Showing posts with label wildcat hybrid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildcat hybrid. Show all posts

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Corsican wildcat (cat-fox or gatto-volpe) is a subspecies of the African or European wildcat

Some speculative pundits described this wildcat as a 'cat-fox'. Remarkably some believed that it was a cat-fox hybrid. I think their imagination was running wild. Wildcat wild. This is quite definitely a normal cat and it looks like a European or African wildcat. Although apparently DNA analysis tells us that it is not a European wildcat subspecies:

The LBBE and the Antagene laboratory conducted initial genetic studies that revealed that these animals do not belong to the European wild cat species, namely the F. silvestris silvestris.

This cat species must have been transported on ships from the mainland - perhaps North Africa - to Corsica and Sardinia as they did not evolve on these islands.

This reminds me of the first domestic cat, a tame North African wildcat unearthed with their human caregiver after being buried together around 9,500 years ago on Cyprus, another island in the Mediterranean Sea. That cat had also been transported to the island by ship with its owner.

Corsican wildcat
Corsican wildcat. It was sedated in this photograph. Image: in public domain.

My guess is that this happened thousands of years ago allowing the species to diverge genetically from the European or North African wildcat species. 

It looks like a wildcat. Its coat is quite rusty compared to the European wildcat which has a grey coat. Also, it looks skinner and smaller compared to the European species which is to be expected as warmer climates result in the evolution of smaller species as prey size is smaller.

Corsican wildcat
Corsican wildcat. Image in public domain.

But despite being called "ghjattu-fox" or cat-fox there is no connection whatsoever to the fox which is frankly obvious. I am surprised that anyone could think that.

Monday 24 January 2022

2 physical features differentiate the true African wildcat from the hybrid wildcat

NEWS AND COMMENT-KAMBERG, KWAZULU-NATAL: Conservationists have taken charge of a purebred African wildcat which was trapped by farmers in the Kamberg area of KwaZulu-Natal. African wildcats were incredibly common in South Africa. Incidentally, KwaZulu-Natal is a coastal South African province known for its beaches, mountains and savannah. It sounds delightful. Note: it is nice to know that the farmer called the conservationists and did not simply kill the cat. I guess he was protecting livestock.

But the ubiquitous African wildcat is quite special nowadays as indicated by the report on the website The problem is this: they crossbreed with domestic and feral cats. This results in a first filial wildcat hybrid. Such cats are not purebred. They can't be described as wildcats. And this has watered down the population and the purity of the genes of the African wildcat in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent.

RELATED: African and Asian wildcat – complete information.

African wildcat trapped by farmer
African wildcat trapped by farmer. Photo: FreeMe Wildlife.

To confirm that they had a genuine wildcat, they carried out a DNA test and found that it indeed was purebred. This is a genuine wildcat. I must confess that the photograph of the cat does not confirm in my mind that this is a genuine wildcat. And if it is, you might be mistaken if you thought that it was a wild-looking tabby feral cat.

Two distinguishing features

Apparently, the conservationists employ two distinguishing anatomical features of the wildcat which separates them from tabby feral cats.

Back of ear flaps of African wildcat
Back of ear flaps of African wildcat. Photo: FreeMe Wildlife.

The first is that they have a rich, reddish-brown coloration on the backs of their ears. In comparison, domestic and feral cats or domestic/wildcat hybrids have dark grey or black-backed ears. There might be a faint ocelli on the back of the ear flap as well. For tigers this is a white spot. It is very watered down in domestic and wildcat hybrid cats.

Lanky legs of African wildcat.
Lanky legs of African wildcat. Photo: FreeMe Wildlife.

The second distinguishing feature is that the wildcat has longer legs. They are quite rangy animals. They somewhat approach the gait of a cheetah for this reason. And when they sit upright on their bottom they are in a near vertical position. This is reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian statues. This makes sense because in the days of ancient Egypt, all domestic cats were either domesticated wildcats (Asiatic wildcats) or second third or fourth generation wildcats which had probably become truly domesticated.

RELATED: European wildcat habitat and hunting – classic cat technique.

It needs to be mentioned that the European wildcat does not have these long legs. They are a more stocky, squat and compact-looking cat whereas the African wildcat is slenderer. This is because of the climatic differences. Warmer temperatures produce smaller and lankier cats whereas in the north where it is colder they are bulkier in order to retain heat.

The chief executive officer at FreeMe Wildlife, the organisation which was involved in this rescue, said that they have a second genuine wildcat as well. They will be returned to the wild. They do not touch or get involved with them in order to ensure that they remain truly wild and non-domesticated. This facilitates their survival when returned to the wild.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

All Scottish wildcats and kittens should be DNA tested for purebred status

NEWS AND OPINION: There is a nice story about Scottish wildcats today reported by the Daily Record. It concerns three Scottish wildcat kittens at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, near Livingston. On their first medical they discovered that they have two boys and one girl. They look very much like Scottish wildcats with their tabby coats and slightly fierce appearance which is exactly the way you want it. The photograph on this page is from the Daily Record. There next job is to name them and they are looking for suggestions on their Facebook page.

Scottish wildcat kitten at his first medical
Scottish wildcat kitten at his first medical. Photo: Five Sisters Zoo, via the Daily Record.

The report states that there are an estimated 35 Scottish wildcat in the wild in Scotland and that they are 50 times rarer than a giant panda. They may actually be rarer than that. In fact, they may no longer exist in purebred form. There's been so much interbreeding between domestic and feral cats and Scottish wildcats that it is plausible to argue that there are no purebred Scottish wildcats left in captivity or in the wild.

I don't know if any wildcats in zoos are purebred, such as these three darling kittens. I think that zoos should confirm to the public that they are genuine Scottish wildcats with no dilution of their DNA through crossbreeding with non-purebred Scottish wildcats.

Where a wild cat becomes extinct or is becoming extinct through interbreeding with other species of cat, it is beholden upon zookeepers who are in the business of conservation, they state, to make sure that they are caring for the genuine item and not a hybrid. For all I know these beautiful kittens may be hybrids and if they are you can't call them Scottish wildcats. One issue is that the appearance of a Scottish wildcat hybrid is very similar to the genuine article.


I don't want to be too negative because it's a nice story but I've seen quite a lot of estimates as to the number of Scottish wildcats left in the wild over the years and they are just that: estimates. This leads me to believe that there may be none left which is a stark realisation.

Although people refer to this species of wild cat as a "Scottish wildcat" it is possibly or probably fairer to call this cat a European wildcat. I don't know whether it is true that there is a subspecies of wildcat called the Scottish wildcat. 

Also, please note that I use the word "wildcat" and the phrase "wild cat" for a specific reason. The phrase "wild cat" refers to any individual cat of any wild cat species whereas the word "wildcat" in my opinion refers to the species which is the 'wildcat'. It is complicated but I'm being particular about this.

Saturday 12 July 2014

When is a Wildcat a Wild Cat?

We know that we have to protect and conserve endangered species and many of the wild cat species are endangered.  One of them is the Scottish wildcat. We also know that we have to deal with stray and feral cats. The way we deal with stray and feral cats is very often to euthanise them; in short, in many places they are killed because they are unwanted.

Scottish wildcat domestic difference 2

But in some places such as Scotland, the Scottish wildcat mates with stray and feral cats. This is interbreeding between a protected species and their domestic forms. In technical language the Scottish wildcat becomes an introgressed protected mammal. This means the genes from one species move into the gene pool of another species through interbreeding.

This results in hybrid Scottish wildcats.  The questions are:

  • How do you tell a hybrid Scottish wildcat from a purebred wild cat?  There are slight differences so it is possible to do this but it's tricky.
  • How do you deal with hybrid Scottish Wildcats?  On the one hand the cat is a feral cat to be disliked and on the other hand the cat is an endangered wild cat species albeit somewhat modified genetically. These are "in between cats".

You can see the difficulty facing conservationists and legislators.  People who create law often legislate about how to deal with stray and feral cats.  When they make these laws they have to define what a feral cat is in order to differentiate the feral cat from other species or types of cats.  Can they do it accurately bearing in mind what I have written above? How do conservationists deal with a melange of a species?

Many of the photographs that you see of Scottish Wildcats are almost certainly hybrids.  Many of the photographs that you see of African wildcats are also hybrids.  As I understand it, the North African wildcat is not yet endangered but when the time comes, as it surely will, to assess the African wildcat as endangered then it may be very difficult to know what to do about it because a lot of the cats will be hybrid domestic cats that look like African wildcats.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Are there wild cats in England?

ANSWER: NO. We, the animal loving Brits, killed all the wildcats in England centuries ago! The last remaining wildcats are in the north of Scotland, an area with a low human population compared to most of England, where the last 400 wildcats in the UK can live in relative peace. These are called Scottish wildcats. The problem is that we aren't sure how many of this small population of cats are actually purebred because they mate with domestic cats. Are there any purebred wildcats in Scotland?

Sunday 23 October 2011

Scottish Wildcat Hybrids

Scottish wildcat or a hybrid? Photo by Peter G Trimming
At 2011, the greatest threat to the survival of the Scottish wildcat is its interbreeding (also called crossbreeding) with the domestic cat to create a Scottish wildcat hybrid. The purity of the wild cat is gradually eroded through interbreeding. The African wildcat also interbreeds with domestic cats. This is to be expected as the wildcat is the ancestor of the domestic cat. They are almost the same cat.

It can be difficult to see the difference in appearance between a Scottish wildcat hybrid and the purebred Scottish wildcat.

One fairly clear difference is in the tail. The wildcat has a thick tail with clear dark banding (4 rings) ending in a black tip. The rings nearer the root of the tail are fainter than those at the tip. The dorsal stripe that follows the spine stops at the beginning (root) of the tail.

The hybrid cat has a less thick tail and the dorsal banding follows through continuously from the cat's back to the tail.

There are other more subtle differences on the crown of the head where stripes run backwards to the body. On the wild cat they are "broad and wavy" while on the hybrid they are thinner and straighter. And on the rump of the hybrid the stripes have broken into spots.

Both are in cat fancy terms, mackerel tabby cats. The Scottish wildcat is a very stocky (cobby) looking cat. The domestic cat and hybrid are not as stocky it seems to me. Although people understandably find it difficult to tell the difference. This must impact the monitoring of the wildcat in terms of sightings.

The Kellas cat is a black (melanistic?) version of a Scottish wildcat hybrid.

Friday 21 October 2011

Wild Cat Breeds

There are no "wild cat breeds". There are wild cat species. The word "breed" cannot be used in relation to wild cat species. The word "breed" is used to describe the various domestic cat breeds. These are purebred cats with pedigrees (documented history of purebred parents).

All domestic cat breeds (over 100) and random bred cats are one species of cat: Felis silvestris catus. There are 36 species of wild cat. A species of animal is a scientific classification of that animal (called taxonomy) based on genetic analysis, form and function etc.

There is one usage of "breed" in relation to the domestic cat that is allowed: "wild cat hybrid breeds". That is not a very elegant use of the English language but it is correct. There are a number of domestic cat breeds that are wild cat hybrids. You can see a list on this page.

Wild cats in Massachusetts

The only wildcat in the wild in Massachusetts is the bobcat (Lynx rufus). It is "harvested" in a controlled manner for the fur trade. Fifty bobcats can be killed per year. There is a hunting season and a closed season when hunting is not allowed. Since 1971 hunting of bobcats has been regulated. They are classified as a "furbearer species" by the authorities of Massachusetts. My personal view is that hunting is horrible and the word "harvesting" in relation to wild animals is disrespectful of nature and arrogant of humankind.

The wildcat hybrid domestic cat is banned in Massachusetts. It is also banned in Alaska, Hawaii and New York states (in NY five generations from the wild serval are allowed in the state but not the city).

As to captive wild cats in Massachusetts, in the private sector and under the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) there are less than 100 wild cats of any species. The actual number as at October 2011, according to Lynn Culver executive director of FCF is 88. As I understand it these are the numbers in USDA licensed facilities. There will be wildcats and wild cat hybrids held captive illegally and in unregulated facilities. I don't know these numbers and nor does anyone else.

Massachusetts don't allow private sector breeding of wild cats unless it is for the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP).

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Which cats like water?

Some cat breeds like water and some individual cats like water. Cats in general don't hate water as some people seem to think.

The cat breeds that are known to like water are (a) Turkish Van - this cat originates from the area around lake Van in Turkey. Is there a connection? (b) Bengal cat - the liking of water comes from the wild cat ancestor of this cat which is a wild cat hybrid. The wild cat ancestor is the leopard cat (c) the Savannah cat - once again this is a wildcat hybrid and wildcat hybrids generally like water more than moggies or other purebred cats.

Of the random bred cats (so called mixed breed cats) any one individual might like water. It is a personal thing. You won't know until you have lived with the cat for a while.

Moggies generally tend not to like to get in the shower or bath with you! Wild cat hybrids do do this however.

Of the wildcats there are several that like water. The most famous wild cat, the tiger, is a great swimmer and likes to spend time in the water to cool off. The well known fishing cat hunts in the water. But there are a number of wildcats that hunt in or near water. The leopard cat is one (as mentioned above).

I have a page on what I call the "water cats"! You can read about these water loving wildcats on this page.

Michael Avatar

Monday 20 June 2011

F1 Chausie

Helmi and Ken Flick once kept and cared for an F1 Chausie. His name was Wildkatz Bwana Bushwah. You may well have heard of this beautiful wildcat hybrid. Apparently he was pretty wild! I mean this is in a nice and respectful way. I guess you would expect that from a first generation wildcat hybrid - jungle cat (F. chaus) to domestic cat mating.

Here he is playing in water. The wildcats often live and hunt by water as it is a source of prey. The wildcat hybrids love showering with you....!

F1 Chausie
F1 Chausie at play! Photo copyright Helmi Flick

You can read more about him and see more photos on this page. When F1 wildcat hybrids head butt they do it hard so says Helmi. And I have seen this in video material provided by Kathrin Stucki. You can see Titan head butting in the video below. Titan is an F1 Savannah cat (serval x domestic cat).

Michael Avatar

From F1 Chausie to Home Page

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