‘Extraordinary:’ ‘Cat-Fox’ Animal Believed to Be a New Species

June 20, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019

Researchers in France said that they’ve discovered an animal they’re calling a “cat-fox,” claiming it could be a brand new species of feline.

The National Office for Hunting and Wildlife recently presented its findings to the public earlier this month.

The animal appears similar to a regular cat but a closer look reveals larger ears, more developed teeth, and a black tuft at the tip of its tail.

Employees with the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife measure a “ghjattu-volpe,” or cat-fox, in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 12, 2019. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images)
Employees with the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife measure a “ghjattu-volpe,” or cat-fox, in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 12, 2019. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images)

Pierre Benedetti, one of the researchers and chief environmental technician with the office, said that local legend in Corsica, where the species lives, has detailed the animals for some time, including from shepherds who said the felines were eating goats.

“It’s a very discreet, nocturnal animal,” he told Radio France International.

The first one was caught in a chicken coop in 2008, prompting study. Since then, researchers have identified 16 animals they believe are “cat-foxes.” Twelve of them were captured, examined, and released.

A “ghjattu-volpe,” or cat-fox, in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on June 12, 2019. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images)
A “ghjattu-volpe,” or cat-fox, in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on June 12, 2019. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images)

The species eluded scientific study for so long because of its similarity to cats, the researcher said.

“We believe that it’s a wild natural species which was known but not scientifically identified because it’s an extremely inconspicuous animal with nocturnal habits,” he told AFP.

“By looking at its DNA, we could tell it apart from the European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris. It’s close to the African forest cat, Felis silvestris lybica, but its exact identity is still to be determined.”

A”ghjattu-volpe,” or cat-fox, in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on June 12, 2019. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images)

“It’s their size and their tail that earned them the name ‘cat-fox’ across the island,” he added.

Researchers are still studying the population to try to discern its origin.

“It could’ve arrived at the time of the second human colonization which dates back 6,500 years before our era. If this hypothesis is confirmed, it’s origin would be considered Middle Eastern,” Benedetti told RFI. “Ultimately, we would like to see this cat recognized and protected.”

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