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Africa Geographic Travel

Cats and Dogs of the Wild Variety

A little more than a month ago, during my stint of acting as a relief manager at Savuti camp, I drove to the east of camp early one overcast morning. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may realise at this stage why my permanent career as a camp manager never amounted to much all those years ago – it really isn’t that much fun staying in camp all day long!

Wildcat and Jackal

Be that as it may, on this particular morning I encountered a solitary black-backed jackal busily searching for food in an open grassy area alongside the Savuti channel. After systematically checking a series of rodent holes in the ground without success, the jackal entered a patch of tall grass. The next moment a commotion ensued within and two animals flew out of the grass at top speed. The jackal had startled an African wild cat that had been hiding and it was now in full pursuit of the wild cat.

Wildcat and Jackal

Although these cats are not necessarily built for prolonged high-speed chases, this individual was giving a good demonstration of just how fast they can sprint when they have to. The cat headed for a dead tree which was a good 50 metres away. The jackal was faster, though, and was almost on the cat’s tail when it reached the tree. Without hesitation the wild cat went straight to the top of the tree. The jackal raced up the lowest branches, and made as if it was going to climb the rest of the way. The cat ignored this bluff, so the jackal tried another tactic. It jumped off the base of the tree and walked around sniffing scents here and there. Then it wandered away as though it had lost interest. Immediately the cat saw this as its opportunity and raced down and out of the tree, and away across the short grass. This time it headed directly for safety in the form of the sheltering, dense vegetation that marks the edges of the old channel. The jackal, however, had only been feigning its lack of interest and it was instantly in full pursuit, and gaining once again. The last I saw of them was as they disappeared into a bright green Kalahari star-apple bush.

Wildcat and Jackal

I thought about trying to drive closer to see what had happened, but there was no need. Moments later the jackal came sauntering out of the bushes, looking very casual, almost as if to say, ‘I wasn’t really trying to catch that cat anyway.’

I never worked out whether the jackal was just chasing off a competitor for food *or* actually trying to catch the wild cat as prey. It was definitely an interesting morning out on the channel.

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Wildcat and Jackal


I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page