A closer look at the Caracal

Tshukudu Game Lodge
18th June 2019

Earlier this month, some of our Tshukudu guests were fortunate to have a very special sighting of a Caracal. Here are a few interesting facts about this ‘ambush predator’.

The Caracal is the largest member of Africa’s small cats. Males can weigh as much as 40 pounds and females as much as 35. They stand between 16-20 inches at the shoulder and are 35-39 inches long. Caracals have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years.

The name Caracal comes from the Turkish word “karakulak” meaning “black ear.” The Afrikaans word for Caracal is “Rooikat”.

Caracals prey on a variety of mammals such as rodents, hares, hyraxes and small antelope. Unlike the other small African cats, Caracals won’t hesitate to kill prey larger then themselves, such as adult springbok or young Kudu.

Once tamed and trained for bird hunting in Iran and India, the Caracal is capable of leaping into the air and knocking down 10-12 birds at one time. The old saying “To put a cat amongst the pigeons” actually comes from an old middle east practice of putting a caracal in an arena with a flock of pigeons and taking bets how many the caracal can catch once it is released.

When hunting, Caracals will quietly stalk their prey as closely as possible and then rely on a direct pounce, leap or short run to catch it. The fastest recorded speed of a caracal is 80km an hour.

Caracals are mostly nocturnal, but have been spotted in daylight in protected areas. They live in the drier savannah and woodland regions of sub-Saharan Africa and prefer scrubby, arid habitats. The next time you're at Tshukudu Game Lodge, you might be lucky enough to see one!