African palm civet (Nandinia binotata).—Robert C. Hermes from the National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers

Any of 15–20 species of long-bodied, short-legged carnivores (family Viverridae) found in Africa, southern Europe, and Asia. Catlike in appearance, civets have a thickly furred tail, small ears, and pointed snout. Civets are commonly buff or grayish, with black spots or stripes or both. They range in length from 16 to 34 in. (40–85 cm), excluding the 5–26-in. (13–66-cm) tail, and in weight from 3.3 to 24 lbs (1.5–11 kg). Civets mark territories with a greasy, musklike secretion (called civet) stored in a pouch under the tail; civet is sometimes used in the manufacture of perfumes. Usually solitary, civets feed on small animals and on vegetable matter. Five species are considered in possible danger of extinction.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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