What is the difference between an Abyssinian, a long haired Abyssinian, a Somali and a shorthaired Somali?
Here at Sunfox Somalis, we frequently have Abyssinian pets for sale. Sometimes the question comes up - how do you get an Aby from a Somali breeding program? Are these cats purebreds?
A little history of the Abyssinian and Somali breeds would be a good place to start. The Abyssinian is thought to be an ancient breed with origins in Egypt or Asia (or Abyssinia). The "Aby" as we like to shorten the name, was developed mostly in England in the early part of the 20th century. Some of these cats were imported to the US and Canada.
Occasionally Aby breeders would have a kitten or two with long hair. No one knew why, and the breeders quietly petted them out. In the 1960's, 2 breeders had such kittens, decided they were beautiful, and decided to work with them. The majority of Aby breeders at the time was very much against having these long haired Abyssinians become a recognized part of the breed, so a new breed was created and called Somali, after a country bordering Ethiopia, which in ancient times was called Abyssinia and was thought to be the origins of the Abyssinian cat.
Long haired Aby (Somali) breeders sometimes will go back to the original short haired Aby as an outcross and to improve certain qualities in the Somali lines. This is allowed by all cat registering associations around the world. The first generation offspring of a long haired Aby and an Aby will always be short haired. They differ from Abys only because they carry one different gene - the long haired gene, which they can pass on to their offspring. In all other respects - look, personality, behavior - they are Abys. In the next generation, the Aby carrying the long haired gene is mated with a long haired Aby (Somali) and then both long and short haired offspring can be produced. That is why sometimes Sunfox Somalis will have a litter with both Abys and Somalis.
All associations in the world recognize and accept these offspring as purebreds and will register them. They are called "Abyssinian variants" because they "vary" from Abyssinians by carrying that longhair gene. All but one association will provide a registration certificate that says "Abyssinian" and will allow them to compete in Abyssinian classes at cat shows. That one association, CFA (the Cat Fanciers Association) will register these cats as Somalis, and they are not allowed to compete. Sunfox registers all our cats with the CFA. Therefore, all our Abyssinians will have "Somali" printed on the registration certificate. If you wish to acquire one of our pet Abyssinian kittens, and you want the registration certificate to say "Abyssinian, " there will be an extra cost involved to register the litter in another association(TICA, The International Cat Association). it can be done, and is perfectly legitimate, but it does cost a little more simply because we don't usually do it.
We do not place these Aby variants with Abyssinian breeders - many Aby breeders feel the longhair gene should not be bred back into the Abyssinian gene pool. So we only place our "Abys" as pets, or with Somali breeders - not with Abyssinian breeders.
So you see, a Somali is nothing more than a long haired Abyssinian, so a short haired Somali is - you guessed it - an Aby!
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT