Common genet

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Common genet[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Viverridae
Subfamily: Viverrinae
Genus: 'Genetta'
Species: ''G. genetta''
Binomial name
Genetta genetta
Common genet range
(green - native,
red - extant introduced,
black - extinct introduced)

The common genet (Genetta genetta), also known as the small-spotted genet or European genet, is a mammal from the order Carnivora, related to civets and linsangs. The most far-ranging of all the fourteen species of genet, it can be found throughout Africa, parts of the Middle East, and in Europe in Spain, Portugal, the Balearic Islands, and parts of France. Small populations exist that may have escaped from captivity in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.[2]


This handsome[citation needed], feline-looking animal, has a pale grey and black spotted coat, with a long striped tail. Juveniles are darker grey.[citation needed]

Common genets have a slender, cat-like body, 43 to 55 cm (17 to 22 in) in length, and a tail measuring 33 to 52 cm (13 to 20 in). Males, with an average weight of 2 kilograms (4.4 lb)*, are about 10% larger than females. The legs are short, with cat-like feet and semi-retractile claws. They have a small head with a pointed muzzle, large oval ears, large eyes, and well-developed whiskers up to 7 cm (2.8 in) in length.[3]

The fur is dense and soft, and the coat is pale grey, with numerous black markings. The back and flanks are marked with about five rows of black spots, and a long black stripe runs along the middle of the back from the shoulders to the rump. There is also a black stripe on the forehead, and dark patches beneath the eyes, which are offset against the white fur of the chin and throat. The tail is striped, with anything from eight to thirteen rings along its length.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Common genets inhabit a range of different habitats, but are commonly found where there is plentiful shelter such as rocky terrain with caves, dense scrub land, and pine, oak, or ash forests. They are rare in more open areas, such as marshes or agricultural land. In Europe, they are found in southern France, Iberia, and the Balearic Islands. In Africa, they are found along the western Mediterranean coast, and in a broad band from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Somalia and Tanzania in the east. A second, discontinuous, population is found in southern Africa, as far north as southern Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.[2]

Behaviour and diet[edit]

Common genets are secretive and nocturnal. They rest during the day in hollow trees or among thickets, and frequently re-use the same resting sites. They are solitary animals, with each individual occupying a home range of about 8 km2 (3.1 sq mi). The ranges of males and females overlap, but those of members of the same sex do not.[4]

Females mark their territory using scent glands on their flanks, hind legs, and perineum. Males mark less frequently than females, often spraying urine, rather than using their scent glands, and do so primarily during the breeding season. Scent marks by both sexes allow individuals to identify the reproductive and social status of other genets. Common genets also defecate at specific latrine sites, which are often located at the edge of their territories, and perform a similar function to other scent marks.[3]

Common genets have a varied diet, that consists of small mammals, lizards, birds, amphibians, insects and even fruit. The wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) is a favourite prey item,[5] but genets from the Balearics live chiefly on lizards.[citation needed] As genets are expert climbers, they also prey on red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and dormice (Eliomys quercinus).[citation needed] Genets locate their prey primarily by scent, and kill with a bite to the neck, like cats.[3]

Common genets have five distinct calls. The "hiccup" call is used to indicate friendly interactions, such as between a mother and her young, or between males and females prior to mating. Conversely, clicks, or, in younger individuals, growls, are used to indicate aggression. The remaining two calls, a "mew" and a purr, are used only by young still dependant on their mother.[3]


Breeding occurs between January and September, but is most common in February and March. Mating lasts about two to three minutes, typically being repeated several times over the course of the night. Gestation lasts ten to eleven weeks, and results in the birth of a litter of up to four young. Before birth, the mother creates a den in a hollow tree or rock crevice, where the young will remain for about the first 45 days of their life. Newborn common genets weigh 60 to 85 g (2.1 to 3.0 oz). They start eating meat at around seven weeks, but are not fully weaned for up to four months. They reach sexual maturity at two years of age, and have lived up to 13 years in captivity.[3]

Interactions with humans[edit]

This species is sometimes kept as an exotic pet in the U.S.A. and Asia.

Common genets are often kept around because they aid in keeping vermin populations in check, especially in areas where crops can be negatively affected by pests.[6] Common genets sometimes eat poultry and game birds; however, most humans do not consider genets to be a threat.[6] Common genets are also currently at no risk of becoming endangered, and are listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.[2]


Along with other viverrids, genets are, among living Carnivorans, considered to be the morphologically closest to the extinct common ancestor of the whole order.[7][8]


As many as 30 subspecies of the common genet have been named, many with debatable validity. They include:[3]

  • Genetta genetta afra (North Africa)
  • Genetta genetta balearica (Majorca, Balearic Islands)
  • Genetta genetta felina (East Africa)
  • Genetta genetta genetta (mainland Spain and Portugal)
  • Genetta genetta granti (Southwest Arabia)
  • Genetta genetta hintoni (Zimbabwe)
  • Genetta genetta isabelae (Ibiza, Balearic Islands)
  • Genetta genetta pulchra (southern Africa)
  • Genetta genetta rhodanica (southern France)
  • Genetta genetta terraesanctae (Israel and Jordan)
  • Genetta genetta senegalensis (Spain and Sudan[9])


  1. ^ Template:MSW3
  2. ^ a b c d Template:IUCN2008 Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Larivière, S. & Calzada, J. (2001). "Genetta genetta". Mammalian Species: Number 680: pp. 1–6. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2001)680<0001:GG>2.0.CO;2.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Palomares, F. & Delibes, M. (1994). "Spatio-temporal ecology and behavior of European genets in southwestern Spain". Journal of Mammalogy. 75 (3): 714–724. doi:10.2307/1382521.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Virgós, E.; et al. (1999). "Geographical variation in genet (Genetta genetta L.) diet: a literature review". Mammal Review. 29 (2): 117–126. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2907.1999.00041.x. {{cite journal}}: Explicit use of et al. in: |author= (help)
  6. ^ a b Lundrigan, B. and M. Conley. 2000. "Genetta genetta" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 3 December 2011
  7. ^ Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  8. ^ Ewer, R. 1973. The Carnivores. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  9. ^ Dereure J.; et al. (2003). "Visceral leishmaniasis in eastern Sudan: parasite identification in humans and dogs; host-parasite relationships". Microbes and Infection. 5 (12): 1103–8. doi:10.1016/j.micinf.2003.07.003. PMID 14554251. {{cite journal}}: Explicit use of et al. in: |author= (help)


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