The wildcat is a small cat species complex comprising Felis silvestris and the Felis lybica. The former is native to Europe and the Caucasus; the latter to much of Africa, Southwest and Central Asia into India, and western China. Because of the species' wide range the wildcat is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002. However, crossbreeding of wildcats and domestic cat (Felis catus) occurs in particular in Europe and is considered a potential threat for the preservation of the wild species. The wildcat shows a high degree of geographic variation. Whereas the Asiatic wildcat is spotted, the African wildcat is faintly striped, has short sandy-gray fur, banded legs, red-backed ears and a tapering tail. The European wildcat is striped, has long fur and a bushy tail with a rounded tip, and is larger than a domestic cat. The African wildcat is the ancestor of the domestic cat. Genetic, morphological and archaeological evidence suggests that domestication of Old-World wildcats began approximately 7500 years BCE in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East. The association of wildcats with humans appears to have developed along with the growth of agricultural villages during the Neolithic Revolution, with wildcats preying on rodents that infested the grain stores of early farmers.
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