The Abyssinian cat is one of the most popular cat breeds today. With its distinctive ticked coat and large ears, the Abyssinian cat stands out from other breeds. But where did this breed originate and what’s its closest feline relative? Let’s take a look at the history and origins of the Abyssinian cat.
What is an Abyssinian Cat?
The Abyssinian is a breed of domesticated cat with a distinctive ticked coat pattern. The ticked pattern appears as bands of color on each hair shaft with the darker color closest to the skin and lighter bands on the tips. This creates an agouti effect overall. Abyssinians have large ears and almond-shaped eyes that are either gold, green, hazel or copper in color. Their bodies are medium in size and build and tails are slightly thick and tapered. Abyssinian cats are intelligent, active and outgoing in personality.
Origins of the Abyssinian Cat Breed
The Abyssinian cat originated in Great Britain, with the first known Abyssinian brought from Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia) in 1868. This cat was exhibited in the Crystal Palace in London and named Zula. Early breeders then worked to develop the Abyssinian breed using crosses with other shorthair breeds such as the Burmese and Siamese. This established the distinctive ticked coat and large ears.
The Abyssinian was one of the first breeds registered by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1910. But the breed was nearly wiped out during World War II. After the war, breeders worked diligently to resurrect the Abyssinian using cats that had survived. The American Cat Association recognized the breed in 1908.
Closest Feline Relative of the Abyssinian
Genetically, the Abyssinian cat is most closely related to the Southeast Asian ticked tabby cat. Studies have found that the Abyssinian shares the tabby gene variant with cats from Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and Malaysia. This demonstrates that the original Abyssinian cats brought to Britain likely came from Southeast Asia rather than Ethiopia. The Abyssinian’s distinct ticked coat closely resembles the classic tabby pattern seen in cats from this region.
Additionally, genetic analysis shows the Abyssinian cat does not closely align with Egyptian cats or cats from Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. So while called Abyssinian, the breed does not originate from Abyssinia but rather Southeast Asia.
Other Key Facts About the Abyssinian Cat
- Common coat colors are ruddy, red, blue, and fawn.
- The breed typically lives 9-15 years.
- Abyssinians are intelligent, playful and athletic cats.
- They have excellent climbing and hunting skills.
- Regular brushing is required to maintain the coat’s condition.
While called an Abyssinian cat, genetic research reveals this breed’s closest feline relative is actually the ticked tabby cat native to Southeast Asia. The Abyssinian shares the distinct tabby coat pattern and likely originated from imported cats from that region. Now one of the most popular shorthair breeds, the outgoing and active Abyssinian continues to charm cat enthusiasts worldwide.