Michael's Dispatches

AfCats - Wild Cats of Afghanistan


12 January 2012

First came the rumors.  Innumerable US Soldiers claimed to have seen large cats in Kandahar Province.  More than once I saw Afghan Soldiers laugh it off, saying our folks were seeing apparitions.  The Afghans would say, yes, there can be big cats in the mountains, but not here.

But time after time, men said they saw the cats with night vision gear, thermals, or in broad daylight.  Some who made these claims were country boys who grew up hunting, and so their words carried particular weight.  They said the cats did not just come and vanish quickly, but our men often watched the cats for minutes at a time.  They said the cats could even jump over the large Afghan walls.


A Soldier just sent these new photos from Afghanistan.  They were taken from a helicopter just a couple of miles northwest of Kandahar Airfield.  Maybe these cats know who launches those rockets onto the airfield.


Unfortunately, I never got a chance to photograph or even see one.  Thank you to the Soldier who transmitted these images.  This is much appreciated.

NatGeo has some great shots of other AfCats:

Snow Leopard Population Rebounding in Afghanistan

"Lost" Leopard—And Poachers—Seen in Afghanistan


+2 # Seen in north helmandTom 2012-01-12 15:29
When my truck got blown up about 20k outside of Camp Leatherneck mid November I saw one of these going threw the MREs and other boxes of food that got blown off the outside of the truck.
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# RE: Seen in north helmandMichael Yon Author 2012-01-12 15:37

Was everyone okay?
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# RE: RE: Seen in north helmandTom 2012-01-12 17:29
One guy in back bruised his leg and ass from getting thrown around, I had nothing along with the 2 guys in front. We all had concussions and my IED Dection Dog Sgt Streaker was killed from the blast though. We all got flown out on a PEDRO bird.
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+1 # RE: RE: RE: Seen in north helmandJuan 2012-01-12 21:23
I'm sorry to hear about the dog. :(
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+1 # Thank youMichael Yon author 2012-01-13 00:05
Am happy to hear everyone is okay but sorry to read about the dog being lost. Good to be home. (If you are home.)
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# Americantvon 2012-01-12 16:09
This cat looks like it's surrounded by gopher holes.
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+1 # Lynx??Evin 2012-01-12 16:23
That cat looks like a gigantic Lynx except the tail is much longer.
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+1 # That's a Snow LeopardBrian 2012-01-12 16:59
Talk about a "jewel in the ruff" and a survivor as well. Beautiful creature thank u for sharing
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# RE: AfCats - Wild Cats of Afghanistankidoist 2012-01-12 17:15
Looks like an Abyssinian. I had one growing up and remember hearing they're from that part of the world
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+1 # Chinese Mountain Catnsmike 2012-01-12 22:15
I'm pretty sure it's a Chinese Mountain Cat they grow to about 20 lbs maybe a little bigger. I forwarded a link to an expert maybe they'll know.
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# bfwbfw 2012-01-13 04:13
I seen one of those through the bino in Shoja, Oct 11. It went out of a field of grass, walked along a ditch and went back into the field, making it the first and last time I seen one. GJ on managing to take a picture of it.

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# Looks Like - Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)Jon TrouernTrend 2012-01-13 04:35
I think this is a Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)- also has many other common names such as swamp or reed cat or swamp lynx - They can get over 25 pounds and despite their common names can also live in dry areas. I saw one in Iraq and vector control often caught them in their dog traps.

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# RE: Looks Like - Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)Evin 2012-01-13 15:10
Quoting Jon TrouernTrend:
I think this is a Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)- also has many other common names such as swamp or reed cat or swamp lynx - They can get over 25 pounds and despite their common names can also live in dry areas. I saw one in Iraq and vector control often caught them in their dog traps.


Based on the link, that looks like a strong contender, if they can sometimes grow to outsized proportions. Thanks for the link.
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# Big cat?Dan 2012-01-13 07:01
TO me it looks like a normal sized cat. what so big about this one?
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+3 # Cat photosMatt Brandt 2012-01-13 09:51
Mike, I had not even thought about you doing a story on the cat. We saw this cat sitting up as we flew by. It had to be about 4 feet tall as it sat there. When we flew over is when it hunched down and stayed there for a few minutes until our rotor wash scared it off. The funny thing is, is that there was a farmer not more than 100-200 meters north of where we took the picture. Thankfully, he was behind a wall. Anyway, it was a large cat. I think one reader said it was about 20 lbs., I would disagree with that assumption. Thanks for the story, keep up the good work, and God bless.
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# Thank you, Matt!Michael Yon author 2012-01-13 11:18
Thank you for this, Matt. I wish I could have been there to see this. These photos are great, though. Wild Kingdom with RPGs. :)
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# RE: AfCats - Wild Cats of AfghanistanRichard McConchie 2012-01-13 10:47
There's nothing much to gauge its size by. It looks like a feral cat to me..... they're descended from pussies but the smaller and less muscley ones die. Evolution in action.
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# Not a Chinese Mountain Catnsmike 2012-01-14 01:51
I got a email back from Dr Jim Sanderson, it is not a Chinese Mountain Cat, I asked him to forward an ID, to Mike. I hope he does. I believe the Jungle Cat ID may be correct.
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# AuthorMichael Yon author 2012-01-15 02:51
Thank you for having a look. After having heard so many accounts, and seeing various photos, I strongly think there are at least two types of wildcats in this area, and possibly three. None are huge like tigers, but they aren't house cats, either. Again, I would bet a dollar that there are at least two types in this area of Kandahar, and .50 cents that there are at least three types.
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# RE: AfCats - Wild Cats of Afghanistanretrieverman 2012-01-18 16:26
I would say that we're looking at the poorly name Jungle cat (Felis chaus). They don't live in jungles at all.

They are quite a bit larger than domestic cats, and they are sometimes interbreed to make a cat called a Chaussie.
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# Well...Mark the Shark 2012-01-20 01:36
Wide ears, sandy color, solid tail banding. Sand cat. Range is also better--it comes from Pakistan. :-*
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+1 # RE: AfCats - Wild Cats of Afghanistannsmike 2012-01-24 17:52
I recieved this email with a positive Id
hi Mike,
You can forward as you like. This is an Asian Wildcat, a subspecies (Felis silvestris lybica) of the widely distributed Wildcat. Nice they are seeeing. Tell them to get good pictures and not to kill.

Jim Sanderson, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
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# Confirmed sights in Kandahar AirfieldHeather 2012-03-30 19:37
I saw one of these cats dart across the road months ago and at the time it boggled me. It was just odd and I didnt know what "that was, " because it was so big. Last week a team here on kaf reported seeing it and yesterday another told me he had. Info followed from pest control. These cats are "jungle afghan cats" they are endangered and they catch them around base and free them away from here. Any cat larger than a domesticated one is scary. In this environment... even more to be amazed at. I believe they are like any other animal not interested in us too much. Just the hunt etc.
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# ref big catsandrew 2014-09-04 21:29
We saw at least one of these in and around nadi ali 2010 in a place called syadabad it seemed to be hanging about feeding on left overs from some pritty hairy fighting that was going on at the time what we saw through thermal had the look of a leopard promenant long tail bit of a in going debate throughout the company it even got a chapter named after it in a book are there tigers in afgan ......memories some goid most bad would be nice to know what it was we saw but this was bigger than your avarge fat over fed house cat
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