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the web of life in southern Africa

Genetta tigrina (Large-spotted genet)

tigrine genet, blotched genet, rustyspotted genet [English]; grootkolmuskejaatkat, rooikolmuskejaatkat [Afrikaans]; Grossfleck Ginsterkatze [German]; genetta a grandes taches, genette tigrine [French]; kanu [Swahili]; insimba [isiNdebele] [isiZulu] [siSwati]; inyhwagi [isiXhosa]; tshipa-thoko [Sepedi]; tshipa, t'sipa, tsipa e matheba a maholo [Sesotho]; tshipathokolo, thokolo [Setswana]; tsimba [Shona] [Tshivenda]; msimba-mangovo, nsimba [Xitsonga]; sipa [Lozi]; unsiimba [Yei]; !Noreb [Nama] [Damara]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Ferae > Carnivora > Family: Viverridae (civets and genets) > Subfamily: Viverrinae

Genetta tigrina (Large-spotted genet)

Genetta tigrina (Large-spotted genet), Klipbokkop Mountain Lodge, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

A nocturnal carnivore with a varied diet that includes mainly invertebrates and small rodents but also reptiles, frogs, birds and wild fruits. Similar in appearance to the Small-spotted genet but spots are larger and more rusty-brown, the tail tip is usually dark-brown to black, the black-and-white facial markings are less prominent, the chin is usually white, and it does not have a crest of longer black-tipped along the spine.


Large-spotted genet has a long slender body and tail and short legs. While there is considerable variation in colour and patterning generally, the body is off-white to grayish white and spotted with rusty-brown spots and bars, the legs are usually paler. The spots are generally larger in size than in the Small-spotted genet. Another difference between these two species is that the chin is white and the long tail is ringed in black usually has a black tip. Unlike the small-spotted genet there is no crest of longer black hair along the spine. The ears are fairly elongated, rounded and thin, they appear almost transparent. The eyes are large, characteristic of its nocturnal lifestyle with distinct white patches underneath. They have excellent binocular vision this allows them to judge distances very accurately and jump from branch to branch or on its prey. There are sharp, curved protractile claws on both the front and back feet.


Total Body Length: 85 – 110 cm; weight range 1.5 – 3.2 kg.

Dental Formula:

I C P M = 40

Distribution and habitat

Eastern areas of southern Africa and into the south-western Cape to Cape Town. It is widely distributed throughout the rest of Africa. Inhabits savanna woodland, and fynbos in the Western Cape.

General behaviour

Large-spotted genets are nocturnal and lie up and remain hidden during the day. They are good climbers and well adapted to an arboreal way of life but also spend time foraging on the ground. Normally solitary they are occasionally seen in pairs. Genets are carnivores although insects and fruit are a regular part of their diet. Excellent eyesight and their agility make them highly effective predators. They combine speed and stealth, stalking their prey in a series of dashes broken by short pauses. When stressed they emit a strong musky odour from their anal glands and this smell often indicates where they have urinated.


Invertebrates and small rodents are primary food, also eat reptiles, amphibians, birds and wild fruits.


The gestation period is about 70 days. A litter of 2 – 4 young are born in summer in a nest hidden in holes, rock crevices or amongst dense vegetation. They are blind at birth. The eyes open after about 8 days and they venture from the nest soon afterwards. They are weaned at 9 weeks although they eat solid food before this. After a year the young are thought to be independent.

Life span

8 years maximum age.


Large-spotted genets can come into conflict with poultry farmers as they will kill for more birds than they require if they get into a hen house. Unfortunately they are common roadkills, becoming disorientated and trapped by car headlights at night. The small-spotted genet is not regarded as threatened and its conservation status is low risk.