Caracal - a cat that barks

A cat that jumps 6 feet into the air to catch flying birds!


Scientific name: Caracal caracal

Arabic name: الوشق الصحراوي OR عنّاق الأرض

Common name: Desert lynx, Caracal

Regional Assessment: Least Concern

CITES: Appendix I


The largest remaining ground predator in the UAE.


This wild cat is native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India.  It is widely distributed through the region and on the Arabian Peninsula they mainly live in wadis and mountains where there is rocky terrain. However, across their range they can also live in semi-deserts, savannah, woodland and scrublands.    



One of the most notable features of the caracal is its elongated, tufted black ears that can grow up to 10 cm long.  In fact, the origin of its name is based on the Turkish translation for “black ear” – karakulak.  Due to having this feature similar to a lynx, the caracal is also often called the desert lynx.


The tufts play two key roles in allowing the caracal to stalk its prey. It is believed that the 29 muscles in the caracal’s ear, allows the tufts to focus sound into their ears, improving its ability to tracks its prey.   Plus, the tufts create very little noise as the cat stalks it’s prey in shrubbery.   The cat is further disguised in stealth mode due to the cushioned footpads with fur that make practically no noise.  The caracal can get up to 16 feet within its prey!


A cat that jumps 6 feet into the air to catch flying birds!

Being the fastest cat of its size, the caracal can run down prey such as hares to antelopes- including tackling prey two to three times its size. They also have very good bird hunting skills, able to grab a flying bird with just a high leap due to its strong hind legs.  The caracal mostly hunts at night but will also hunt during the day in cooler seasons.   



As the availability of their prey declines, the Caracal could be negatively affected.  However, the most significant threat to the caracal is habitat loss and fragmentation due to expanding road networks and settlements, and human persecution; decrease of natural prey populations can push caracals to prey more on livestock, increasing cases of human-wildlife conflicts


Adapted to its environment

The caracal has adapted to survive the harsh environment be able to go without drinking for a long period because their water demand is satisfied with the body fluids of its prey.  In addition, stiff hairs grow between the hairs of the caracal's foot pads allowing the caracal to walk on soft, hot sand. 


A cat that barks. 

One final interesting feature of the caracal is the “barking” noise it produces to warn of dangers.

Photo Copyright: Martin Harvey/WWF