The Variant

What is a Variant?
To be short: an Abyssinnian Variant, also called Somali Variant, is a cat which appears to be shorthaired like an Abyssinnian, but carries next to one shorthair gene also one longhair gene.

Basic genetics
Katja II des Oncles du Baron, Abyssinnian Variant rudy female
* There are 2 types of genes: dominant genes (capital) and recessive genes (small letter). The dominant gene is a capital (L) and the recessive gene is a small letter (l).
* A dominant gene only needs to be present in a cat once to become visible in that cat. A recessive gene needs to be present at least twice in the cat in order to become visible.
* Fenotype = the appearence of the cat, genotype = the cat genetically
A cat is homozygote if it carries the same gene twice (f.e.:. LL of ll). It is pure for this property and its genotype is the same as itsfenotype. A cat is heterozygote if it carries 2 different genes for the same property, (f.e.: Ll). The genotype in this case is not the same as the cat's fenotype.
Castlemania's Dragonfly. Abyssinnian Variant lilac female
The fur:
A cat has 2 genes that determine the lenght of the fur of a cat. A pure shorthaired cat has 2 genes for shorthair: LL. A longhaired cat has 2 genes for longhair: ll. The combination Ll is also possible: one gene for shorthair and one gene for longhair. The gene for shorthair is dominant. This means that this cat fenotypically (in appearence) is a shorthair, but genetically carries the shorthair gene as well as the longhair gene. These cats we call Variants. The L gen is only once required to make the cat appear shorthaired, a cat needs 2 recessive genes (ll) to appear longhaired.

Gene combinations:
homozygote shorthair
Abyssinnian (pure)
heterozygote shorthair
Abyssinnian Variant, also called Somali Variant
homozygote longhair

Scheme of matings:
Abyssinian x Abyssinian
=100% Abyssinnian
Somali x Somali
ll x ll
= 100% Somali
Abyssinnian x Somali
LL x ll
= 100% Variant
Variant x Somali
Ll x ll
= 50% Somali and 50% Variant
Variant x Variant
Ll x Ll
= 25% Abyssinnian, 50% Variant and 25% Somali
Variant X Abyssinian
Ll x LL
= 50% Abyssinnian and 50% Variant

Only for breeding Somali cats
Of the above mentioned matings only the first four are to be considered. The matings Variant x Variant or Variant x Abyssinnian are rather undesirable. Reason for this is that it is not always obvious which kitten from such a litter is an Abyssinnian and which a Variant (often the fur of a Variant is somewhat softer then the fur of an Abyssinnian, and it also tends to be longer on the belly and at the rear legs, but this is not always the case!!!). The danger lies in the fact that a Variant may end up (more or less by mistake) in a pure Abyssinnian bloodline. In that case unexpected and unwanted Somali's can be born in litters considered to be pure Abyssinnian. For this reason Variants should only be used in breeding Somali's, meaning: only mate a Variant to a Somali!!
Castlemania's Oui-Doume_Ouat. Abyssinnian Variant rudy female.

Why are Variants used in the breeding programs of the Somali?
If numbers are considered, the Somali breed is a reasonably small breed. This means dat the genetic basis of the Somali is not that large. To prevent that too much inbreeding takes place, new bloodlines through outcrosses with Abyssinnians are brought into the Somali breed, supplying new genes and so a broader genetic base. Another reason for using Variants for the Somali is the fact that the origin of the Somali lies in the Abyssinnians. It is highly desirable to keep the appearence and character of the Somali as close to the Abyssinnian as possible, with the exception of the length of the fur, of course. Fortunately more and more breeders realise that a wide spread genetic base and a close relation to the Abyssinnian is needed and so more and more breeders are starting to use the Variants for this purpose. A third reason to use Variants might be the fact that one is trying to breed certain colors present in the Abyssinnian into the Somali breed.

Castlemania's Ladybug. Abyssiniann Variant chocolate

Abyssinian Variant or Somali Variant
There is some confusion and dispution about how to call a Variant. Several associations name these cats Abyssinian Variant while others name them Somali Variant. Reason to call the Variant an Abyssinian Variant lies in the fact that the cat appears to be an Abyssinnian. Reason to call the Variant a Somali Variant lies in the fact that these cats are used in the Somali breed. By calling the Variant a Somali Variant confusion about for wich breed these cats are supposed to be used is prevented.

Not just our breeds
The Variant is not just an issue with regard to our breeds. In other breeds which hold long- and shorthaired cats the Variant is an issue as well and are used for breeding the longhair versions. Think here off the Russian Blue and its longhaired version the Nebelung or the Siamese and its longhaired version the Balinese cat.

Bertha Slagter