IUCN Caracal Distribution Map
Interactive map of the Caracal's range by the IUCN Red List

The Caracal (Caracal caracal) distribution extends across a vast range throughout Africa, the Middle East and into South West Asia, excluding true desert and rainforest habitat. Three subspecies are described - two in Africa and one in Asia.

Caracal Distribution in Africa

The African Caracal cat is common in southern Africa and occurs widely in the rest of Africa, except for the equatorial rainforests and deep interior of the Sahara desert.

The highest populations occur in South Africa and Namibia with viable populations throughout the rest of its African range.

Caracals occur in 41 African countries across all five regions.

List of African countries where Caracals occur (IUCN Red List):

North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Western Sahara

West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo

Central Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic Congo

East Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland

Caracal Distribution Middle East to Asia

The Caracal's range extends from Africa into the Middle East and southern Asia as far as India, with populations declining in the extreme east of their range.

Other regions where Caracals occur (IUCN Red List):

Middle East: Iran, Iraq,  Israel, Jordan, Kuwait; Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, Yemen

Eastern Europe: Turkey

Asia: Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

IUCN Caracal Distribution Map non-Africa
Interactive map of the Caracal's range by the IUCN Red List

Caracal Subspecies

Caracal Subspecies

Historically up to nine subspecies were recognised however the last taxonomic revision of the Felidae cat family in 2017 proposed only three subspecies, subject to further research:

Southern and Eastern African Caracal - Caracal caracal caracal - Southern and East Africa

North and West African Caracal - Caracal caracal nubicus - North and West Africa

Asian Caracal - Caracal caracal schmitzi - Middle East to India

For the full classification of this wild cat see Caracal Lineage - Caracal caracal Classification.

Caracal Habitat

Across their vast range covering Africa into Asia, Caracals occur in most habitat types except for the true deserts and tropical rainforests. Their most common habitat in Africa is semi-arid savanna, one of the typical African vegetation types.

The IUCN Red List has standardised habitat types globally and the following seven types are important for Caracals (IUCN Red List):

  • Forest      - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
  • Savanna   - Dry
  • Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
  • Grassland - Temperate
  • Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
  • Desert      - Hot
  • Desert      - Temperate
Caracal in savanna habitat
Caracal Walking in Savanna Habitat
Southern and Eastern African Caracal (Caracal caracal caracal)
iNaturalist Caracal Observation South Africa © Heather and Andrew Hodgson CC BY-NC

Where to see Caracal Cats in Africa

All of the medium to smaller cats are very difficult to spot in the wild. Many are nocturnal or crepuscular and rarely seen during the day. The best chances are to visit the national parks or local nature reserves of each country within their distribution, and go on the early morning and late afternoon to evening game drives.

iNaturalist is a global citizen science platform where people can post their sightings of animals in the wild. Identification is verified by other members and subsequently conservationists and scientists use this data in their important work.

If you have been lucky enough to spot one of the smaller cats in your travels, no matter how long ago, please upload your images to the platform and thus help with research and conservation of this species.

Here are links to view the sightings that have recently been posted:

Southern and Eastern African Caracal Observations

North and West African Caracal Observations

(Note there are also images of dead animals if you are a sensitive viewer.)

Another excellent resource if you are planning a trip to Africa is the Mammal Watching website. Here comprehensive trip reports and mammal lists are posted by travellers, focussing on observing the mammals of the world. Check out the trip reports listing Caracal Cats in their sightings checklist as well as some stunning photos.

South Africa Travel Guide
Travel Guide South Africa 2023

Namibia Travel Guide 2022
Travel Guide Namibia 2022

Botswana Travel Guide
Travel Guide Botswana 2022/23