LOST BREEDS - ALBINISTIC ABYSSINIAN
These were very different to the "Silver Abyssinian" (which also existed at that time).
The Albinistic Abyssinians had been bred by Sir William Cooke, of Newbury, but in 1927 his last male died, thus ending a very remarkable strain of blue-eyed albinistic Abyssinians. HC Brooke noted that a lady in Yorkshire owned a pair of these cats, but had never shown them and that she was contemplating having the male neutered. It was suggested that the strain derived from a cross with Siamese cat, but Sir William was confident that this was not the case and that the colouration did not bear out this theory. These cats were creamy white, with rabbit-coloured fur on their ears and an "eelstripe" or dorsal line down the back. Their eyes were blue suggesting a form of albinism, though otherwise they sound similar to silver Abyssinians. Lady Mary Barnard of County Durham also had several of these cats. In the conservative early days of the cat fancy, new colours turning up in an established breed were considered freaks or a sign of mis-mating.
According to "Cat Gossip," 22nd August, 1928: "Our earlier readers will remember that some time ago we referred to a most remarkable albinistic strain of Abyssinian, which cropped up amongst the cats owned by Sir William Cooke, of Newbury. They came quite creamy in colour, with blue eyes, and the ears and dorsal or “eel-stripe” pale wild rabbit colour — a most interesting mutation. Unhappily the strain died out; but we now hear from Mrs. Straker, of Richmond, who had a queen from Sir William, that she has a very nice male albinistic kitten, which is probably the only specimen now in existence, and consequently of very great scientific interest. We understand Mrs. Straker is prepared to part with this rarity, and ourselves regret that our age makes it useless for us to take up any breeding experiments. "
The follow-up to this was in "Cat Gossip," 12th September 1928: "Mrs. Straker informs us that the albinistic Abyssinian kitten we referred to has gone to her daughter, Lady Barnard. She has promised to try to obtain a photo, and we earnestly hope she may be successful in getting a really good one, for it is of scientific as well as of Fancy interest that a pictorial record be kept of this interesting and, we believe, unparalleled mutation.
Unfortunately no photo was published and no colour portraits were made. It was unfortunate that H.C. Brooke was feeling the ravages of age. In earlier years he was an avid collector and breeder of unusual varieties, but by the late 1920s he was dispersing his stock to other breeders.
The last mention I found was in "Cat Gossip," 29th May 1929: "A few years ago an extraordinary and beautiful albinistic form [of Abyssinian] appeared amongst those owned by Sir William Cooke; in these the ground colour was creamy white, but the ears and dorsal stripe showed the rabbit-coloured fur so characteristic of the breed. Unhappily this lovely mutation was allowed to die out, and at present I only know of one existing specimen. The eyes of these cats were blue. To me it is very maddening to think that apathy has been responsible for the loss of several charming varieties of cats, and when we consider how any interesting or pretty imitation appearing in Rabbits, Mice, or Rats is eagerly fostered, I feel the Cat Fancy has little cause tor pride. The fact that this Albinism appeared progressively shows that it was not, as has been suggested, due to a chance Siamese cross.
Although breeders understood that "throwbacks" occurred in cats, they did not understand recessive genes. The albinistic cats could have been due to a much earlier Siamese cross, with the genes lurking in the gene pool for several generations before two carriers were mated together.