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.
The 6 Egyptian Cat Breeds
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.
- The breed was nearly wiped out in WWII.
- A Russian princess saved the breed with an Egyptian Mau that was a gift.
- They’re the only domestic cat that’s naturally spotted.
- These are the fastest of all domestic house cats, clocked at speeds up to 30 mph.
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.
- Shirazis are a cross between the Egyptian Mau and a Persian.
- They have similar colors and markings as Egyptian Maus.
- They’re known for being calmer than Maus.
- They mix the best traits of both parent breeds.
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.
- WWII almost caused the breed’s extinction.
- Feline leukemia nearly wiped them out again after repopulation post-WWII.
- They have a ticked coat that gives them a cougar-like appearance.
- Despite being susceptible to several health problems, Abyssinians can live past 15 years.
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.
- There’s a rescue group dedicated to rehoming these cats in America.
- This breed can be identified by the mantle on their back and sides that has a different pattern from the rest of their body.
- These cats come in a wide variety of colors and patterns with both long and short hair.
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.
- They’re one of the largest breeds of domestic cats, sometimes weighing as much as 25 pounds.
- These are one of the few cat breeds known to love water.
- In 2013, the International Cat Association finally bestowed Championship status upon the breed.
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.
- Early generations are the largest, with subsequent generations being closer to the size of an average house cat.
- They have strong hunting instincts, so they’re not great in houses with birds, fish, gerbils, and other small pets.
- Thanks to their wild origins, Savannah cats are one of only a handful of felines that are known to love water.
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