Despite its name, the Somali does not originate in Africa.
The recessive longhaired gene has been present in the Abyssinian breed for many years, and was most likely introduced after World War II, when the Aby breed was nearly extinct in England.
Longhaired kittens from Aby breedings were quietly eliminated for many years (some by placing them as pets, others by euthanasia) 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 the CFA in 1977, but only in ruddy; other colors, including red, blue, and fawn, were later accepted. The breed was first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1981 and was awarded championship status by the GCCF ten years later.
The Somalis are most easily described as a longhaired Abyssinian, though the breeds have diverged over time and these breeds no longer resemble exact counterparts. This lively breed with a bushy tail is also known as the “fox cat.” It has a dense, soft coat that is ticked in the manner of wild cats.
Somalis are outgoing, active, inquisitive, affectionate, and people-oriented. They can be obstinate, and love and praise are more effective than punishment in gaining their obedience.
Although many sources claim that Somalis do not make good apartment dwellers, they make excellent apartment cats if they have complete control of the situation. They dislike being caged or confined to a single room for long periods of time.
They are most commonly found in the colors blue, fawn, red (sorrel), and ruddy. Silver tones are also available in Europe and, less frequently, in the United States, though many associations do not accept these colors. They are accepted in other associations in other colors, including chocolate and lilac, outside of the United States. The Somali can be found in a total of twenty-eight colors, but only the four mentioned above are widely accepted.
Interesting fact: The Somali, along with the Birman, is one of the most difficult breeds of cat to breed for show.
This is due to the breed’s key characteristics — intense undercoat color and clarity (lack of stripes on the neck and legs) — interfering with one another. Because of the longer hair length, undesirable marks stand out more than they do in their parent breed, the Abyssinian.