It is most well-known for its skill with hunting birds; the Caracal is able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. The Caracal can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore. Its life expectancy in the wild is 12 years, or 17 years in captivity. Since it is also surprisingly easy to tame, it has been used as a hunting cat in Iran and India.
Males typically weigh about 13-18 kg (28-40 lbs), while females are smaller. The Caracal resembles a Eurasian Lynx and for a long time it was considered a close relative of the lynxes. Recent DNA research, however, has shown that the Caracal is not a close relative of lynxes at all, but is instead related to the Serval and the African Golden Cat.
The Caracal is 65 cm in length (about 2 ft), plus 30 cm tail (about 1 foot). It has longer legs and a slimmer appearance than a lynx. The colour of the fur is variable: it may be wine-red, grey or sand-coloured. Melanistic (black) Caracals also occur. Young Caracals bear reddish spots on the underside; adults do not have markings except for black spots above the eyes.
The most conspicuous feature of the Caracal are its long, tufted black ears, which also explain the origin of its name – karakulak, Turkish for "black ear". Its ears are controlled by 20 different muscles to help it find its prey. The tufts of fur help pinpoint its prey.