A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Featured Feline: Scottish Wildcat
December 8, 2010Posted by on
Pound for pound the Scottish wildcat Felis silvestris grampia is one of the most impressive predators in the world. Intelligent, fearless, resourceful, patient, agile and powerful, they are genuine superpredators and until as recently as the 1950s were believed to be man killers.
Surviving human persecution for five hundred more years than the British wolf and over a thousand more years than the British lynx or bear, they inspired and terrified the same Highland clans that defied the Roman and English empires. Today the wildcat continues to receive the respect of Highland farmers and gamekeepers, many of them happy to recount the tale of the wildcat mother killing herself to kill a golden eagle attacking her kittens, or stories from childhood of wildcats evading teams of watching keepers to snatch lambs from their father’s fields.
Although wildcats look similar to domestic cats, these are no feral or farm cats run wild. They’re Britain’s only remaining large wild predator and have walked this land millions of years before mankind arrived or domestic cats appeared. Every inch a cat in every sense of the word, the Scottish wildcat epitomises the independent, mysterious and wild spirit of the Highlands like no other creature.
“They’ll fight to the death for their freedom; they epitomise what it takes to be truly free I think.”Mike Tomkies
By appearance the Scottish wildcat resembles a very muscular domestic tabby. The coat is made up of well defined brown and black stripes and usually has a ruffled appearance due to its thickness. The gait is more like that of a big cat and the face and jaw are wider and more heavy set than the domestic cat. Most apparent is the beautiful tail; thick and ringed with perfect bands of black and brown ending in a blunt black tip. The Scottish form is the largest in the wildcat family with males typically between 6-9kg (13-17lb) and females 5-7kg (11-15lb). Fossil examples measuring 4 feet from nose to tail have been found; such a cat could have weighed around 14kg (30lb).
Unique to Britain, and now only found in Scotland, they are a sub species of the European wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris and although similar to the European wildcat, the Scottish is slightly larger with a thicker coat, more heavily camoflaged and hunts and lives across a wider range of habitats; it is also infamously known as the only wild animal that can never be tamed by human hand, even when captive reared.
The only book written on the endangered Scottish Wildcat. One man’s extraordinary adventures in raising and releasing no fewer than three litters, two pure wildcat and one hybrid from a domestic male gone wild, are full of incident, at times hilarious, and deeply moving.
ISEC Canada is the North American distributor for this excellent book, and you can purchase it from our website.
Read more about these feisty little felines on The Scottish Wildcat Association website, and learn how you can help