Felines are first pictured in ancient Egyptian art that dates as far back as 1950 B.C.E., meaning that cats were important to ancient Egyptians more than 4,000 years ago. That’s a long time ago, but it turns out that cats have been living with us for thousands of years before this ancient civilization even existed.
According to new evidence, however, it’s likely the Egyptians that made cats so popular and helped them expand their domain farther into the world. They even may be responsible for a second domestication of the species.
Despite the massive role that Egypt played in the domestication and popularization of cats as pets, very few prominent breeds today have their roots in this desert land. Let’s take a closer look at six breeds that can be traced back to Egypt.
1. Egyptian Mau
With a name like Egyptian Mau, it’s obvious where this breed comes from. You could say that they’re the most Egyptian of all the modern cat breeds, and they have a history that likely dates back to at least 1500 B.C.E. Spotted cats that look strikingly similar to Egyptian Maus have been found in ancient Egyptian texts and paintings that show the breed was worshipped many centuries ago.
Head to Egypt, and you’re sure to see many Shirazi cats roaming the streets. If the myths and ancient legends are to be believed, then this breed’s origin might date back many centuries to the time when Egypt was part of the Persian empire. The breed isn’t registered, but they’re a common sight in their homeland.
It’s believed, though not proven, that Abyssinians developed in ancient Egypt, mainly due to their uncanny resemblance to the African wildcat that is their closest ancestor. Though the roots of this breed originated in the Nile Valley, the breed was actually created in Great Britain when a cat was brought back from Abyssinia, modern-day Ethiopia, after a military expedition.
4. Nile Valley Egyptian Cat
There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the Nile Valley Egyptian Cat. Essentially, they’re a feral cat breed discovered in Egypt. Some consider them to be Egyptian Maus, though The International Cat Association has recognized them as their own experimental breed. The Egyptian authorities are attempting to eradicate the breed, but ongoing rescue efforts are attempting to prevent this from happening.
This breed was created by crossing a jungle cat native to the Nile Delta with domesticated breeds. In Latin, the jungle cat is called Felis chaus, which is where the Chausie derives its name from. Felis chaus jungle cats have been found preserved in several ancient Egyptian temples, showing that they were prized by the Egyptians before they were even bred into the Chausie we know today.
6. Savannah Cat
Savannah Cats are some of the largest of all domestic cat breeds. They can reach weights of up to 25 pounds, and with their distinctly wild appearance, they look very much like their wildcat ancestors. This breed was created by crossing a domestic cat with a wild African cat called a Serval. There’s no proof that this breed comes directly from Egypt, but Servals have a prominent history in Egypt, so it is likely, or at least possible. In ancient Egypt, Servals were exotic gifts, and they were traded as far back as the reign of Tutankhamun.
There may not be many breeds today that come from Egypt, but it’s possible that all domesticated cats today owe the ancient Egyptians for their cushy lives of luxury. If the Egyptian Mau was the only Egyptian breed you knew before this article, then hopefully now you’ve got a clearer picture of some of the fabulous felines that can trace their lineage back to this country that may well be responsible for the domesticated cats of today.
Featured image credit: Sarah Fields Photography, Shutterstock