Somalis - The First Decade and Beyond
by Debbie & Larry Ritter
From 1990-91 CFA Yearbook
As evidenced by Chuffa's pedigree, above, two Roverdale cats appeared in the third and fourth generations of Chuffa's pedigree thus leading to the possible introduction of a longhair gene into these Aby lines. After the publication of "Somalis: A Search for Roots" Mrs. Robertson told Ms. Warren:
"I was quite astonished to see the Roverdale name in print after all these years. Purrkin's grandmother was brought to England by a sailor during World War II. She had some kittens - I do not know who the sire was. One of the kittens, a female, was given to a friend of mine, and the friend gave the kitten to me. This was around 1942.".
"I had always admired Abyssinians. I had seen them at the Crystal Palace show long ago, when I was a little girl. I remember two beautiful Abyssinians with their cages simply covered in ribbons. This must have been two or three years before the Crystal palace burned down. So I recognized this kitten as an Abyssinian. I named her Mrs. Mew.".
"I lived in a covered wagon in a field near the Kingston-on-Thames bypass. London was being blitzed at the time. I was in the Fire Service and stationed in the docks area. My friend looked after my kitten when I was on duty. Incendiary bombs often fell near the wagon, and the field was simply covered with shrapnel.".
"When the blitz ended, I joined the Mechanized Transport Corps and drove a truck for a factory. In due time, Mrs. Mew produced kittens. I do not know who the tom was, but one of the kittens was black. The other kitten, Purrkins, looked so much like her Abyssinian mother that I kept her. Mrs. Mew died in 1944.".
"After the war ended in 1945, I moved out near Dorking, where I started my cattery under the name of Roverdale, and I registered Purrkins. I located an Abyssinian male in Chatham and sent Purrkins to him. Tara was the result of that mating. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the cat or his owners.".
The importance of the above information supplied from Mrs. Robertson is that Roverdale Tara is the grand dam of Raby Chuffa of Selene. Roverdale Purrkins is a foundation registered Aby whose littermate was black. The obvious conclusion is that Mrs. Mew was a hybrid.
Continuing this train of thought, Purrkin's sire was an unknown cat of possible Siamese heritage. From correspondence from Tommy Meadow, Ms. Warren was able to learn that Purrkins was bred to Croham Rasambu. Rasambu's pedigree shows another unregistered cat in his immediate background. Thus, we have another incidence of "surprise" genes being introduced into Aby lines.
The use of foundation registrations in the Abyssinian is well documented in the Abyssinian breed. Foundation registrations are known not only in England, but in the United States as well, where the practice was still continued in the 1950's. Since Aby breeders were striving to produce only short coated cats, it is possible that the longhair gene remained "hidden" for many years, and only surfaced occasionally when line breedings were done between Abys carrying the recessive longhair gene.
However, in spite of the above, it has been documented that since the late 1800's, outcrossing of Abys to other breeds has occurred. In light of this information, it is possible that the longhair gene may have been implanted into the Aby gene pool decades prior to the confusion exhibited in the post World War II years. It is also a possibility that the longhair gene has always been a part of the genetic makeup of the Aby.
In 1951 Helen and Sidney Denham published a booklet about the Abyssinian cat entitled "Child of the Gods". During the course of their treatise, it becomes quite obvious that the Aby was outcrossed to several different breeds at the turn of the century.
In fact, when examining show records of the time, one sees silver as well as chinchilla Abyssinians being exhibited in the British shows. In order to achieve these colors, deliberate outcrossing was done with silver tabby shorthairs. Some breeders felt that using the silver Aby in breeding programs caused the ruddies to become "muddy". In an attempt to thwart this, an additional outcross was done with a cat described as a "red self" but with proper Aby body type. Considering this type of outcrossing it is not surprising that a longhaired Aby would eventually result.
Although we may never be able to pinpoint in which ways the longhair gene was introduced to the Abyssinian, the eventual result was the Somali, and the Somali is here to stay!
The Somali is by no means exclusively an American phenomenon. Somalis have appeared in all parts of the world in which British Abys have been exported. Somalis have even appeared in Australia and New Zealand where their pedigrees closely resemble those of their American Aby counterparts which produced Somalis.
In addition, we have a sizeable contingent of breeders working with CFA Somalis in Japan. In recent years, Somalis have also captured the hearts of breeders in Hawaii and several people are actively breeding Somalis on the islands.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
As we enter our second decade, what is the future of our beloved Somalis? It is a very bright one. Never before have we seen the quality of cats being shown throughout all parts of the country. Dedicated breeders have been working very hard to produce not only a quality animal but a healthy one as well.
In the long run, it doesn't really matter who were the "culprits" in introducing the longhair gene into some Aby lines. Those of us who are totally captivated by the Somali are glad that these cats were the end result. Cat Fanciers worldwide can be assured that Somalis will be around to capture their hearts for many decades to come.