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Mike Bonnell

The Somali, despite its name, does not come from Africa. The recessive longhaired gene was present in the Abyssinian breed for years, probably introduced after World War II when the Aby breed was nearly wiped out in England. For many years, longhaired kittens from Aby breedings were quietly eliminated (some by placing as pets, sometimes not) until unrelated groups of breeders in Canada and the United States began working with these longhaired "throwaways" in the early 1960s to develop the breed that exists today.

The Somali breed was accepted for championship status in CFA in 1977, though only in ruddy; other colors -- red, blue, and fawn -- were accepted later. The breed was first imported to the UK in 1981, and received championship status from GCCF ten years later.

The Somalis perhaps most easily described as a longhaired Abyssinian, although over time, the types have diverged some and these breeds no longer look like exact counterparts. This lively breed with a bushy tail has sometimes been called the "fox cat". Its dense, soft coat is ticked in the manner associated with wild cats.

Somalis are extroverted, active, inquisitive, very affectionate and people-oriented. They can be stubborn and obedience is better won with love and praise than with punishment.

Although sources often state that Somalis are not good apartment-dwellers, they are fine apartment cats as long as they have the run of the place. They do not like being caged or closely confined to a single room for extended periods.

They are most commonly available in blue, fawn, red (sorrel), and ruddy colors. They are also available in silver tones in Europe and less frequently in the United States, although many associations do not accept these color. They are accepted outside the United States in other colors in some other associations, including chocolate and lilac. Theoretically, the Somali can be found in twenty-eight colors total, but only the four mentioned above are widely accepted.

Interesting fact: The Somali shares the distinction with the Birman of being one of the most challenging breeds of cat to breed for show. This is because there are key features of the breed -- intense undercoat color and clarity (lack of stripes on the neck and legs) -- that tend to interfere with one another. The longer hair length also makes undesirable marks show up more than they do on their parent breed, the Abyssinian.

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