Asiatic wildcat

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Asiatic wildcat
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Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Felis
Species: F. lybica
Subspecies: F. l. ornata
Trinomial name
Felis lybica ornata
Gray, 1830–1832

The Asiatic wildcat (Felis lybica ornata[1]) is an African wildcat subspecies that occurs from the eastern Caspian Sea north to Kazakhstan, into western India, western China and southern Mongolia. It is also known as the Asian steppe wildcat and Indian desert cat.[2] The status Least Concern in the IUCN Red List is attributed to the species.[3] There is no information on current status or population numbers for the Asiatic wildcat's entire range, but populations are thought to be declining.[4]


The Asian wildcat has a long, tapering tail, always with a short black tip, and with spots at the base. The forehead has a pattern of four well-developed black bands. A small but pronounced tuft of hair up to one cm long grows from the tip of each ear. Paler forms of Asian wildcat live in drier areas and the darker, more heavily spotted and striped forms occur in more humid and wooded areas. The throat and ventral surfaces are whitish to light grey to cream, often with distinct white patches on the throat, chest and belly. Throughout its range the Asian wildcat's coat is usually short, but the length of the fur can vary depending on the age of the animal and the season of the year. Compared to the domestic cat, Asian wildcats have relatively longer legs. Males are generally heavier than females.[2]

In Pakistan and India, wildcats have pale sandy yellow coats, marked with small spots that tend to lie in vertical lines down the trunk and flanks.[5] The wildcats of Central Asia have a more greyish-yellow or reddish background color, marked distinctly with small black or red-brown spots. The spots are sometimes fused into stripes, especially in the Central Asian regions east of the Tian Shan Mountains.[6]

They weigh about 3 to 4 kg (6.6 to 8.8 lb).[7][8]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Caucasus is the transitional zone between the European wildcat to the north and west, and the Asiatic wildcat to the south and east. In this region, the European wildcat is present in montane forest, and the Asiatic wildcat is present in the low-lying desert and semi-desert areas adjoining the Caspian sea. It usually occurs in close proximity to water sources, but is also able to live year-round in waterless desert. It ranges up to 2,000 to 3,000 m (6,600 to 9,800 ft) in mountain areas with sufficient dense vegetation. Snow depth limits the northern boundaries of its range in winter.[9]

In Iran, the Asiatic wildcat has been recorded in arid plains, lush forests, coastal areas and mountains, but not in extremely high altitudes and deserts.[10]

In Afghanistan, the Asiatic wildcat has been recorded prior to 1973 in the central Hazarajat mountains and the steppe region, near Shibar Pass and Herat, and in Bamyan Province.[11]

In India, the Asiatic wildcat inhabits the Thar Desert and is associated with scrub desert.[12] In 1999, it was still reported as common in the Rajasthani districts of Bikaner, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pali and Nagaur.[13] Only four sightings were reported from the Thar Desert between 1999 and 2006.[14] In Pakistan, it was known from arid regions in the Sindh Province.[8]

In the 1990s, wildcats were reported common and populations stable in the lowlands of Kazakhstan. A pronounced loss of range has been documented in Azerbaijan.[15]

Within China, the Asian wildcat is distributed in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia. Records from northern Tibet as well as Sichuan are questionable.[16] Prior to 1950, it was the most abundant felid in Xingjian dwelling along all major river basin systems and Taklimakan desert but later it got confined to three regions of southern Xinjiang only viz., Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Oblast, Aksu and Hotan. It is declining rapidly in its natural habitat in the Xinjiang desert region of China mainly because of excessive hunting for pelt trade followed by shrinkage of its habitat due to cultivation, oil and gas exploration and excessive use of pesticides.[17]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Asiatic wildcats are frequently observed in the daytime. They frequently use rock crevices or burrows dug by other animals.[9]

In the scrub habitat of western Rajasthan, they live largely on desert gerbils, but also hunt hares, rats, doves, gray partridges, sandgrouses, peafowl, bulbuls, sparrows and eat eggs of ground birds. They have also been observed killing cobras, saw-scale vipers, sand boas, geckos, scorpions and beetles.[12]

Results of a feed item analysis of Asiatic wildcats in the Tarim Basin revealed that their primary prey was the Tarim hare followed by gerbil, jerboa, poultry and small birds, fish, Cardiocranius spp., Agamid lizards and sand lizard.[17]


Female Asiatic wildcats mate quite often with domestic males, and hybrid offspring are frequently found near villages where wild females live.[9] They have been hunted at large in Afghanistan; in 1977 over 1200 pelts manufactured into different articles were on display in Kabul bazaars.[11]


Felis silvestris is included on CITES Appendix II. In Afghanistan the species is legally protected, has been placed on the country's first Protected Species List in 2009, banning all hunting and trading within the country, and is proposed as a priority species for future study.[3]


  1. ^ Kitchener, A. C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N.; Abramov, A. V.; Christiansen, P.; Driscoll, C.; Duckworth, J. W.; Johnson, W.; Luo, S.-J.; Meijaard, E.; O’Donoghue, P.; Sanderson, J.; Seymour, K.; Bruford, M.; Groves, C.; Hoffmann, M.; Nowell, K.; Timmons, Z.; Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11.
  2. ^ a b Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996). "Asiatic Wildcat Felis silvestris, ornata group (Gray 1830)". Wild Cats: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group.
  3. ^ a b Yamaguchi, N.; Kitchener, A.; Driscoll, C. & Nussberger, B. (2015). "Felis silvestris". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2015: e.T60354712A50652361. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T60354712A50652361.en. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  4. ^ Jutzeler, E., Xie, Y. Vogt, K. (2010). Asian wildcat. Cat News Special Issue 5: 42–43.
  5. ^ Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. 2002. African-Asian wildcat Felis silvestris lybica and Felis silvestris ornata. In: Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. pp. 92–98.
  6. ^ Groves, C. P. (1980). "The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti)". Carnivore. 3 (3): 35–41.
  7. ^ Schaller, G. B. 1967. The deer and the tiger. Chicago University Press, Chicago.
  8. ^ a b Roberts, T. J. 1977. The Mammals of Pakistan. Ernest Benn, London.
  9. ^ a b c Heptner, V.G., Sludskii, A. A. (1992) [1972]. "Asiatic Wildcat". Mlekopitaiuščie Sovetskogo Soiuza. Moskva: Vysšaia Škola [Mammals of the Soviet Union. Volume II, Part 2: Carnivora (Hyaenas and Cats)]. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation. pp. 398–497.
  10. ^ Ghoddousi, A., Hamidi, A. Kh., Ghadirian, T. and Bani’Assadi, S. (2016). "The status of Wildcat in Iran - a crossroad of subspecies?". Cat News Special Issue (10): 60–63.
  11. ^ a b Habibi, K. (1977). The mammals of Afghanistan: their distribution and status. Unpublished report to the UNDP, FAO and Ministry of Agriculture, Kabul.
  12. ^ a b Sharma, I. K. (1979). "Habits, feeding, breeding and reaction to man of the desert cat Felis libyca (Gray) in the Indian Desert". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 76 (3): 498–499.
  13. ^ Sharma, S.; Sharma, S. K.; Sharma, S. (2003). "Notes on mammalian fauna in Rajasthan" (PDF). Zoos' Print Journal. 18 (4): 1085–1088. doi:10.11609/jott.zpj.18.4.1085-8.
  14. ^ Dookia, S. (2007). Sighting of Asiatic Wildcat in Gogelao Enclosure, Nagaur in Thar Desert of Rajasthan. Cat News 46: 17–18.
  15. ^ Belousova, A.V. (1993). "Small Felidae of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Far East: survey of the state of populations". Lutreola. 2: 16–21.
  16. ^ Smith, A. T., Xie, Y. (2008). A guide to the Mammals of China. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691099847.
  17. ^ a b Abdukadir, A.; Khan, B.; Masuda, R.; Ohdachi, S. (2010). "Asiatic wild cat (Felis silvestris ornata) is no more a 'Least Concern' species in Xinjiang, China" (PDF). Pakistan Journal of Wildlife. 1 (2): 57–63.

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