This is the brief story of the breed of cats known as the Abyssinian cat of Ethiopia, a creature shrouded in Mystery and intrigue. It may be a new species that cropped out of the ordinary tabby kitten or a creation of a completely new species from a genetic freak event or the introduction of an unknown species that just looked like an ordinary cat, known only by the observing eyes of an expert. This is the story of the Abyssinian cat of Ethiopia that wandered to England from Ethiopia with the gentle care of a British soldier, a certain Captain Barrett Leonard, after the battle of Magdala of 1868 in Ethiopia and the suicide of the great Ethiopian Emperor Atse Tewodros. The records of these events in England or in Abyssinia exists but the story that was passed down orally also continues to this day. The photo above shows the Abyssinian Cat (lower right) in 1872 Harpers Weekly (Original Page is with Ethiopedia and can be purchased for 200 dollars or highest bidder).
The Abyssinian cat is considered as one of the smartest and gentlest of all cats but unfortunately the origin still remains in question or at best murky. It is not surprising when it comes to things out of Africa; questions are either artificially created or outright perceived or interpreted differently. No doubt, this is just another form of cultural or scientific discrimination that is constantly thrown in the faces of the just and peaceful people of Ethiopia.
The Abyssinian cat, as it is officially known, is one of the oldest breed of the cat family. It was found to be closely related to the ancient Egyptian Cats after careful anatomical studies of the ears, body structure and head. The home of the Abyssinian cat is Ethiopia. The Aby, as it is affectionately called by the English, is a Wild African Cat similar to wild cats in North Africa called Felis Lybica. The first of these cats out of Africa was aptly named Zula, a geographic location in Ethiopia near the Red Sea.
The fur is ticked with black or brown making the cat very unusual. In fact, sometimes the hair is ticked with four different colored ticks. The Abyssinian cat was renamed as a British Tick or a Bunny Cat after many discussions by the cat fanciers considered its origin to be from the British tabby cats rather from Ethiopia.Domestic cats are rare in Ethiopia or so it appeared to the British. In 1805, Henry Salt indicated in his travels in Ethiopia that every household had cats. He did not describe them in great detail. The British however perceived that the Ethiopians, as eaters of raw meat, to never have been animal lovers nor keep pets. This perception led to disagreements in 1900 about the origin of these cats and an attempt to rename the Abyssinian Cat as British Ticked Cat or Bunny Cat. This attempt failed after greater interest and examination of the cat by cat lovers and further discoveries of these cats in Ethiopia. The name Abyssinian refused to disappear and ever since these cats remained as Abyssinian cats.
In order to preserve these ancient looking cats from the ravages of war, a stock of Abyssinian cats was also sent to America during World War II where registration of the cats began. Another pair was imported from England to the United States in 1935. Unfortunately, it died as a kitten. The best Abyssinian cat in England, called Ras Seyoum, was imported from England to the United States in1938. This incident caused a great uproar in England because the United States was now becoming a center for the interest in these unusual and rare Ethiopian cats.
Is Abyssinian a breeder’s creation? Most likely it is a mixture of a British tabby and an the wild African cat (more accurately an Ethiopian Wild Cat) and a domestic cat. Felis Lybica, the Wild African Cat (more accurately an Ethiopian Wild Cat not yet known or discovered), lives in the Abyssinian breed and is the ancestor of the cats of Egypt Western Europe Greece and Rome. Proof that Abyssinian cat exists in Ethiopia is the birth in 1957 in Addis Ababa of a cat whose father was a wild cat and mother a domestic cat. The MacGuires, teachers at the Haile Sellassie I Day School adapted this cat as a pet. His name was Smokey P. and an exit visa had to name him as a Pelt (skin) with a live animal inside. Finally after a wild trip through Egypt, Europe and New York the cat ended up in his new home in Massachusetts.
The advances in DNA technology developed species identification of any living organism including the cat. Recent results have concluded that in fact the Abyssinian cat’s origin is in India not Ethiopia. The question however is where the Indian cat did originate from if there is any truth in the study? There seems to be more questions raised than answered! Apparently a ticked cat in the Leiden Zoological Museum in Holland was obtained from India in 1834 and labeled Patrie Domestica India and that the modern Abyssinian cats came from these cats. DNA also shows genetic similarities between the Abyssinian and the Indian cats.
Ethiopian Wild Cats Discovered!! If you want to make heads turn try to locate the unique Abyssinian Cats in the wilds of Ethiopia. Do not confuse the cats with the more common domestic Talian and Engliz cats. Study the characteristics of the image on this website http://www.wnca.com.au (see above image).
Journey from the Blue Nile A History of the Abyssinian Cat by Aida Bartleman Zanetti, Elinor Dennis and Mary E. Hantzmon, United Abyssinian Club, Inc. 1960.
http://www.wnca.com.au Image of ruddy Abyssinian Cat http://www.abyssiniancatclub.com/VHS%20essay_abyssinian_cat.htm