The black tufts of hair on the ears of these wild cats explain their name, which is derived from the Turkish word karakulak.


Caracals are remarkably agile, even for cats. They can jump vertically to catch small birds, but they are also strong enough to overpower antelope more than twice their size. If threatened, they can climb to safety. The caracal’s behaviour explains the remark "putting the cat amongst the pigeons". As they can be tamed, Indian rulers used to bet on how many pigeons could be knocked down by a caracal at a single leap.


Distribution: Ranges widely in Africa, apart from the Sahara and central rainforest belt, and across the Arabian peninsula into Turkey and east through Asia, to India.

Weight: 11 – 20 kg (24 – 44 lb); males are heavier

Length: 80 – 140 cm (32 – 55 in); about 50 cm (20 in) tall

Maturity: About 21 months

Gestation Period: 63 – 75 days

Breeding: Averages 2 – 3, but can be up to 6; weaning occurs at around 45 days.

Food: Carnivorous, hunting a range of small mammals, as well as birds and lizards.

Lifespan: 11 – 12 years in the wild; up to 17 in captivity.


The caracal has quite a slender body and long legs The hind legs are longer than the front legs.


The coat is reddish-brown short and thick.

Caught in flight

The caracal’s agility means it can catch birds in flight.


The tufts on the ears are thought to help localize the source of a sound.


A caracal resting under a rock. These cats may be active during the day or at night, and are solitary by nature.