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The Premier Online Magazine
devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Close this search box.

One Litter, Two Breeds

Red Somali
GC, BW, RW Tamarakatz Dreamweaver
Photo by Jal Duncan

Most of the time in CFA, a kitten is registered as the same breed as its parents. This is assuming that the two parents are the same breed, to start with. However, there is a somewhat little known exception to that fact — and even stranger, it only works “one way”. Abyssinians are a shorthair cat. Their “cousins”, the Somalis, are longhaired. Shorthair is a dominant gene. This means if a cat has the shorthair gene, it will be wearing it for all to see.

Somalis are allowed to outcross to the Abyssinian “parent” breed, and in that first generation, you would normally get all shorthaired offspring, but they will be registered as Somalis, because they have one Somali parent. Somali registration prefixes are 1380-1381 (ruddy), 1382-1383 (red), 1384-1385 (blue), and 1386-1387 (fawn).

They also have a prefix for the shorthair offspring, but it isn’t separated by colors, as the other prefixes are. Instead, SH Somalis are lumped into 1398 for male shorthairs, and 1399 for female shorthairs. Those SH offspring are not eligible to be shown in CFA, unless you consider showing an AOV. They’re not eligible for titles, other than the DM title.

In the next generation, the Somali breeders are hoping to then get longhairs, as that first generation SH Somali does carry the LH gene from its one Somali parent; so by breeding it back to another Somali, you would theoretically get 50% shorthairs, and 50% longhairs (trust me, it just doesn’t ever seem to work out that way, though!)

Fawn Abyssinian
GC, RW Dimend’s Allegro Da Capo
Photo by Jean Papo

HOWEVER — here’s the exception. The LH gene that makes the Somali “a Somali” did come from the Abyssinian parent breed, as the result of a recessive gene that was found within the breed. How this gene got there in the first place is a matter of some debate, but nonetheless, it’s there. Somalis were accepted for championship status in CFA in 1979, after several enterprising breeders decided to seek out those Abys that were found to carry that elusive longhair gene, and start deliberately breeding for the longhairs.

So, as was discovered many years ago, it IS possible for two Abyssinians to be bred together, and produce a longhaired offspring. And if this happens, that particular kitten will be registered as a Somali. If there are any shorthair siblings in the litter, they will be registered as Abys in CFA — and they CAN be shown as Abys, and earn titles, as can their “surprise” Somali sibling. The Abyssinian parents will not be re-registered as shorthair Somalis, and they can continue to be shown, earn titles, etc. They will also become VERY popular with the Somali breeders, once they’re found to carry that LH gene.

So… you might ask what’s the difference between THOSE shorthair offspring (which could carry the LH gene), and the shorthair offspring from an Aby to Somali breeding? I hope you weren’t expecting an answer to that question. There is no difference.

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In the 1940s, a British breeder named Janet Robertson exported some Abyssinian kittens to Australia, New Zealand and North America. Descendants of these cats occasionally produced kittens with long or fuzzy coats. In 1963, Mary Mailing, a breeder from Canada, entered one into a local pet show. Ken McGill, the show’s judge, asked for one for breeding purposes… and thus a line of Somalisbegan.