Zeus – Caracal

Zeus is a male caracal (Caracal caracal) who was born in February 2016. He was given to the Foundation as a gift and he will join our educational program as an ambassador of his species.

Caracals are slender moderately sized cats that are characterized by their robust build, short face, long canine teeth, long legs, and their tufted ears. The caracal has prominent facial features including long black tufts on each ear, two black stripes from its forehead to its nose, a black outlined mouth, and white patches surrounding the eyes and mouth. Caracals usually have a reddish tan or sandy coat but in some rare cases they can be black. The caracal’s hind legs are longer than its front legs so the body appears to slope downward.

The caracal is typically a nocturnal animal but sometimes it is active during the day. Caracals are very secretive cats and are rarely observed in the wild. The caracal is also a solitary animal, mainly found alone or in pairs. They are very territorial animals and in some areas caracals will have territories up to 400 square miles. The caracal is able to meow, growl, hiss, spit, and purr, as well as flicker the tufts on their ears rapidly to communicate with other caracals.

Caracals are efficient hunters because of their speed and agility, they are able to take down prey three times their size. They usually prey upon small mammals, birds, and rodents but occasionally they will eat lizards, snakes, and insects. Caracals are able to leap more than ten feet in the air to catch flying birds and they can even twist and change direction mid-air if needed. In the wild, they often have to compete with foxes, wolves, leopards, and hyenas for their prey.

The caracal is sexually mature after one year of age and breeding will take place at any time of the year. Males and females will form temporary pairs for mating. The female caracal gestates for nearly three months and her litter generally consists of one to six kittens. The young caracals will generally leave their mother at about ten months of age but some females will stay with their mothers longer.

Caracals are found in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. They live in semi-deserts, open savannas, shrublands, moist woodlands, and montane forests. Even though their habitat overlaps with the serval, their prey are different, allowing them to coexist without competition. The main threats to the caracal are habitat loss due to the conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land and settlements and persecution for killing livestock.

Caracal Trivia: In the 20th century, people would expose caracals to a flock of pigeons and bet on which caracal would kill the largest number of pigeons.

Caracal Statistics:

Body Length average 28 inches, tail 8 – 9 inches
Height at Shoulders up to 17 inches
Weight average of 37 lbs but can be as much as 70 lbs
Gestation Period 71 days
Litter Size 2-3
Life Span 19 years
Status Least Concern