February 19, 2009
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A very young Scottish Wildcat
We all know about tigers and lions. What few people know however, is that there are actually 37 species of wild cat in the world. Most of these cats – 28 species to be exact – are under 50 pounds. Many of them are the size of a domestic cat, or even smaller.
The rarest mammal in the United Kingdom is a small wild cat – the Scottish Wildcat Felis sylvestris grampia. The size of large house cat, this feisty little feline has managed to hang on while his wild habitat has disappeared around him.
During the 18th century, these little cats were nearly wiped out by gamekeepers on large private estates. The prevailing thought at the time was that the cats were killing the game birds, so prized by rich aristocrats who visited their estates to blast the birds on regular hunting visits. The cats were methodically hunted, and shot on sight.
They were saved, ironically, by the two World Wars. The men were away fighting a deadlier foe, and when left alone, the cats rebounded.
Now they are faced with another, more subtle, threat to their survival. Find out more on this video:
Scotland’s Tiger, Scottish Wildcats DVD Preview, Highlands Wild