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Caracal

The caracal (Caracal caracal; English pronunciation: /ˈkærəkæl/) is a medium-sized wild cat that lives in Africa, the Middle East, Persia and the Indian subcontinent. It reaches 40–50 centimetres (16–20 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 8–18 kilograms (18–40 lb). The coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, while the ventral parts are lighter with small reddish markings. The caracal is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth. It was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. Eight subspecies are recognised.

Typically nocturnal (active at night), the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe. It is territorial, and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds and rodents. It can leap higher than 3 metres (10 ft) and catch birds in mid-air. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 metres (16 ft) of it, after which it runs it down, the prey being killed by a bite to the throat or to the back of the neck. Breeding takes place throughout the year with both sexes becoming sexually mature by the time they are a year old. Gestation lasts between two and three months, resulting in a litter of one to six kittens. Juveniles leave their mothers at nine to ten months, though a few females stay back with their mothers. The average lifespan of the caracal in captivity is nearly 16 years.

The caracal inhabits forests, savannas, marshy lowlands, semi-deserts, deserts, and scrub forests. The caracal is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. Its survival is threatened by habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and desertification; caracals are often persecuted for killing small livestock. Caracals have been tamed and used for hunting since the time of the ancient Egyptians until as recently as the 20th century.

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