Abyssinians and Somalis - Breed profile

first published in The Cat Journal, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1997

Does the idea of having a miniature mountain lion striding through your house appeal to you? Would you like an intelligent, independent and affectionate feline companion? With the Abyssinian you can have all this and more!

These cats are quiet and gentle. They are very affectionate, particularly towards their owners but can be reserved with strangers. They will follow their owners about and love to be part of the family. Both as kittens and adults they are extremely active, athletic and always keen to play. Abyssinians are ready to investigate anything new with a fearless curiosity. Generally, they are quick to adapt to new surroundings and are happy to live with other pets. Both Abyssinians and Somalis tend to have soft voices and are vocally quiet.

Abyssinians are medium sized cats of foreign shorthaired type, with the semi-longhaired version known as the Somali. These are a special type of tabby cat where the typical tabby markings are restricted to the face. They have a distinctive ticked coat pattern where the individual hairs have bands of colour on them, not unlike the coat of a rabbit. Because of this ticked coat these cats have been known as 'bunny cat' and 'hare cat'. Their large, expressive almond shaped eyes, large ears and ticked coat give the Abyssinian its 'wildcat' appearance.

The range of colours available is the same for both the Abyssinian and Somali. Tawny is perhaps the best known with its rich golden brown ground colour and black ticking. This colour is also known as 'usual' and 'ruddy'. Other colours available include cinnamon, blue, fawn, silver, cinnamon silver and blue silver. The full beauty of the ticked coat is often not revealed until the cat is about 18 months old, particularly with Somali cats.

The Abyssinian is one of the oldest domestic breeds. It is believed by many people that the Abyssinian is descended from the cats of ancient Egypt and, indeed, they do bear a strong resemblance to the cats depicted by sculptures and paintings found in the Egyptian pyramids. The precise origins of the Abyssinian remains unclear.

Their more recent history, however, is better known. In the late 1860's at least one cat was taken from Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia) to Britain and the breed developed from there. In Britain, Abyssinians were recognised as a breed in the early 1880's. They were exported from England to America and Europe in the early 1900's.

In Australia, the first Abyssinians were imported during the late 1950's from England and New Zealand. Somalis appeared from the Abyssinian population in the 1960's. The cats at this time were either tawny or cinnamon with other colours making their appearances some years later. In 1966, a Specialist Club was formed in Sydney. Today, this Club is still based in Sydney and brings together people interested in this delightful breed.

Fiona Mangan
(President - Abyssinian Cat Club of Australasia, 1997- 98)

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