SHORTHAIRED CATS OF THE 19TH CENTURY - ABYSSINIAN
Abyssinian (Gordon Stables)
The first real mention of Abyssinian cats appeared to be in the book "Cats, Their Points, Etc" by Gordon Stables published in 1874 (HC Brooke erroneously stated a publication date of 1882 in his booklet on the breed). The British troops that had fought the war under Napier left Abyssinia in May, 1868, so the cat had probably been in this country for some time even before Stables' book was published. The book contained a colour print of 'Zula, the property of Mrs. Captain Barrett-Lennard' and stated that the cat was 'brought from Abyssinia at the conclusion of the war, fed on the way home on raw beef and was long very wild. she is now very fond of her mistress, but has a great many eccentricities which other cats have not, and is altogether a wonderful specimen of cat-kind'."
Abyssinian (Harrison Weir)
Abyssinian cats were mentioned by C H Ross in his "Book of Cats" (1867): "In Abyssinia cats are so valuable that a marriageable girl who is likely to come in for a cat is looked upon as quite an heiress" although this may be fanciful rather than accurate. Gordon Stables mentioned the Abyssinian in "Cats, Their Points, Etc." (1874, sometimes given as 1882) while Louis Wain's contribution to "Living Animals of the World" included the statement "The Manx cat is allied to the Abyssinian". According to Weir:
"I now come to the last variety of the tabby cat, and this can scarcely be called a tabby proper, as it is nearly destitute of markings, excepting sometimes on the legs and a broad black band along the back. It is mostly of a deep brown, ticked with black, somewhat resembling the back of a wild (only not so grey) rabbit. Along the centre of the back, from the nape of the neck to the tip of the tail, there is a band of black, very slightly interspersed with dark brown hairs. The inner sides of the legs and belly are more of a rufous-orange tint than the body, and are marked in some cases with a few dark patches; but they are best without these marks, and in the exhibition pens it is a point lost. The eyes are deep yellow, tinted with green; nose dark red, black-edged; ears rather small, dark brown, with black edges and tips; the pads of the feet are black. Altogether, it is a pretty and interesting variety.
It has been shown under a variety of names, such as Russian, Spanish, Abyssinian, Hare cat, Rabbit cat, and some have gone so far as to maintain that it is a cross between the latter and a cat, proving very unmistakably there is nothing, however absurd or impossible, in animal or everyday life, that some people are not ready to credit and believe. A hybrid between the English wild cat and the domestic much resembles it; and I do not consider it different in any way, with the exception of its colour, from the ordinary tabby cat, from which I have seen kittens and adults bearing almost the same appearance. Some years ago when out rabbit-shooting on the South Downs, not far from Eastbourne, one of our party shot a cat of this colour in a copse not far from the village of Eastdean. He mistook it at first for a rabbit as it dashed into the underwood. It proved not to be wild, but belonged to one of the villagers, and was bred in the village.
When the ground colour is light grey or blue, it is generally called chinchilla, to the fur of which animal the coat has a general resemblance. I have but little inclination to place it as a distinct, though often it is of foreign breed; such may be, though ours is merely a variety - and a very interesting one - of the ordinary tabby, with which its form, habits, temper, etc. seem fully to correspond; still several have been imported from Abyssinia all of which were precisely similar, and it is stated that this is the origin of the Egyptian cat that was worshipped so many centuries ago. The mummies of the cats I have seen in no case had any hair left, so that it was impossible to determine what colour they were. The imported cats are of stouter build than the English and less marked. These bred with an English tabby often give a result of nearly black, the back band extending very much down the sides, and the brown ticks almost disappearing, producing a rich and beautiful colouring.
To breed these (Abyssinians) true, it is well to procure imported or pedigree stock, for many cats are bred in England from ordinary tabbies, that so nearly resemble Abyssinian in colour as scarcely to be distinguished from the much-prized foreigners. The males are generally of a darker colour than the females, and are mostly marked with dark-bown band on the forehead, a black band along the back which end at the tip of the tail, with which it is annulated [ringed]. The ticking should be of the truest kind, each hair being of three distinct colours, blue yellow or red, and black at the points, the cushion of the feet black, and back of the hind-legs. Choose a female, with either more red or yellow, the markings being the same, and, with care in the selection, there will be some very brilliant specimens. Eyes bright orange-yellow.
Curiously coloured as the Abyssinian cat is, and being a true breed, no doubt of long far back ancestry, it is most useful in crossing with other varieties, even with the Persian, Russian, Angora, or the Archangel, the ticking hues being easy of transmission, and is then capable of charming and delightful tints, with breadths of beautiful mottled or grizzled colouring, if judiciously mated. The light tabby Persian, matched with a female Abyssinian, would give unexpected surprises, so with the dark blue Archangel; a well-ticked blue would not only be a novelty, but an elegant colour hitherto unseen. A deep red tabby might result in a whole colour, bright red, or a yellow tint. I have seen a cat nearly black ticked with white, which had yellow eyes. It was truly a splendid and very beautiful animal, of a most recherché colour. Matched with a silver-grey tabby, a silver-grey tick is generally the sequence. A yellow-white will possibly prove excellent."
In 1889, Weir's standard for the Abyssinian called for a cat that was "large" and whose fur was "woolly, yet soft, silky lustrous and glossy, short, smooth, even and dense". Silver Abyssinians existed alongside the tawny form although opinions were divided over its existence. Weir accommodated the silver variety, writing "The Abyssinian Silver Grey or Chinchilla is the same in all points, with the exception of the ground colour being silver instead of brown. This is a new and beautiful variety."
There was much confusion over whether the Abyssinian was a true breed or a hybrid. Weir, perhaps trying to appease both camps, contradicted himself on this matter and wrote:
"A hybrid between the English wild cat and the domestic resembles [the Abyssinian] and I do not consider it different in any way, with the exception of its colour, from the ordinary tabby cat. I have but little inclination to place it as a distinct, though often it is of foreign, breed" he later goes on to say "To breed [Abyssinians] true, it is well to procure imported or pedigree stock, for many cats are bred in England from ordinary tabbies, that so nearly resemble Abyssinian in colour as scarcely to be distinguished from the much-prized foreigner […] Curiously coloured as the Abyssinian cat is, and being a true breed, no doubt of far back ancestry, it is most useful in crossing with other varieties, even with the Persian, Russian, Angora or the Archangel, the ticking hues being easy of transmission, and is then capable of charming and delightful tints, with breadths of beautiful mottled or grizzled colouring, if judiciously mated.[…] Matched with a silver-grey tabby, a silver-grey tick is generally the sequence."
Early (1902) photographs of the Silver Grey or Chinchilla Abyssinian show a cat with a ringed tail, heavily barred forelegs, a head like the English short-hair and body markings. At that time, the larger cat shows had classes for both the "brown" and the "silver" variety of Abyssinian. At that time, Abyssinians were exhibited as The "Any Other Variety Foreign Cat" and tended to lose out to other exotic types of cat including the Indian, Japanese and Geoffrey's cats, the latter being spotted wild cats. Public interest was in the more striking appearance of the Siamese than in the relatively mundane-looking ticked cats.
The opinions of cat fanciers were firmly divided into those who liked the silvers and those who despised them. Mr H C Brooke (breeder and judge) was opposed to them, but Mr W Johnson Wood favoured them over the browns!
Abyssinian (Louis Wain)
Around 1900 the term Abyssinian was supplanted by "Ticked" and "British Tick" and the cats themselves were often mottled and barred with the look of an English cat favoured over that of a foreign one. The ground colour was usually a dark grey, the type and head were distinctly British and they had heavily barred legs and tails. When a confused would-be Abyssinian breeder asked for advice, Louis Wain, editor of "Our Cats" responded in a December 1903 issue
"The Abyssinians, so called, seen in our shows of late years are not the Abyssinians which were exhibited occasionally as a rarity some 15 years ago . Those cats were a light brown, with just a suspicion of tick on the body, but not one that I have ever seen was free of tabby markings on the legs, head and the ring round the neck. To call the modern ticks Abyssinians is a misnomer. The tick is the ground basis of most tabbies and the pure tick is a conglomerate of Argentine, Chilean, African and in some cases Eastern Cats.
I have myself traced the origin of the bunny cats and find them to be of Chilean parentage. They were first introduced to show knowledge by Miss K.M. Bennett, who gave me two kittens, one of which I gave to Mr. Sam Woodiwiss [a noted breeder] who, however, did nothing with it. I have at present four of them, sire and dam, and two eight months old kittens. These have never been shown and I hope to keep them until I can give them to someone who will perpetuate the breed properly and show them. The toms are great cats, far bigger than any cat I have seen at shows for ten years past. The queens are smaller and very highly strung. The tails of all of them are partly ringed and at the stump are as broad as their backs. They are tabby-marked on legs and heads and ringed round the neck. When born they ar nearly black and the first year they are shot with faint thin mackerel markings under the tick marking. The succeeding years the mackerel marking disappears and comes back with age a bit. [...] The fur is bluish near the skin, then half an inch fawn-coloured; following that is a splash of black then the [yellow] tick, and finally tipped with black like a porcupine quill; but please do not call them Abyssinians."
However, "In Living Animals of the World", Wain wrote "The sand-Colour Cat, with a whole-coloured coat like the rabbit, which we know as the Abyssinian or Bunny Cat is a strong African type. On the Gold Coast it comes down from the inland country with its ears all bitten and torn away in its fights with rivals. It has been acclimatised in England." Strangely, Louis Wain wrote in "Living Animals of the World" that "The Manx cat is allied to the Abyssinian" although they did not look at all alike! (If all this seems contradictory, remember that Wain's sanity ultimately deserted him. Quite what Wain's Chilean cats were is uncertain, but evidently the recipient, an experienced breeder, decided they were not Abyssinian and, wisely, did not breed them.)
Wain also urged that classes be thrown open to "All ticks, including all English and foreign varieties and colours [and not] levelled down to a cat which is not an easy breeding one. […] The 'bunnies' [British Ticks] throw both long- and short-haired kittens and many are born dead or killed by the mother; hence the strength of the breed; the ailing kittens are killed off." Very much later, those long-haired ticks became the modern Somali.
It is worth noting that another author wrote, in 1904, an article on "Uncommon Cats" in which it was said "The Abyssinian cat has lately been creeping into popularity, as many as eleven having been exhibited at the Crystal Palace Show." Considering all the controversy over name and colour, eleven was a great number indeed.
Abyssinian ("Domestic or Fancy Cats", John Jennings [pre-dated Simpson's 1903 work])
"Those who are familiar with the Belgian hare will have no difficulty in recognising the cat [called] Abyssinian."
Abyssinian (Frances Simpson)
In her earlier work "Cats and All About Them" (1902), Simpson included a section by a an English breeder of the period who wrote "The only other foreign cat that calls for attention is the Abyssinian or Bunny cat, and it is not often that specimens are exhibited at our shows. We have no special fanciers of this breed. The fur has a ground-work of reddish brown ticked with darker brown markings. The coat should be close and soft."
In Frances Simpson's "The Book of the Cat" (1903), contributor H C Brooke wrote "A very taking variety is the Abyssinian. A good specimen should very strongly resemble what one might well expect the Egyptian cat to become after generations of domestication. […] The colour of an Abyssinian should be a sort of reddish-fawn, each individual hair being 'ticked' like that of a wild rabbit - hence the popular name of 'bunny cat. The great difficulty in breeding these cats is their tendency to come too dark and too heavily striped on the limbs; the face should be rather long, the tail short and thick and the ears large. […] The Abyssinian should not be a large coarse cat. A small cat of delicate colouring and with the above-mentioned body properties is by far to be preferred to the large, coarse, dark specimens one sees winning under some all-round judges because of their size."
"More than any other varieties have the foreign cats suffered from the negligence of show committees and the awful judging of all-round judges, plus the equally awful reports furnished by all-round reporters! At the best, knowledge of the different varieties of foreign cats is absolutely in its infancy." However things were looking up for the Abyssinians with no fewer than eleven Abyssinians exhibited at a recent National Cat Club Crystal Palace show.
On the other hand, The Cat Club (i.e. the other cat club in Britain) was soundly condemned by Brooke for its attitude towards Abyssinians, "Has persistently neglected them, having on almost every occasion handed them over to some all-round judge who knows little and cares less about them with the natural result that exhibitors are disgusted. Take, for instance, the last show when a very dark, almost sooty Abyssinian was placed above a very fair specimen merely because the latter had about a dozen white hairs on its throat! The value of the winner may be gauged from the fact that its owner, a lady well known in the cat world, expressed her intention of having him neutered and keeping him as a pet. The same judge, in dividing the prizes amongst the Manx cats, appeared to think the colour of the throat of far more importance than the shape of the hindquarters."
Abyssinian - some additional notes
In the early days, British shorthair cats with the ticked pattern were bred with the Abyssinians. The longhair gene may have been introduced into Abyssinians in the early days of the cat fancy in Britain when Abyssinians were crossed to Persians, Angoras and Bunny Cats (a native British variety, a ticked British Shorthair). These experimental matings were done to find out what "delightful grizzled hues" would turn up in the offspring. One result was the Abyssinian Chinchilla, an early form of Silver Abyssinian. Though often confused nowadays with the Abyssinian, the Bunny Cat was a distinct British variety. Early cat show judge Louis Wain described them as very big cats, both shorthaired and longhaired, who were born black and later lightened to an unbarred agouti coat.
Some breeders conducted even more exotic breeding experiments. Champion Southampton Red Rust, Claude Alexander's exceptional Abyssinian was apparently mated to an "Imported African Wild Cat" and the female offspring, Goldtick, registered as an Abyssinian. Goldtick was mated to a red self (solid red) called Ras Brouke (owned by Mr HC Brooke in the 1920s) and produced Tim the Harvester, registered as a Ruddy (Usual) Abyssinian. Tim the Harvester sired Woodrooffe Ras Seyum (born 1935) and other offspring in Britain before going to the USA circa 1938 and established some of the early British lines of Abyssinian. Ras Brouk may have introduced sorrel red and cinnamon into Abyssinian lines, but has also been described as chocolate in colour. Woodrooffe Leo, born in 1933, was other self red, but was unrelated to Ras Brouk. Another red Abyssinian, Nona's Red Chiki, born 1943, was related to both Ras Brouk and Woodrooffe Leo, while her maternal grandmother was a Siamese called Miss Melodious Venture! With outcrosses to other breeds and to imported wild cats, no wonder "sports" appeared in later generations.
In those early days, Abyssinians with no ticking also appeared, though most would have been discarded. Some, presumably having excellent conformation, were used in breeding programmes. In the 1930s, a "self black" Abyssinian called Woodroofe Nigra was registered. Nigra's parents Ras Isis and Empress Zauditu, were both Abyssinians and would have carried the gene for solid (non-ticked) colour. Nigra's grandson, Croham Menelik, became an influential sire.
Although Silver Abyssinians were known almost from the start, the judges didn't like them. Abyssinian cats believed to be Silver - called Aluminium I, Aluminium II and Aluminium Silver - were bred by Mrs Carew Cox in the early 1900s. She exported them to the USA to found the breed there. By the 1920s, Silvers Abyssinians had died out in the UK as they always lost out to the Usual Abyssinian on the showbench. They were not reintroduced until 1966/7 when a Usual/Ruddy Abyssinian (Lalibela Jijiga) was bred to a Silver Spotted British Shorthair (Culverden Mercury). As for Carew Cox's exports in the 1900s, silvers didn't catch on in the USA either and breeder ads indicate that it was only at the end of the 20th century that the colour was becoming acceptable. The 1972 CFA Yearbook had a photograph of a yellow Abyssinian called Puma and mentioned that "Albino" Abyssinians existed in England (probably meaning silvers) as well as creams and blues (familiar in England, but not in the USA).
One of the difficulties facing the Abyssinian in its early days in the show world was that it competed against unusual varieties of foreign cats including HC Brooke's Indian cat and Geoffrey's cat. Those exotic species frequently beat the Abyssinians, although it hard to work out quite how judges discriminated between a domestic Abyssinian (with its standard of points) and an imported wild cat (which had no standard of points). For example, in the "Any Other Variety Foreign Cat" class at the 1902 Crystal Palace show, Mrs Heslop's Abyssinian 'Greek Maiden' was beaten into 2nd place by a Geoffrey's cat. An Indian cat took 3rd place and a Japanese cat took 4th. These unusual cats undoubtedly added to the interest of the show, but Abyssinian breeders and fanciers found it quite unfair that they had to compete against wild animals and novelties.
H.C. Brooke (Vice-President of the Abyssinian Cat Club) wrote in his booklet "The Abyssinian Cat" (1930) that the history of "this beautiful and interesting breed" had been deplorably neglected and too little was known of its origin. Its early history is found in the first two publications dedicated to the Abyssinian. H.C. Brooke's "The Abyssinian Cat" and Helen and Sidney Denham's "Child of the Gods". Both are out of print and almost impossible to find.
Many breeders and fanciers consider the modern Abyssinian to descended from cats worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, making it the oldest distinct breed. They point to Egyptian bronzes and paintings of lithe, long-bodied cats that resemble the modern Abyssinian. However, Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald wrote in "Cats" that the Abyssinian was a breeders creation, developed from British domestic tabbies. Some early show specimens resembled the [British] Shorthair of the 1900s, with heavy ticking.
The earliest known written account of the Abyssinian cat in England was by Gordon Stables in 1874. He wrote that Mrs. Barrett-Lennard brought an Abyssinian cat into England in 1868. However, the Barrett-Lennard family had no record of either this lady or her cat. 1868 was the end of the Abyssinian War and other accounts mention a British soldier bringing back an unusual cat or kitten when British soldiers pulled out of Abyssinia. This first Abyssinian cat was called "Zula", but could have been picked up anywhere along the route home.
The Leiden Zoological Museum in Holland has a stuffed Abyssinian-type cat that pre-dates Zula. It was purchased between 1834-1836 and labelled as an Indian cat. H.C. Brooke later described an Indian cat, allegedly from Bombay, and illustrations of the Indian cat show a sandy coloured ticked cat similar to an Abyssinian (sandy, ticked cats from Sri Lanka are now bred as Celonese). So it is possible that Zula came from India where the British had a strong presence at the time.
It is not clear how the breed progressed between 1868 and 1903 when Frances Simpson's "The Book of the Cat" was published. Even Abyssinian expert H.C. Brooke could not account for 30 years of missing records about the breed. Certainly no further cats had been imported from Abyssinia, which meant Zula had to have been crossed with British shorthaired cats. We know from the writings of early cat fanciers that they were also crossed with Persians, Angoras and Russian Blues. This was probably when the silver gene entered the Abyssinian breed.
The Abyssinian was listed as a separate breed in 1882, but in 1889, Harrison Weir ("Our Cats and All About Them ") insisted that it was not a breed at all. Louis Wain agreed with him. Both of those notable early cat fanciers and judges considered that "very passable Abyssinian-type kittens are born from time to time as the result of 'chance matings' between very ordinary tabbies." Weir found the native British Ticks to be scarcely distinguished from the imported Abyssinian and some of the early Abyssinian champions were very evidently Ticked British Shorthairs.
The first mention of Silver Abyssinians came from Weir in 1882. He referred to them as a new variety. H.C. Brooke was very opposed to them, and in his booklet "The Abyssinian Cat", he wrote, "I regard silver as an absolute alien colour to the breed, and though there would have been no harm done if these silvers had been kept to themselves, I cannot but think that they did an infinity of harm to the breed, by introducing a grey tinge into the coat, with the result that the beautiful "ruddy" tinge which we used to see in the cats of long ago, is now apparently lost to us. How they originated, or whether any cross was made use of to obtain them, I do not know." Nevertheless, the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica contained a picture of a beautiful "Silver" Abyssinian belonging to Mrs. Carew-Cox. Upon H.C. Brooke's retirement from the cat fancy, Mrs Carew-Cox worked hard to keep the Abyssinian from dying out.
Weir, wrote out his own standard for the Abyssinian: "There is the same emphasis on absence of white anywhere and a minimum of 'marks', the same emphasis on the 'graceful, lithe, elegant carriage'." However Weir wrote that the Abyssinian should be large, with the fur that was "woolly, yet soft, silky, lustrous, and glossy, short, smooth, even dense." This seems to have accommodated both the British Ticks and the sleeker cats closer in type to Zula - in other words a "catch-all".
Around 1900, the "Abyssinian" name was dropped and the "ticked" shorthairs were known as "British Ticks" (nicknamed "Bunny Cats"). Those cats often had a "mottled" appearance. Wain preferred this home-grown English variety and owned a large number of them. The "ground colour was usually a dark grey or blackish grey; they had heads of a pronounced 'British' type and heavily barred legs and tails." This contrasted with the warm, rufous tones that are now desirable.
Frances Simpson, in her book, "Cats and All About Them" (1902) included a description written by a well known English breeder of the period: "The only other foreign cat that calls for attention is the Abyssinian or Bunny cat, and it is not often that specimens are exhibited at our shows. We have no special fanciers of this breed. The fur has a ground-work of reddish brown ticked with darker brown markings. The coat should be close and soft."
H.C. Brooke described the colour of the cat as "very strikingly resembling that of a wild rabbit, when placed side by side, until carefully examined, when it is seen that the fur of the rabbit is grey near the skin (under-colour) whilst that of the cat is, or should be, rufous. The ticking is a most essential property of the breed, and is caused by blackish, or dark brown, tips to the hair. Some, the best ticked, have about three bands of brown or orange shades, the darkest being at the tip. Others have merely the rufous base and the dark tip. The under-colour should always be as bright as possible, and as clear, not a dull lifeless brown, which much distracts from the beauty of the cat."
HC Brooke wrote in his booklet, "The general appearance of the Abyssinian is that of a rather small and very elegantly built cat, with graceful slender limbs, fine head with rather large ears and lustrous eyes. Any person capable of appreciating truly graceful lines and sinuous and elegant shape in the cat, will admit that in this respect the Abyssinian cat has but one rival, to wit, the Siamese."
An article written by breeder Mrs. H.W. Basnett and published in a 1938 edition of "Fur, Feather, Rabbits and Rabbit Keeping", gave the standard for the British Abyssinian: "The typical Abyssinian has a long, lithe body, showing well-developed muscular strength, and the beauty of the long, fine head is accentuated by luminous, almond-shaped eyes. The whole head is set off by large ears, broad at the base, which, while matching the feet and legs in colour, are tipped with a darker shade. The coat is short and close-lying, of a rich, tawny brown colour, and instead of being striped or barred, each hair is 'ticked' with black or brown, i.e., two or three bands of colour on each hair being preferable to a single ticking'. The feet and legs must be clean colour, free of barring and toning with the body colour, whilst the under parts of the body should preferably be an orange-brown to harmonize with the main colour."
In England, the breed was championed by Mr H.C. Brooke and Mrs. Carew-Cox who recognized a variety worth preserving.
Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), had no tradition of domestic cats and later explorers in the region found no domestic cats of any type. Possibly a cat was picked up along the route home by British colonists. The early Abyssinian superficially resembled the African Wildcat which has a ticked coat and barred markings on the legs.
However .... in the 1960s, Mr. and Mrs. William Maguire of South Weymouth, Massachusetts owned a cat from Abyssinia that met the criteria for the Abyssinian breed. Named "Smokey P", he was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1957 in the home of an American family there. His mother was a native domestic cat and his father was a ticked semi-wild cat. In the 1990s, cats resembling early Abyssinians were documented in Singapore; they were larger and more heavily marked than the pedigree breed. These "Wild Abyssinians" did not meet with the approval of purist Abyssinian breeders in the USA and died out in the USA.
Abyssinian ("The Abyssinian Cat", H C Brooke)
Noted fancier of numerous breeds, Mr. H C Brooke, a contributor to Frances Simpson's work, wrote a pamphlet called "The Abyssinian Cat" in which he said "this beautiful and interesting breed has been neglected, that too little was known of its origin and too little interest was being shown by the cat fancy. Brooke described the colour of the Abyssinian as "very strikingly resembling that of a wild rabbit, when placed side by side, until carefully examined, when it is seen that the fur of the rabbit is grey near the skin whilst that of the cat is, or should be, rufous. The ticking is a most essential property of the breed, and is caused by blackish, or dark brown, tips to the hair. Some, the best ticked, have about three bands of brown or orange shades, the darkest being at the tip. Others have merely the rufous base and the dark tip. The under-colour should always be as bright as possible, and as clear, not a dull lifeless brown, which much distracts from the beauty of the cat."
Brooke also wrote "The general appearance of the Abyssinian is that of a rather small and very elegantly built cat, with graceful slender limbs, fine head with rather large ears and lustrous eyes. Any person capable of appreciating truly graceful lines and sinuous and elegant shape in the cat, will admit that in this respect the Abyssinian cat has but one rival, to wit, the Siamese" which is very different from Wain's large Chilean cats.
The opinions of cat fanciers were firmly divided into those who liked the silvers and those who despised them. Mr H C Brooke (breeder and judge) was opposed to Silver Abyssinians and marked down a silver in 1903 with the remark "It is a ticked cat but not the proper Abyssinian colour." Elsewhere, Brooke wrote "I regard silver as an absolute alien colour to the breed, and though there would have been no harm done if these silvers had been kept to themselves, I cannot but think that they did an infinity of harm to the breed, by introducing a grey tinge into the coat, with the result that the beautiful "ruddy" tinge which we used to see in the cats of long ago, is now apparently lost to us. How they originated, or whether any cross was made use of to obtain them, I do not know." A few years later, in 1908, W Johnson Wood commented that "the silver specimens are even nicer than the brown"!
Note: In the GCCF 1912 stud book the only female Abyssinian listed is Mrs E A Clark’s "Silver Fairy", bred by Mrs Carew Cox (sire Aluminium; dam Fancy Free) which sounds like an early Silver Abyssinian.
Note: A strain of apparently 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 albinistic Abyssinians. HC Brooke noted that a lady in Yorkshire owned a pair, 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. At around the same time, another mutation of Abyssinian was reported from Vienna by Herr Lesti. In his second litter by Ras Tafari, one kitten was fawn with a pinkish tint, though the previous litter had all resembled their sire.
Abyssinian (H C Brooke writing in "Cat Gossip," 5 June 1929)
Some years ago there were a number of so-called “Silver Abyssinians” in existence. I regard silver as an absolutely alien colour to the breed, and though there would have been no harm done if these silvers had been kept to themselves, I cannot but think that they did an infinity of harm to the breed, by introducing a grey tinge into the coat, with the result that the beautiful ruddy tinge which we used to see in the cats of long ago, is now apparently lost to us. How they originated, or whether any cross was made use of to obtain them, I do not know. I am not aware if any Silvers exist now; personally I hope not, though some may not agree with me in this matter.
Brown of a warm tint is evidently recognised by the older writers as the real Abyssinian colour, and I think Harrison Weir, writing in 1882, is the first to mention “Silvers,” which he does as a sort of afterthought, referring to them as a new variety. For a while, some judges seemed to go crazy about them. Some Abyssinians are far more grey in general appearance, and in others the predominating tint is rufous. We find the same difference in the Wild Rabbit, whose coat so closely resembles that of these cats. Some greyish looking cats have yet a lovely ruddy undercoat. But to give a general impression of the colour we should strive for in these cats — though it seems non-existent nowadays — it is hard to improve upon the comparison with the Hare or Belgian Hare, dear to the older writers.
Abyssinian ("The Cat Its Points and Management in Health and Disease" (1908), Frank Townend Barton MRCVS)
This is a short-haired variety of cat, occasionally seen at the larger shows. In colour it is hare-brown with brownish black tickings. There should be a sharply defined black trace running the length of the spine, ending in the tail. The eyes are hazel. Abyssinians are a good deal used for cross breeding. They should be of a smart and compact conformation of body. In size they are about the same as the ordinary English cat.