Abyssinian
The characteristic of this elegant shorthaired cat is the ticked coat. Each single hair on the upper side of the cat is banded with a dark hair tip.
 
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Baton Rouge cattery
Breeder: Christine Rüssheim, Switzerland
 

Abyssinians exist in the following colours:

  • ruddy

  • chocolate

  • sorrel

  • blue

  • lilac

  • fawn

  • all those colours can be also with silver, where the base colour is silver white.

In the ruddy Abyssinian the base colour is a rich orange colour, the hairs are ticked with dark seal.
The ruddy Abyssinian is genetically black, the warm  coppery coat colour comes from rufismus (caused by rufus polygenes) which has been increased over the years through sorrowful selective breeding.

ruddy
ruddy
 

In the sorrel Abyssinian the base colour is apricot, the hairs are ticked with chocolate.
In some federations this colour is called "red", which has nothing to do genetically with the red colour caused by the gene "Orange", but with the gene "bl" an allele of "b", called cinnamon.

sorrel
sorrel
 
In the blue Abyssinian the base colour is blue-grey with a beige ground colour, the hairs are ticked with dark blue.
Chest, stomach, inside of the legs are coloured with the beige ground colour and don't show any ticking.
blue
blue
Abyssinian blue
Ch. Mikkar Heathermist
Owner & Breeder: Mike & Karen Shammas, Mikkar cattery, U.K.
 

In the fawn Abyssinian the base colour is beige (cream) with a very pale ground colour, which is also cream in tone, the hairs are ticked with dark cream.
Chest, stomach, inside of the legs are coloured with the very pale cream ground colour and don't show any ticking.
The colour is very rare and appears to be slightly dull, it is a colour for cat fanciers.

fawn
fawn
 

In the black silver Abyssinian the base colour is silver white, the hairs are ticked with black.
It is very difficult in this colour not to have a yellow tinge in the coat (mainly not in the face, on the back and the front legs) which is caused by too much rufismus.
Chest, stomach, inside of the legs are silver white without any ticking or darker colour patches.

black silver ticked
black silver
black silver ticked
Aysun van Sartum
Breeder: Mischa Verhoef, Sartum cattery, Netherlands
 
Not all colours are recognized in all organizations, this differs quite a lot.
In some organizations also "red" (and cream, and tortie) is recognized, based on the sex-linked gene O.
 

Literature

The literature does not tell you, that a certain breed is specifically affected by many genetic defects.
Due to the progress in gene technology you get more knowledge about the genes (it is the same with humans).

The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication, Science Express June 28, 2007, Science July 27, 2007, Vol. 317, pages 519-523
describes the sequencing of the DNA of the domestic cat, where it turned out that the domestic cat (and the Abyssinian belongs to domestic cats) originates from the Felis slivestris lybica.

Study Traces Cat's Ancestry to Middle East, The New York Times, Science, June 29, 2007
You can register yourself for free.

African Wildcat, IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group

Felis chaus, IUCN/SSC Red List of Threatened Species

Cats, Their Points & Characteristics, Dr William Gordon Stables, 1876, Dean & Son, London

The Book of the Cat, Frances Simpson, 1903, Cassell and company, limited in London
If you click on the link, you can download the complete book.

Our cats and all about them
Harrison Weir
London, Fanciers' Gazette, 1892

Harry Bloks historische Abessinier
with many pedigrees and pictures of historical Abyssinians.

The Abyssinian Homepage
Very detailed history, and many articles.

 

Inherited diseases

Important note:
These diseases do not tell you, that a certain breed is specifically affected by many genetic defects.
Due to the progress in gene technology you get more knowledge about the genes (it is the same with humans).
It tells you, how carefully and selectively breeders breed the Abyssinian.

Progressive Retina-Atrophy (PRA)
is a progressive degeneration of the photo receptors in the retina and loss of vision.
Since the begin of 8/2007 there is a DNA-test for the recessive type of the progressive degeneration of rods and cones in the retina of Abyssinian and Somali - rdAC.
Also a DNA-test is available for the domonant inherited type of PRA - Rdy.

Pyruvatcinase deficiency (PK-def)
leads to a special type of anemia. The cats miss the enzyme Pyruvatcinase in the red blood cells (erythrocytes), which is necessary for energy production. The consequence is a disturbed enzymatic reaction, called the glycolysis (split of glucose, an energy carrier), the life span of the red blood cells, which is usually 70-120 days, is drastically shortened. this fact leads to a chronic, regenerative hemolytic anemia.
This disease is inherited.
DNA-Test is available.

Renal Amyloidosis
is a defect in metabolism, which causes that proteins, which cannot be detracted, called amyloides, are settled in the kidneys. This disease becomes virulent between an age of 4 to 7 years, and can be found in 75% of diseased males. Consequently it leads to chronic kidney insufficiency (CNI), which usually leads to death.

Patella luxation
is a deformation in the knee or the patella, where the patella is dislocated temporarily or permanently.

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[UnusualAbyCats]
Unusual Abyssinian colors
 
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Breed profile

The Abyssinian is a very elegant and active shorthair cat.
Size is medium.
The body together with the legs form more or less a square. The body is very muscular with sinewy slender legs.
The shape of the head is a short modified wedge where all lines and curves are soft and gentle.
What does that mean ?
Looking on the head either from the front or in profile there should not be seen any straight lines or flat planes. The forehead is gently curved, the muzzle is gently curved and round, i.e. the head is not pointed.
When viewed from the side the head is rather short, the nose shows a gentle curve and the profile is not straight.
Ears are fairly large and wide at the base, when viewed from the side they are slightly tilted forward, called pricked, which gives the cat this certain alert expression.
Eyes are large and almond in shape and very brilliant, you get caught by these eyes.
The tail is medium to almost long with a rounded tip, i.e. not pointed like in the Siamese.

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The most characteristic and important part of the Abyssinian is its coat, in the non-silver colours it shows a rich base colour and each hair of the upper body parts is ticked, which means each hair shows several bands of the base colour alternating with the darker colour of the ticking, the tips of the hairs are coloured with the same darker colour as the ticking.
The ticking is it what gives that certain impression of wild hairs as you can see it also for example in rabbits and deer.
The underside of the body (chest, stomach, inside of the legs) is without ticking.

In the face you can see, that the Abyssinian is a tabby cat (called Ticked Tabby), because you can find the typical tabby markings like the "M" on the forehead and the rims around the eyes. But on all the other parts, like around the neck, the flanks, the legs and the tail no stripes or rings are permitted.
The best place to see which colour the ticking has is the tail tip which is uniform in colour.

Hairs are quite fine and thin.
The Abyssinian has short hairs which are close lying to the body.

 

History

The Abyssinian is one of the oldest breeds and very popular. The coat pattern is based on one single gene, called Ta (ticked tabby).

There are several theories about the origin of the Abyssinian:

One theory says that the origin can be traced back to the pictures and sculptures of Ancient Egypt.

Tomb of Nebamun
Wall painting - Hunting scene in the tomb of Nebamun near Thebes, about 1400 BC
Detail: cat
Detail: cat

The same source is also cited as origin of the Egyptian Mau.

Another theory says that the Abyssinian originates from the jungles of Southeast Asia - because the gene Ta could only be found in cats living along the coast of the Indian Ocean (between Singapore and Sri Lanka), whilst this gene could not be found in cats of Egypt and Est Africa.
An Exhibit in the Natural Science Museum in Leiden (Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, Netherlands), dated at 1833/1834, with the plate titled "Patrie, domestica India" looks very similar to the Abyssinian cat, and has the same ticked coat as the ruddy Abyssinian.

See also in the chapter Literature: The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication

Wild cats looking similar to the Abyssinian are the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) and the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus):

African Wildcat
African Wildcat (Felis slivestris lybica)
Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Jungle Cat
Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)
Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Please note that also the Egyptian Mau and the Chausie claim these cats to be their origin.

Newer history

About 1868 a cat, named Zula, was imported by Mrs Captain Barret-Lennard from Abyssinia to England. 1868 was the date, when the Abyssinian War ended.
In the book "Cats, Their Points & Characteristics" by Dr William Gordon Stables, 1876, Dean & Son, London, Stables writes:

Zula, importiert von Mrs Captain Barrett-Lennard
"Zula, the property of Mrs. Captain Barrett-Lennard. This cat was brought from Abyssinia at the conclusion of the war..."

How the cat came from Southeast Asia, which is considered to be the origin of the Abyssinian cat, to Abyssinia, is an open question.

In Harper's Weekly supplement, January 27, 1872, is a drawing of an Abyssinian, which was exhibited in 1871 at Crystal Palace, London.

Harper's weekly supplement January 1868: drawing of an Abyssinian
Abyssinian at the bottom right.
"The third prize was taken by the Abyssinian cat, shown in the lower right-hand corner of the illustration. She was captured in the late Abyssinian war, and was mostly remarkable for her woe-begone appearance, seemingly discontented at her sudden elevation into notoriety, and longing for her barbaric freedom in the good old days of King Theodore."

The breed was recognized in England in 1882.
The first standard can be found in Our cats and all about them, Harrison Weir, London, Fanciers' Gazette, 1889,
page 58: description, page 135: Points of Excellence.
"N.B. The Abyssinian Silver Gray, or Chinchilla, is the same in all points, with the exception of the ground colour being silver instead of brown. This is a new and beautiful variety."
Why it took such a long time until the silver Abyssinian was recognized, is something difficult to understand.

In 1896 the first Abyssinians were registered in the stud book of the National Cat Club:
Sedgemere Bottle, born in 1892 and Sedgemer Peaty, born in 1894, owned by Mr. Sam Woodiwiss. Peaty belonged to a Mr. Swinyard, from whom he later was purchased by Mr. H.C. Brooke.

The name of this breed was quite different, it was called Abyssinian, Hare-cat or bunny-cat, because its ticked coat looks similar to the coat of rabbits; in France the ruddy Abyssinian is still called 'lièvre'.

Sedgemere Peaty
The Book of the Cat, Frances Simpson, 1903

Page 301:
"The colour of an Abyssinian should be a sort of reddish-fawn, each individual hair being " ticked " like that of a wild rabbit hence the popular name of " bunny cat." The great difficulty in breeding these cats is their tendency to come too dark and too heavily striped on the limbs ; the face should be rather long, the tail short and thick, and the ears large. These points are well shown by " Little Bunny Teedle Tit," first in the Abyssinian class at the 1902 Crystal Palace cat show, though in colour she was not the best penned. The Abyssinian should not be a large, coarse cat. A small cat of delicate colouring and with the abovementioned body properties is by far to be preferred to the large, coarse, dark specimens one sees winning under some all-round judges, merely because of their size."

Mrs. Simpson calls the Abyssinian an Asian cat.

Abyssinian and Indian cat
The Book of the Cat, Frances Simpson, 1903

All other colors of the breed could also be seen quite early, like the so called red Abyssinian, which is already mentioned in 1887.
Amongst the English breeders, which contributed to the breed, we should mention: Mrs. Constance Carew-Cox, Miss E.A. Clarke, Mrs. Frederick, Mrs. Patman, Lady Edith Douglas-Pennant, Lady Decies, Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and Mr. H.C. Brooke.

In July 1903 a very fine female, called Fancy Free, silver, was born; on July 15, 1905 the male Aluminium, silver, was born. Both cats were bred by Mrs. Carew-Cox. Fancy Free won the championship in the exhibition in Westminster in 1909. Fancy Free and Aluminium produced a male, called Aluminium II, silver, which was born on September 3, 1907. This boy was imported by Ms Jane R. Cathcart, Oradell, New Jersey, to the US., she also purchased a female, called Salt. Both cats were exhibited in Boston in 1909.

Aluminium II, silver
Male Aluminium II, silver

Another cat, which appears in many pedigrees, is CH Woodrooffe Ras Seyum, which was pictured in the November-issue 1968 of the National Geographic journal.

CH Woodrooffe Ras Seyum
National Geographic, November 1938
CH. Woodrooffe Ras Seyum, born September 21, 1935,
Breeder Major E. Sydney Woodiwiss from England,
owned by Mrs. H. Earl Nack USA

In 1926 Major E. Sydney Woodiwiss from England founded the first Abyssinian Cat Club.

Already in 1917 the first Abyssinians were registered with CFA, but only the color ruddy and sorrel. In 1984 the blue color, in 1989 the fawn color was recognized by CFA.
In 1929 the Abyssinian was recognized in France. In 1933 the first Abyssinians were registered in Germany by 1.DEKZV e.V.

 

Temperament

The Abyssinian is extremely gentle and affectionate to people. They are very good companions, not excessively "talkative". They are interested in their surroundings, which gives them this very special expression in their sparkling brilliant eyes. Nothing is too small, nothing too big not to be the subject of their adventure of investigation.
They love to climb, but very seldom break or disturb things, even when they move between things like a slalom skier.
This breed seems to be able to read and anticipate the needs of their favorite persons.
 

Grooming

The Abyssinian has very short and rather fine hairs, and the coat is close lying. Their coat has no tendency to get filthy or knotted. They do not need to be bathed or excessively combed and brushed. Grooming is rather easy, from time to time one should lightly brush them so that the old and dead hairs get out from the coat.
 
 

 
 
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