Possessing tremendous speed and agility, the caracal is a formidable predator capable of tackling prey two to three times its size (4). Its long, powerful hind legs enable it to make incredible leaps up to three metres high and catch birds in flight by batting them from the air with its large paws (4) (5). In the past, this ability led to many caracals being trained to hunt game birds for the Indian royalty (4). The caracal is also the fastest cat of its size, and uses its speed to run down prey such as hyraxes, hares and small antelopes (2) (5). This species is superbly adapted for life in arid environments and requires very little water, apparently getting adequate supplies from its food (1).
Caracals are usually solitary, and maintain territories which may vary between 5 and 48 square kilometres in South Africa, and up to 221 square kilometres in the Middle East. Male caracals possess the largest territories, which usually encompass the home ranges of several females. The caracal appears to breed throughout the year, although breeding is known to peak between October and February in South Africa (2). After a gestation period of around 68 to 81 days, the female may give birth to as many as six young, though three are most commonly produced (2) (4). After nine or ten months the young become independent, and may travel large distances to find their own territory. Caracals become sexually mature in their first year, and while wild individuals' lifespans are not recorded, caracals in captivity have been known to live for up to sixteen years (4).