When and where was the sand cat discovered?

The sand cat was discovered in 1856 by Captain Victor Loche at Ngouca in the sand dunes of eastern Algeria near the Libyan border. He was on an 1856-1857 French expedition to the Algerian section of the Sahara. He was listing and describing the mammals and birds of the area for the book Catalogue des mammifères et des oiseaux published in 1858. We don’t have a picture of Loche sadly.

Sand cat discovered in 1856 by Victor Loche who described the species in this book.
Sand cat discovered in 1856 by Victor Loche who described the species in this book. Image: MikeB
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I believe that Ngouca is also spelled N’Goussa and Ngouça. The area has also been spelled Négonça. It is confusing I am afraid. If I am correct the location is as follows (this may be inaccurate please note).

Following Loche’s description, Reginald Innes Pocock described two more sand cat specimens from North Africa in 1938.

Scientific name

The sand cat’s scientific name is Felis margarita. At the time of Loche’s discovery he was the naturalist attached to the above-mentioned expedition led by General Jean Auguste Margueritte. He named the new species after the general with a slight modification. The Latin word Felis means cat.

Persian cat!

In the 1970s it was speculated that the sand cat was the ancestor of the Persian cat. That indeed was speculative. It was based on the mat of dense hair covering the feet of the sand cat and the Persian. Comment: the Persian does not have a dense coat of fur over the paw pads! The sand cat does as it needs to protect them from the sizzling hot sands. The idea did not last long.

Sand cat – comprehensive page (2022)

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