The Abyssinian with it's little wild cat looks is widely considered to be one of the oldest breeds of cat. The first mention of the breed is when an ’Abyssinian’ cat took a prize at the Crystal Palace show in 1871. The original cats were reported to have been imported from Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia) around 1868. This was possibly attributed to the British troops returning from the war in Abyssinia in that year.
Unfortunately it is impossible to trace the ancestry of these original cats since there is a lack of written records. Other possible origins have been suggested such as the coast of the Indian Ocean or the South East of Asia. Although the true origins are difficult to trace, the Abyssinian breed was developed and refined in England. It will appear in the Foreign section at cat shows but is recorded as an English breed.
Breeders of this beautiful cat had to wait until 1929 before it became recognized by the GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy). Since then the breed has become increasingly sought after and have been exported around the world. This popularity is due to the nature and intelligence of the cats as much as the physical appearance.
The Abyssinian has often been likened to the worshipped cats of the Ancient Egyptians, with its regal posture and statuesque qualities. It is an exceptionally elegant breed, with a well-muscled, lithe and supple body of medium proportions. The legs are fine with small oval feet, and the tail is thick at the base but tapering. The eye are almond shaped and outlined with the darker colour of the cat, and can be amber, hazel or green. The ears are large and wide set, ideally with a little tuft at the tip. There is a darker shading along the spine ending with a darker tail tip.
The most distinctive feature of this breed is the ticked (or agouti) coat. The coat is fine but not soft, each hair having at least four bands of colour, where the root is the base colour of the cat, and the last band is the darker or ticking colour. This ticking gives the coat a similar appearance to a wild rabbit or hare, indeed these cats are often referred to as ‘Bunny Cats’. This also gives them the ‘wild cat’ look, especially if good ear tufts are present.
The breed is recognized in five classes at full championship status in the UK, these are Usual (Ruddy), Sorrel, Blue and Fawn, the fifth class being the same four colours but with a Silver base. Chocolate and Lilac are now being bred and have now successfully achieved championship status. There also other new colours being introduced such as Tortie, Red and Cream.