The history of the Somali

In 1967 Evelyn Mague, an Abyssinian breeder (cattery Lynn-Lee) from America, worked in an animal shelter. One day a male cat was brought in who had had 5 different owners already. Evelyn Mague fell in love with this cat the moment she saw him; he was a longhaired Abyssinian! She called him George and found a loving new home for him. Then she started investigating the origin of George. To her suprise she found out that the parents of George stayed at her own cattery, the Abyssinian male Lynn-Lee's Lord Dublin and the Abyssinian female Lo-Mi-R's Trill-by. With these 2 cats she bred several more litters in which in total 6 more kittens were born with long hair. Because the Abyssinian was called after Abyssinia (Ethiopia nowadays), the alleged origin of this breed, Evelyn Mague decided to name the longhaired cats Somali, after the neighbouring country of Abyssinia to express the relation with the Abyssinian cat.

Evelyn Mague began to work on the recognision of the Somali breed and for this purpose she founded the Somali Cat Club of America (SCCA) in 1972. Seven years later, in 1979, the Somali achieved championshipstate at the CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) and with this the Somali was recognized as an official breed.

The question was how it was possible that all of the sudden longhaired Abyssinians, Somalis, were born. Around 1900 several experimental matings were conducted with the Abyssinian. For instance, they were mated to Persian longhairs and Angoras. The gene for longhair is recessive and the gene for shorthair is dominant. This means that the offspring of an Abyssinian and a longhaired cat appeares shorthaired, but does carry the hidden longhair gene. When 2 shorthaired Abyssinians are mated while both carrying the longhair gene, then there is a 25 % chance that a kitten will get the longhair gene from both parents. In that case a longhaired cat is born, nowadays called the Somali.


Lynn-Lee's Pollina, a ruddy Somali female from the first litter with Somali's only

It's very unlikely that George was the first longhaired Abyssinian. However, when a longhaired Abyssinian was born in a litter, most breeders made sure no one found out about it because they were not supposed to be in the litter. They were sold silently and seperately. That the presence of longhaired cats in Abyssinian litters was commonly known among the breeders became clear when no one was suprised once the existence of the Somali became public knowlegde.

All bloodlines in which Somalis appeared were eventually traced back to four Abyssinian males which were active in the 60's. Their common forfather was the Abyssinian male Raby Chuffa of Selene, born on 4 april 1952 in England who was exported to America in 1953. Raby Chuffa of Selene was a descendent of the female Roverdale Purrkins. She looked like an Abyssinian but her origin was unknown. Roverdale Purrkins, who died in 1956, is considered to be the origin of the longhair gene in our Somalis.

pedigree Raby Chuffa of Selene

Jutta Broisch from Koln, Germany,, imported the first pair of Somalis in 1977 into Europe. They were Foxtail Star Trek and Junee Noel. In 1979 Saskia and Klaas van Wijk (cattery Benvenida) imported the Somali ruddy female Nephrani's Royale into the Netherlands. Mrs Reiny van Haeringen-Schoo (cattery Van Candace) imported the sorrel Somali male Tigerlily's Sir Rodger and later on the Somali ruddy female Nephrani's Royale. She then bred the Somali female Rani Anjuli van Candace. In the early years of the Somali we mostly see ruddy (usual) and sorrel Somalis. Halfway the 80's the blue and fawn Somalis came into the picture, mostly in combination with silver.


Rani Anjuli van Candace, Somali ruddy female

 


Tigerlily's Sir Rodger, Somali sorrel male

Sources:
'Abessijnen en Somali's' written by Jean-Paul Maas
'Somalikatzen' written by Silke Offschinski
'Een kat... is een kat, is een kat' written by J.M. Lucardie