape Town’s caracals have metal pollutants in their blood – an environmental red flag (

Gabriella Leighton - Post-Doctoral Fellow, Rhodes University, South Africa
Jacqueline Bishop - Senior Lecturer in Conservation Ecology & Genetics, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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