The Caracal is a muscular cat, with long legs and a short tail. Male Caracal typically weighs 13kg - 18 kg while female Caracal weigh about 11kg. The caracal resembles a Eurasian Lynx and for a long time it was considered a close relative. It has a tail length around a third of its body length and both sexes look the same. Compared to a lynx it has longer legs, shorter fur, and a slimmer appearance. The colour of the Caracal’s fur varies between light red, greyish or sandy coloured. Melanistic or black Caracals also occur.
Young Caracals have reddish spots on the underside. Adult Caracal do not have markings, except for black spots above the eyes and small white patches around the eyes and nose. Underneath of chin and body are white and a narrow black line runs from the corner of the eye to the nose. The pupils of a Caracal's eyes contract to form circles, rather than the slits found in most small cats. The most conspicuous feature of the Caracal is long, tufted, black ears, which also explains the origin of its name. Karakulak, is Turkish for "black ear".
A young Caracal has black on the outside of the ears which disappears as it becomes an adult. It uses its sensitive ears to locate prey. The feet of a caracal have stiff hairs growing between the pads. The jaw is short and equipped with powerful teeth. Adult Caracals live alone, or less commonly, in pairs. Females inhabit relatively small home ranges, varying from 5 to 57 square kilometres, territory size being dependent on the availability of prey. The female Caracal actively defend their territory against other female Caracal. The males roam over much larger areas, 19 - 220 square kilometres with considerable overlap. Like other cats, Caracals mark their territory by scent, leaving their faeces in visible locations and by spraying urine onto bushes or logs.
Caracals hunt by stalking their prey within about 5mts before suddenly sprinting and leaping. They kill smaller prey with a bite to the nape of the neck and larger animals by biting the throat, raking with their claws. If they cannot consume the whole carcass in a single meal, Caracals sometimes hide their larger prey and return to it later. Some have even been seen to hide carcasses in trees. The Caracal is best known for its spectacular ability hunting birds.
Caracals are able to snatch a bird in flight. It can jump and climb exceptionally well, enabling it to catch Dassies (Rock hyrax) as efficiently as any other carnivore. If no cover is available in which to conceal it, a Caracal may flatten itself against the ground and remain motionless, its colour acting as camouflage. Coming across a Caracal is more often than not a chance encounter. If Caracal is the target species, a spotlight at night over bait can sometimes be effective. Predator calls can also be used with some success. The Caracal can be hunted with dogs in the Eastern Cape. Any .22 centrefire will do for hunting Caracal but larger calibres can also be used. Make the correct choice of bullet if you want to keep the skin.