The 7 Strangest Cats of Iran
Iran has some of the strangest (and cutest) cats in the world. Cat species thrive in semi-arid climates and the cold mountain steppes. Here is a list of Iran’s 7 strangest !
(1) Pallas’s Cat
The Pallas’s Cat (manul) stalk the desert and rocky steppe areas between Iran, Tibet and Mongolia. Their long earthy coats help them survive in the colder elevations of Central Asia. Pallas’s are secretive cats with solitary and mysterious characteristics. The young are born blind with a woolly covering. Previously the Pallas‘s Cats have been reported in the north-eastern parts of Iran, however sporadic records have also been made in central and north-western areas. Pallas’s have been classified as ‘Near Threatened’ by IUCN since 2002.
(2) Iranian Cheetah
The Iranian Cheetah (or Asiatic Cheetah) currently only survives in Iran, having become extinct in the rest of greater Central Asian region. The Iranian cheetah has a smaller head than their African cousins separated between 32,000 – 67,000 years ago. Their legs are shorter, their coat thicker and their neck is more powerful. The cheetah’s population decline is generally related to direct threats facing the prey base and the cheetah itself (hunting, land clearing and farmer awareness). The Iranian Cheetah has been classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by IUCN. In order to raise international awareness, a cheetah illustration was adopted on the 2014 FIFA World Cup Jersey of the Iranian National Football Team.
(3) Persian Cat
The Persian Cat (also Shirazi Cat) is a long-haired breed of cat mostly found in homes across Europe and North America. Considered native to Iran, the placid and unpretentious nature of the Persian cat makes it suitable for apartment living. Fortunately the Persian cat is classified as ‘Least Concern’ of endangerment. Instead they are one of the most popular pet species, where cross-breeding and grooming have helped them dominate competitions since the early 19th century.
(4) Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian Lynx can be found around the Alborz mountain region in the north of Iran, especially the Damavand area. This specie of lynx is native to the northern regions of Eurasia. They are typically larger than all other species of lynx such as Iberian, Canadian and American Bobcats. They are strict carnivores, consuming about one or two kilograms of meat every day. The Eurasian Lynx have been classified as ‘Least Concern’ of endangerment by the IUCN. There are several reintroduction programs currently ongoing in Western Europe.
(5) Persian Leopard
The Persian Leopard (also Central Asian leopard) are the largest leopard in the world and generally only found in Iran. However the population is declining, as classified as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN. The Soviet crisis in 1992 was found to have weakened the protection systems across the Caucasus. However with more than 3,500 km2 (1,400 sq mi), the Central Alborz Protected Area is one of the largest reserves in Iran where leopards survive. They have also been found in some Zagros Mountain National Park Reserves as far south as Shiraz, which is quite remarkable.
The Caracal (or Persian Lynx / Desert Lynx) is native to South West Asia and some parts of Africa, however it is not a member of the lynx genus. The caracal inhabits woodlands, semi-deserts, and scrub forests in more arid regions with lower rainfall and sparse coverage. Caracals can hunt on the ground, climb trees and can swim swiftly to catch fish. Generally nocturnal carnivores, they hunt young mammals (impala, hyraxes, rodents, hares and antelope) but also birds, lizards, snakes and insects. Caracal prefer to hunt by biting the neck and suffocating its prey. Many farmers consider them a pest. They are classified as ‘Least Concern’ of endangerment by the IUCN. Along with the Iranian Cheetah the Caracal has been trained since ancient times for hunting, hunting reference can be found in the Šāh-nāma by Ferdowsi.
(7) Jungle Cat
The Jungle Cat (also Swamp Cat) is native in South Asia between Turkey and eastwards towards Vietnam. Despite the name Jungle Cats do not inhabit rainforests, instead prefer lowlands such as savannah, dry forest and reedbeds. Jungle cats can climb trees but also dive in water to catch fish. However they mostly swim to disguise their scent to escape threats, such as dogs or humans. In Iran they mostly hunt for rodents, frogs, birds and hares as well as turtles and snakes. They feed on domestic chickens and ducks when scavenging near human settlements. They are classified as ‘Least Concern’ of endangerment by the IUCN.
Can you spot any similarities?
Did you know? Cats and other larger species now extinct also include:
- Syrian elephant (previously used as war elephants and for ivory, became extinct 2100 years BCE),
- Aurochs (wild ox – first domesticated in the Middle East around 8000 years BCE, became extinct 400 years BCE),
- Asiatic lion (an emblem of Persian culture however severely hunted by nobles after expansion of guns and monarchs, not seen since 1942)
- Caspian tiger (populations declined in the 19th CE during British/ Russian expansion and other habitat loss, became extinct in 1957).
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