Although the small wildcats are all considered to be the same species (Felis silvestris), they differ genetically, morphologically and in geographic distribution enough to be regarded as separate sub-species which are in turn divided into four groups. These groups include: the forest cats of Europe and parts of Asia; the steppe cats of south and central Asia; the tawny cats (lybica group) of Africa and the Middle East; and the domestic cat. The Egyptians presumably domesticated African wildcats 3 000 to 4 000 BC and these cats are considered to be the ancestors of the domestic cat.
have a wide distribution and are only absent from most parts of rain forests and the Sahara desert. They distinctly differ from domestic and feral cats by having reddish hair on the back of the ears, longer legs with black garters as well as a dark-ringed tail ending in a black tip. Both the front and hind feet are also distinctly jet black underneath. Domestic cats and African wildcats are able to freely interbreed and due to increased human settlement, continued hybridisation with domestic cats is presently the biggest threat to the genetic integrity and existence of pure-bred African wildcats. (read more in book below)
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