Somali cats originate from Abyssinian cats. Long-haired kittens were born to Abyssinian parents, but there is debate whether this was cause by a recessive gene in purebred Abys or by mixed ancestry. You see the World War II was destructive to cat breeds also – after the war there were only a few Abys left. The breeders of those years may have bred their cats to other breeds to keep the breed alive at all (not to mention accidental breeding), and this may have brought the long hair gene into the gene pool. And, of course, one possibility is a genetic mutation.
Three explanations, all of which may be valid. Some genetic research has been done, and these seem to point to the first option – that long-haired breeds were purposefully used in Abyssinian breeding programs.
What is known, however, is that the gene that causes the beautiful long hair is recessive. This means that both parents must carry it in order for a long-haired kitten to be born.
In the early years of the breed the long coat was considered undesirable, and the breeders did not tell about them. Some, however, found these long-haired Abys beautiful and kept of breeding them.
All the Somalis in US can be traced back to one ancestor – a male Aby, Raby Chuffa of Selene. He arrived in the States from Britain in 1953. His ancestry can be traced back to an Aby dam called Mrs. Mews. Mrs Mews was brought into the country by a sailor who gifted the cat to Janet Robertson. This cat most likely carried the long-hair gene, as there were the occasional long-haired kitten in her descendants.
In the US the first breeder of Somalis was Evelyn Mague. She rescued a long-haired Aby called George from an animal shelter only to find out it was a descendant of one of her own Abys, Lord Dublin. She acquired the mother of George, Lo-Mi-R Trill By. With Lord Dublin as the sire, a new line of Abys was created.
When Abyssinian breeders did not like the new breed to be called long-haired Abyssinian, and so Evelyn Mague named the new cats Somalis (as Somalia was right next to Abyssinia on the map). She founded the Somali Cat Club of America in 1972.
The first person to breed Somalis in Canada was Ken McGill who met his first Somali at a cat show in Calgary, when he was a judge in the said show.
This beautiful feline was then bred as a breed in its own right from 1960s onwards in USA and Canada. The breed was accepted into Cat Fancier’s Association in the US in 1979, and was accepted as a breed in Europe only in the 1980s.
Thank you, Rita Bruche of Vivace Somali Cattery for the permission to use your beautiful photos.