Wikipedia has got this wrong. At present, there is only one known species or type of caracal with the scientific name Caracal caracal. Wikipedia refers to a lengthy 2017 document which is online called: “A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group”. They rely on it to state that there are three ‘valid’ subspecies. As stated, this is incorrect. I explain why.
I have read the relevant section of that document and they say the following with respect to the three subspecies referred to by Wikipedia as follows:
“If these phylogeographical patterns apply also to Caracal caracal, perhaps three subspecies could be distinguished:
- Caracal caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776) – distribution: Southern and E Africa;
- Caracal caracal nubicus (J. B. Fischer, 1829) distribution: N and W Africa;
- Caracal caracal schmitzi (Matschie, 1912) – distribution: Middle East to India.”
But very importantly, they say that further research is required to assess whether there are subspecies of the caracal. The panel of taxonomists say “further research is required to establish the geographical variation of Caracal caracal“.
In other words, they’re not sure and they are speculating. The normal authority on this is the IUCN Red List and they refer to one species of caracal. My excellent textbook on the wild cats, Wild Cats of the World, lists one species of caracal.
It is surprising that the Wikipedia authors state that the three subspecies that they mention “have been recognised as valid”. This is patently incorrect. My reading of the document does not state, as mentioned, that these are recognised as valid. They are speculative and more research is required.
For the time being, if someone asks if there is more than one species of caracal, the answer at present is no, there is one, subject to further work. The fact is that the science of taxonomy (the classification of the species) is still in flux to a certain extent despite DNA analysis.
SOME MORE ARTICLES ON THE CARACAL: