The Way We Were:
Excerpts from the 1962 CFA Yearbook, Part 4

Ristokat Himalayans & Persians

Photos copyrighted by the individual photographers
Article copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Copying or redistribution of this article is strictly prohibited
without the express written permission of

The Abyssinian
by Grace Forrest and Jean Quiner

“But what is an Abyssinian?”

This question, asked many times by friends and cat lovers seeking a kitten, leads us to believe that a description and a brief history of the Abyssinian Breed may help to familiarize the general public and the newcomer to the Cat Fancy with this breed that is fast becoming so popular, both in the show ring and as a pet.

We will describe the appearance and character of the Abyssinian before discussing its origin. Most of the readers of this magazine are familiar with the well-written and descriptive CFA standard, and have been privileged to know not only the cat but many of its breeders, both in the United States and elsewhere, whose efforts to sustain and improve the breed have been so strikingly successful.

The Abyssinian cat is difficult to describe and their appeal, both physical and psychological is subtle. The Abyssinian is a lithe, graceful, short-haired cat of moderate size, though size is not an important factor in the show ring, with a characteristically “ticked” coat. Each hair is reddish brown, banded in three stripes of darker brown and tipped with brown or black to give a salt and pepper look in the overall picture. An “Aby” should be free from necklaces and other “tabby” markings and should have little white on mouth or throat and the entire coat is a distinct ruddy tone. The underparts are a solid color and vary in shades from deep, deep cream to reddish brown. The tail is tapering, tipped with black; the pads of the feet are also dark brown or black. The head should show a slightly rounded wedge without flat planes anywhere, with the brow and cheeks showing a gentle contour. The nose is tile red, the ears large and pointed, wide at the base; the eyes full and expressive with an almond shape with eye color as deep as possible, whether it be green, gold or hazel. The Abyssinian coat is smooth and close lying. The Abyssinian resembles no other breed of cat, either in appearance or temperament, and its coloring is unique.

[Note: At this point and time in CFA, ONLY the Ruddy Abyssinian was accepted.]

The less markings visible the better; at the same time, one must not attach too much importance to this factor. A “cobby, gray, unticked” Aby without markings should not be considered, because of this clearness, to be better than an Aby of lithe build, well ticked, with good color but also with a certain amount of “barring” on legs and neck.

The Abyssinian can be described as “alert, alive, with a gentle sense of humor and understanding.” They are exceptionally intelligent and respond to training readily. They delight in the splashing and spilling of their drinking water and will spend an evening retrieving small bits of paper. Elegant in appearance and incredibly swift, the Abyssinian is one of the rarer breeds. It is of a sweet disposition with a small bell-toned voice which makes it an ideal pet for apartment house dwellers.

The “Aby” has the distinction of being considered the closest modern representative of the sacred cat of ancient Egypt. It shows the same body shape, shape of face, erect ears, large eyes that are depicted in the ancient bronzes and tomb paintings. Many attempts have been made to identify the original Abyssinian cat with the sacred cat of Egypt. Certain it is that the Egyptians early in their history domesticated the African wild cat, and that the feline family was always respected, often venerated and at times worshipped in the Kingdoms of the Nile. Mummified cats have been found in the Egyptian tombs dating from the third dynasty, between 2600 and 2550 B.C. It is very possible that in the pre-Christian era, the sacred cat of Egypt, the Sudanese cats often mentioned in ancient history, and the Abyssinian cat are all one and the same; this supposition receives added weight from the obvious resemblance in form and contour of the Aby today to the statuettes found in the Egyptian tombs. Considering the consistent pattern developed from a study of the geography of Abyssinia, the Sudan and Egypt, the uncontroverted historical facts established by modern research and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from what otherwise must be considered highly remarkable coincidences, the conclusion is justified that the Egyptian, Sudanese, and the Abyssinian were one and the same animal and that, whether there are Abyssinian cats in Abyssinia today or not, their presence there was noted by an Archeological group in 1870, history proves that this breed enjoys an almost certain pedigree of more than three thousand years.

The Abyssinian as we know it, was first brought to England from Egypt in 1868; importations were limited and infrequent, and widespread popularity was achieved very slowly. These pioneer visitors to British soil were brought by returning diplomats and Army personnel, and adapted themselves to the change in climate and diet with great difficulty. Only the painstaking care of the English breeders preserved them from extinction, and succeeded over the years in standardizing and improving their type. The privations of World War II depleted the stock, and food shortages worked great hardships on the Fanciers of the British Isles, though in recent years they have regained lost ground and are again able to furnish us with outstanding specimens for outcrossing.

Abyssinians were first introduced into the United States about 1933 and were a rarity in this country up to the end of the war, but during the last ten years the number of breeders and cats has grown tremendously, and their devotees among us have done wonders in educating the public to the merits of this time-honored animal, at once widening its popularity and improving its characteristics.

The Aby is now among the most favored short hairs in show circles and is fast enhancing its reputation as a pet. Given good care, it is a hardy animal and often survives illnesses fatal to other breeds.

Happy in nature, intriguing in personality, trilling in voice, dramatic in appearance, the dancing Aby, friendly miniature Lion, is admired and loved today as it was nearly four thousand years ago when Usirtasen III immortalized its noble head in stone in the sanctuary at Bubastis.

Back :: Top :: Home



Legal Disclaimer | Report A Broken Link or Typo

Website created & maintained by
ShowCatsOnline Web Design