One of the most recent additions to the cat fancy, the Savannah cat is a hybridisation of the domestic cat and the African Serval. Its history begins in 1986 when a Bengal breeder by the name of Judee Frank from Pennsylvania crossed a male Serval belonging to Suzi Wood, with a female Siamese cat. The resulting offspring was a kitten who was named “Savannah”. She had the traits of both the Serval and the Siamese. Savannah, an F1 (first generation hybrid) was mated back to a domestic cat, producing a number of litters and proving that she was fertile (it is common for hybrids to be sterile). A breeder by the name of Patrick Kelley bought a female from one of these litters, however, neither Judee or Suzi was interested in going any further in establishing a new breed. Patrick made contact with several Serval owners and eventually a breeder by the name of Joyce Sroufe began working with him to establish this new breed.
A breed profile was written for the Savannah in 1996 by Patrick and Joyce, and the breed was accepted for registration with TICA (The International Cat Association) in 2001 and accepted for championship in 2012. Outcrossing is still permitted with the Egyptian Mau, Ocicat, Oriental and the Domestic Shorthair.
The breed is still relatively rare throughout the world but is rapidly gaining popularity.
Appearance of the Savannah:
The Savannah is one of the largest breeds of domestic cat. It is often described as a “long and leggy” cat. It is tall, long and lean and well muscled. Hind legs are longer than the front legs, paws are medium sized and oval in shape.
The small head should form an equilateral triangle, it is longer than it is wide, ears are tall, wide, round and set high on the head, eyes medium sized and should point down, towards the nose. The muzzle is rounded. One interesting feature is the ocelli on the ears, these are wide bars which are said to mimic the appearance of eyes.
The coat may vary depending on the breeds in that particular lineage, but the background should be gold to brown with bold black to dark brown spots or silver with bold black spots. It is short to medium length and close lying to the body.
Females are noticeably smaller than the males.
Temperament of the Savannah:
The Savannah is a lively, alert, energetic breed of cat. They are an incredibly intelligent animal, and can be trained to walk on a leash and play fetch. They are playful and require a lot of exercise.
Unlike most other domesticated breeds of cat, a lot of Savannah’s love water. Another unique feature is they wag their tail like a dog.
Savannah’s are exceptional jumpers and love to be up high, it is common for them to be comfortably jump 6-8 feet high.
They are said to be dog like and love to follow their owners around the house and “help” with household tasks.
Early generations of the Savannah are said to have a “chirp”, which can be heard in the youtube clip at the end of the article.