Somali Breed Synopsis
Glowing Ticked Coat A Breed Is Born
Somali cats and their short haired cousins, the Abyssinians, are unique in the pedigreed cat world because these breeds are based on a coat pattern found in no other breed. Abys and Somalis have ticked coats that resemble fox fur. Each hair is striped with four to 12 bands of color that alternate, light and dark, light and dark. This is what gives their coats a “salt and pepper” appearance. In natural light, their coats glow with a rich mixture of warm, earthy colors. The Somali’s ticked coat is silkier than the Aby’s. The tail forms a full brush. They have a ruff around their neck (this takes a few years to develop fully and is more obvious in males), and ample breeches, giving a full-coated look. Somali breeders must be patient––it takes as long as 18 months for the full color and pattern of ticking to develop. In ACFA, Somalis are available in four colors: Ruddy, Red, Blue, and Fawn. The color of their paw pads varies with the coat color from black in the Ruddies, through mauve to pink for the other colors. Their eyes can be green or gold; the deeper the color the better. Somalis’ eyes are accentuated with dark vertical marks above, zigzag lines leading back toward the ears, and solid dark eyelid lines contrasting against light fur around each almond-shaped eye.
The Somali and its short haired parent breed, the Abyssinian, are considered by many to be the closest modern descendants of the sacred cats of Ancient Egypt. They certainly resemble many of the ancient bronze sculptures and paintings of cats found in Egyptian tombs––the same body type, shape of face, erect ears, and large almond-shaped eyes. English explorers imported the ancestors of our present-day Abyssinians and Somalis from north Africa to England in the early 1800s. Food shortages and other problems nearly eliminated the breed during World War I and again during World War II. Outcross breedings were used to keep the breed viable, and this may have been when the long hair gene was introduced to the
Many breeding lines of Abys carried the recessive longhair gene for several generations. Although many breeders preferred to deny the fact and hurriedly neutered or got rid of any unwanted long haired kittens, others found the cats extremely attractive. In the 1960's breeders in Canada and the U.S. began seriously breeding Somalis. Evelyn Mague was an early breeder who persisted in showing the longhairs and finally won their official acceptance by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1979. She had the unique honor of naming the breed which she did with a bit of ironic humor. Since some Aby breeders considered the new longhaired Abys as interlopers, she chose the name Somali because the ancient nation of Somalia shares a border with ancient Abyssinia. Thus, she likened the difference between the breeds to the borders between Somalia and Abyssinia––as man made.
A Breed Is Born
Somali cats like to be around people. They are alert and lively and constantly involved in their human’s activities. If you want a cat that goes off and leaves you alone, Somali cats are not for you! They have a naturally happy disposition, much like most dogs. Given the opportunity, many of them will lick your face and learn to retrieve toys and play other games. Somalis are intelligent, learn quickly, remember remarkably well, and stay playful throughout adulthood. They crave attention and want to stay near their human companions at all times, soliciting nuzzles and pats. They integrate readily with other animals, but since they are so outgoing, they tend to want to “run the show.” This usually isn’t much of a problem since their leadership soon brings out the playful nature of their companions as well.