In ancient Egypt, cats have been represented as a social and religious practice for more than 3,000 years. Numerous ancient Egyptian deities representing justice, strength, and power were sculpted with cat-like heads, representing justice, fertility, and power. This article explores the 12 cat breeds of ancient Egypt.
What are the 12 cat breeds of ancient Egypt? The 12 cat breeds of Ancient Egypt are:
- Egyptian Mau
- Nile Valley Egyptian Cat
- Sand cat
- Japanese Bobtail
- Russian blue
- Turkish Angora
Cats In Ancient Egypt:
The ancient Egyptians revered animals that shared their worlds and associated many of them with gods or positive human qualities. However, no animal was treated with the same respect as a cat. Cats were closely associated with many gods and goddesses, and there is evidence that they were considered demi-deities in their own right.
Primarily as an agrarian society, the ancient Egyptians had a particular problem with rats, mice, and snakes, all of which posed a threat to grain stores. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians learned that wild cats attacked these scavengers and ate them, which ultimately save their food.
They considered cats to be the most suitable because of their proximity to human settlements, which provided them with food (food left by humans) and helped them avoid large predators.
This relationship between cats and humans lead the cats to welcome inside the house by their human companions. And humans eventually agreed to keep them at their home and raise their kittens to protect the house.
What Is The History Of Cat Breeds Of Ancient Egypt?
Originally, there were two breeds of cats in ancient Egypt. The wild cat (Felis chaus) and the African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica). The latter had a calm temperament and was more generally domesticated than its other feral relatives.
Eventually, the two species merged, creating a new breed that was closely related to a modern Egypt Mau. As the cat was domesticated, more changes in mood and appearance became apparent.
Cats become more colourful (as the need for a permanent camouflaged decreased), their bodies become more petite and less muscular (due to changes in diet and activity), and their brains become smaller (in need of survival), and they developed growing tolerance for humans.
Were Cats Seen As Gods In Ancient Egypt?
Many animals were seen as representatives of the gods (e.g., crocodiles, hawks and cows), but the animals themselves were not considered divine. However, there is some evidence that each cat was considered a deity (although some Egyptologists disagree). According to one theory, a cat as a semi-divine being cannot be owned by a mere human. Only Pharaoh had such a high status of owning a cat. Thus all cats had the patronage of Pharaoh, and to harm a cat was treason.
Because cats have been bred for about 10,000 years, cats have a special place in humans’ hearts from ancient times. We like them for several reasons, and although there are more than 70 recognized breeds of cats to this day, a few select seats hold the title of the oldest cat breeds today.
Were The First Cats Bred In Ancient Egypt?
Scientists studying the DNA of modern cats and ancient artefacts have determined that cats were probably the first to be bred in Egypt. In fact, all current domestic cats are born from the Near Eastern Wild Cat found in the Middle East and Africa. Despite the importance of Egypt in the development of cats that are loved today, only a few modern breeds belong to the country.
Here you can study the scientific analysis of Cats of the pharaohs and Egyptian cat mummies’ genetic comparison to their feline contemporaries.
12 Cat Breeds Of Ancient Eygpt
1. Egyptian Mau
The Egyptian Mau is one of the cat breeds that naturally possess spots on her body coat. There are actually two types of Egyptian Maus, the “show/fancy” breed whose cat was bred by cat fanciers in the Middle East and Europe, and the “original” Mau, which are very different from the show type.
- The fancy or show version of the breed comes in silver, bronze or smoke with tabby stripes on the face and black spots all over the body, tail and legs.
- Unlike the fancy show breed, the native Egyptian Mau comes in various colours, including blue, cream and red solid and tabby patterns. However, they do not fit into the mackerel or ticked tabby patterns.
- Both types have good green eyes and are shorthair cats.
- It is a medium-sized breed that weighs eight to 12 pounds when fully grown.
- They are known for their love and attention to people, although they may be shy.
- The Egyptian Maus are also very athletic and is probably the fastest domestic cat, reaching a record speed of 30 miles per hour. They also have a status for being very agile and extreme jumpers.
2. Nile Valley Egyptian Cat
Some cat breeders also consider these cats to be Egyptian Maus sub-breed. Still, they are different and separate breed and were recognized by the International Cat Association in 2010 as experimental breed. These cats are feral cats found in Egypt. A rescue effort is being conducted to protect them from poisoning and destruction by the Egyptian authorities.
- This Nile cat breed is one of the oldest domesticated cat breeds.
- They come in various patterns, including black, brown, red, blue, gold, grey, and white, and bi-colours with solid, white, tortoiseshell, calico, agouti, and lybica, which are stained with a “bracelet” on their legs, forehead and tail and a broken band around his neck.
- These cats also have a unique “mantle” that runs on their backs, sides, under their tails and over their legs, with a distinct pattern from the rest of their bodies.
- The Nile Valley Egyptian cats have both long, and shorthair varieties and are medium-sized cats.
- A rescue group for these cats is located at the Nile Valley Egyptian Foundation Inc. in the United States, dedicated to saving them from extinction and keeping them in homes in the United States.
A Shirazi is a cross between an Egyptian Mau and a Persian, producing a semi-long-haired spotted cat. No cat registries have recognized this breed yet. In their native areas, they are considered a “street cat.”
- The Shirazi is a medium-sized longhair cat with a thick, bushy tail.
- They have muscular bodies with their hind legs are slightly longer than the forelegs.
- They have facial features similar to those with deep “M” lines on the forehead and “eyeliner.”
- Their coat comes in red, bronze, blue, black, and cream. Silver and smoke are possible but rare. Like the Egyptian Maus, they come in the spotted tabby pattern and classic tabby styles or solid colours.
- Their eyes are either green or amber.
- Shirazi is a brilliant and loving cat whose reputation is a little more relaxed than that of the Egyptian Mau, which undoubtedly resembles their Persian cat heritage.
No one can be sure whether Abyssinian is actually from Egypt or not. They are often considered an old Egyptian breed because they resembled wild cats and other Egyptian cat breeds.
The sculptures resembling Abyssinian cat were also found numerous time in ancient tombs of Pharaohs. Scientists conducting DNA research believe that Abyssinian belongs to Southeast Asia (including Eygpt), but it is still under discussion.
- The Abyssinian is a sleek, athletic cat known for being a great climber and jumper.
- They are medium-sized, weighing six to ten pounds.
- These cats come in multiple colours, although the most recognizable is a reddish ticked coat.
- Abyssinian is a brilliant and dynamic cat that people love but is not a good match for a very homely person looking for a quiet lap cat.
- The four primary Abyssinian colours recognized by the TICA and other cat registration organizations are ruddy(rich dark brown, commonly referred to as usual or tawny) and fawn (dilute of cinnamon, a yellow tin).
Chausie is a hybrid breed, a mixture of wild cat and domestic species. Chausie’s wild inheritance comes from the Jungle Cat, which is from the Nile Valley and South Asia.
- This breed gets its name from the scientific name of the Jungle Cat, Felis Chaus.
- The Chausie is a large, athletic cat with sharp paws, tufted ears, long legs and a deep chest.
- An adult Chausie can weigh up to 25 pounds, although 10 to 15 pounds is average.
- Chausie comes in black silvery, black, ticked tabby, and grey-ticked tabby.
- Chausie was awarded championship status by the (ICA) International Cat Association in 2013-14.
- Unlike many domestic cats, Chausies prefer the water, as do their wild ancestors.
- They are a brilliant, dynamic breed that needs an owner who will provide a lot of physical and mental enrichment to make this cat happy.
- They are known for their quiet, loving cats that enjoy all ages of people and even other animals.
- Chasusies have a gluten allergy and may need to eat gluten-free cat food or home-made gluten-free food.
6. Sand Cat
The Sand cat is a prevalent breed of Eygpt. It is instantly recognized for its trademark big-boned stature, majestic fluff, ear tufts, and giant walrus-like whiskers. This cat breed is now becoming a domestic breed. They were originated from a small and generally prosperous state of Cairo.
- Due to its superior climbing and hunting abilities and ultimate survival skills, its fur coat can adapt to the state of harsh warm elements, even though today’s Sand cats find themselves indoors as spoiled house pets.
- Many people like these cats because of their trills and chirps, hidden personalities and charming good looks. The Sand cat’s first documentation was not made until 1980, although cats were already known as expert hunters, especially excellent rodent hunters.
7. Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese Bobtail originated with Buddhist monks who lived between 600 and 700 AD, where they found their place and purpose in temples by keeping rats out of the paper scrolls. So due to monks travelling from one place to another to worship, they took these cats among themselves to the old Eygpt.
By the 1600s, the silk trade was threatened by rats, and the Japanese bobtail was pressed into its service, becoming the street cat that it is today in the whole silk road countries including Turkey, China, India and Egypt.
As a result of genetic mutations, the Japanese bobtail is a small cat with a bobtail, and its body is entirely white except for black and white or orange patches.
This beautiful grey cat with amazing gold eyes has a massive frame and has existed for many centuries in Eygpt:
- This rare domestic cat is very affectionate and sweet by nature and has been praised by many for wanting to go straight to the human lap.
- They have a thick double coat and a muscular frame, so they are round and solid in shape.
- Fun facts about Chartreux is that in winter, their coats become longer and thicker.
The Persian cat is known for its appearance, from its puffy, cotton ball-like coat to its saucer eyes and signature flat face. It is suspected that the ancient desert caravans that travelled with spices and ornaments sometimes pulled a recognizable longhair cat when the land was called Mesopotamia from where they travelled to Egypt via locals.
- This cat breed is known for its sweet and calm nature. As any Persian cat owner knows, grooming must keep these cats for their best look.
- Persian is as adorable as it is soft and is a favourite cat breed among many cat lovers.
These blue-eyed cats are the most famous in the cat world. She is known for her fantastic face masks, chatty temperament and beautiful disposition. According to the Cat Fancier Association, these beautiful cats have been derived from “cats of the Holy Temple in Siam, now called Thailand.” And move to Egypt via excessive breeding and transportation means.
- These cats are inquisitive by nature, very vocal and often demanding of their owners often claim.
- Siamese has a distinctive “dotted” coat: a light background with darker dots of lilac, chocolate and blue colour on the ears, mask, legs and tail.
- Other dotted colours include tabby, red, cream, silver, and smoke.
11. Russian Blue
This beautiful “blue” coat with bright, beautiful green eyes is one of the favourite cat breeds. Known for their high hunting abilities, they were a favourite in Russia’s Great czars many centuries ago. Russian blue cats are brought to Egypt by Russian soliders in 1965 when Russia send their soldiers to defend Egypt from Israel
- An interesting fact about Russian Blue is that many people are less allergic to these cats.
- The allergic reaction from a cat is due to the protein present in their saliva. Protein spreads in human’s skin when these cats lick their owners. But this breed of cat is known to produce significantly less, making it “technically” a hypoallergenic cat species.
12. Turkish Angora
Turkish Angora has a silky, smooth and soft coat with a fluffy tail to match. The natural cat breed is from Turkey, and these cats have been on record since the 16th century when it was documented as a valuable trade for the people of France, Egypt and Russia.
- It may look beautiful and elegant in personality, but it is deceitful with a wicked temperament under this beautiful exterior.
- These cats can come in a range of colours and coat patterns. Those that are white often have a blue eye and a green eye.
What Kinds Of Cats Could Be Found In Ancient Egypt?
In 1830, Christian Goatfried Erinberg saw three little cats in Egypt: a wild cat, an African wild cat, and a sacred cat (cross between a feral cat and a domestic cat). He called this cat Felis libyca bubastis.
What Was The Original Cat Breed?
The consensus is that the oldest breed of cat in the world is the Egyptian Mao. This is because, in the past, it was thought that the Egyptian Mao had been associated with humans to keep them company and provide security and guidance in the afterlife.