The first Somali cats were born around the world in the 1960s to Abyssinian parents both carrying the longhair gene. These long haired kittens were often undesired and given away quietly. However, it was Evelyn Mague, an American breeder, who fell in love with the long-haired variety and started to breed them. She came up with the name Somali for the breed as Somalia was the neighbouring country of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia).
It is likely that the longhair gene made its way into the Abyssinian breed as early as in the 1930s and ‘40s in England, where other breeds were used in Abyssinian breeding to widen the gene pool after the wars.
FIFe recognized the Somali as its own breed in 1981, and in 1983 the first Somali cat was brought to Finland from Australia. Both Norway and Sweden had their first Somali cats even earlier. The first Somali litter in Finland was born on February 7th 1984.
At first the Somali was judged in the semi-longhair category, but in 1992 it was moved to the shorthair category due to its breed standard being similar to the Abyssinian, with the exception of the length of the coat. The Abyssinian and the Somali are sister breeds.
The Somali breed is rather small worldwide and some matador studs have been and are still used, which is difficult to avoid in pedigrees. Even if we looked only from a health point of view, finding a mate to a female is often difficult. Abyssinian cats have been used for Somali breeding to broaden the genetic base and improve the type.
Somalis are playful, very social cats. Nowadays the Somali cat generally has a good temperament and they are easy to handle. It is the responsibility of the breeder to ensure that good-natured cats are a priority in breeding.
The Abyssinian and the Somali have the same standard. The Somali should have a wild appearance, almond-shaped eyes, gorgeous colour and fluffy tail. The change of the Somali’s appearance has been rapid. About ten years ago there were many Somali cats with fine profiles, frills and breeches. Especially now, when the Somali cats are going to category IV, the ears are often hoped to be larger and lower-set than is correct according to the standard.
Cat federations worldwide have very similar standards for the Abyssinian and the Somali, but some recognize fewer or more colours than FIFe.