The Somali is a long-haired Abyssinian and originates from Abyssinian breeding programmes where occasionally a litter of Abyssinians would throw a longhaired cat. Despite the name, the breed was actually developed in the United States.
The Abyssinian ancestors are an ancient breed of cat, who’s origins are not entirely known, but may be descended from Egyptian cats.
Back to the Somali, the gene responsible for long hair in the cat is recessive, and the cat needs two copies of the gene to have long hair. A cat can have short hair but carry the recessive gene for long hair. Mated to another short haired cat who also carries the recessive longhair gene and the offspring can be born with short or long hair. In the past, these “longhaired Abyssinians” were sold as pets, but at a later stage, breeders decided to develop these cats and establish a new breed.
This all started with an American lady by the name of Evelyn Mague, an Abyssinian breeder. In 1967, a male kitten was born who was named George. It is George who was to become the catalyst of the Somali breed development. George was the result of a mating between Trill-By, owned by Charlotte Lohmeyer and Evelyn’s stud, Lynn-Lee’s Lord Dublin. In this litter was a “fuzzy” male who looked like the odd longhaired Abyssinian that occasionally cropped up in the breed. Charlotte gave this kitten away and shortly afterwards the kitten vanished.
At the time, Evelyn was also involved in cat rescue and one day a lady turned up on her doorstep to surrender a cat who she had become allergic to. The cat was George. Having not lived with another cat since he was a young kitten, he didn’t get along well with them and was neutered and found a new home. Evelyn felt it very unfair that these beautiful longhaired cats were so devalued and decided to show and develop these longhaired cats. There was considerable resistance to the development of the Somali breed initially.
In 1972 the Somali Cat Club was formed. The breed was exported to Europe in 1977 where breeding programmes were established. Back in the USA, Somali’s were awarded championship status with the CFA in 1978.
Appearance of the Somali cat:
The Somali has a similar shape to the Abyssinian, but with the longer coat. Unlike other long haired breeds, the Somali has one or two big sheds a year but otherwise, loses little hair.
They are a medium sized cat, well muscled, with a long and lean body. The legs are slim, with small, oval paws with fine bone structure.
The head is broad, with almond shaped eyes, large, low-set ears.
The coat is medium-long with a ruff and a thick, plumed tail. The coat takes up to two years to fully develop. All Somalis have ticking in their coat, which means each hair the base colour is interrupted by two or three bands of darker pigment. The tip of the hair is always dark. The Somali comes in the following colours, red (sorrel); blue; fawn and silver.
The Somali shares the same personality as the Abyssinian. They are an extremely active breed of cat known for its love of high places.
They are extroverted, gregarious, charming, inquisitive. They are on the go all the time. They are great fun to share a home with, loving to be with their human companions and help in whatever you may be doing. They do not do well if left for long periods of time on their own so if you are out of the house for long stretches, a companion is recommended.
Their intelligence makes them an easy breed to train to walk on a harness, which is a good thing as they should not be allowed to roam outdoors on their own. Their inquisitive nature can easily get them into trouble.
The coat is relatively easy to care for and requires only a 5-minute groom once or twice a week to get rid of loose hairs.