Somalis - The First Decade and Beyond
by Debbie & Larry Ritter

From the 1990-91 CFA Yearbook, posted with permission from CFA

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Where did the Somali first originate and how are they different from the ever popular Abyssinian? The original Somalis were born to “registered” Abyssinian parents. It may be said that the Somali is simply a longhaired Abyssinian; but as mentioned earlier, there are some non-trivial differences between the two breeds.

Prior to a discussion of the origins of the Somalis, it is necessary to discuss some basic genetics concerning the longhair and shorthair genes and also the manner in which CFA allows the registration of both “long” and “short” haired Somalis.

The most important fact to consider is that the shorthair gene is dominant, and the longhair gene is recessive. This is always true in any breed. What this means is, if a cat is carrying the shorthair gene, it will be a shorthaired cat. However, a shorthaired cat may carry the longhair gene without showing any evidence of it.

As a consequence of the above, it is genetically possible for two shorthaired cats, who are both carrying the longhair gene, to produce a longhaired cat. However, no two longhaired cats, bred together, could possibly produce shorthair offspring.

The chart below shows the genetic results of the cross breeding of parents carrying combinations of the Shorthair and Longhair genes.

SS 100% SS 50% SS
100% SL
SL 50% SS
25% SS
50% SL
50% LL
LL 100% SL 50% SL
50% LL
100% LL

SS: Shorthair, not carrying the Longhair gene
SL: Shorthair, carrying the Longhair gene
LL: Longhair, not carrying the Shorthair gene

Since the acceptance of the Somali as a breed, CFA rules have allowed Somalis to be bred to Abyssinians. The purpose for this has been to increase the gene pool of the Somalis. The resulting kittens of any Somali to Aby breeding must all be registered as Somalis, regardless of the length of the coat. This is in spite of the fact that most resulting shorthaired kittens are visibly indistinguishable from their shorthaired Aby counterparts.

CFA only allows “shorthaired” kittens from an Aby to Somali breeding to be registered as Somalis. However, such kittens, may only be shown as AOV Somalis, and NOT as Abyssinians. It should be noted that this is primarily so because of the concerns of the Aby breeders to keep the occurrence of the longhair gene in the Abys to a minimum. The origins of the Somali, discussed further on in this article, shed some interesting light on such reasoning.

Since the Abyssinian is a shorthaired breed, how did it acquire the recessive longhaired gene? This is a question that has sparked debate for many years between Aby and Somali breeders. The answer to this question, if indeed it can ever be adequately answered, lies in a review of Somali and Abyssinian history dating back to the 1800’s.

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