THE GRACIOUS ENVOYS OF GODDESS BASTET
Near the town of Sakkara which lies 30 kilometers south of Cairo, there are several necropolises having belonged to the city of Memphis, the capital of Egypt at the time of the Old Kingdom (2800 – 2300 BC). The Pyramid of Djoser (2789 – 2760 BC) who was the founder of the 3rd dynasty is of a particularly notable feature of this region. However it is not just the ruins dating from the Old Kingdom which have made Sakkara famous. In this area of about nine square kilometers it is also possible to find tombs which date back from almost all the periods of Egyptian civilization, for Kings and Noblemen had been buried there continuously for nearly 3000 years.
However, not only people, but also animals were buried in the necropolis; in the northern part there have been found a great number of hawks, ibises, baboons and other creatures as well. Each temple was devoted to one type of animal, which was bred in order to be later sacrificed and mummified.
Archaeologists have found large cat necropolises at the base of a hill east of Sakkara, which date back to the 20th century BC. At the time of the Old Kingdom a temple stood here dedicated to the goddess Bastet – a woman with a cat’s head. The whole complex was given a name Bubastion, which comes from the Greek meaning the Temple of Bastet.
During their explorations of the graves of nobles dating from the Old Kingdom, scientists found large number of mummified cats and skeletons of cats. Tens thousands of them were buried in the cellars of Bubastion during the period which began in 100 BC and lasted until the arrival of the Graeco-Roman era (395 – 332 BC).
<= Pilgrims used to buy such bronze cats’ statuettes from the priests and then sacrificed them in Bastet’s Temple in the hope for her mercy. A caring cat with her kittens became a symbol of fertility.
As can be deduced from the numerous depictions found on papyri and on the inner walls of tombs, the ancient Egyptians loved and venerated cats. Like other holy animals (e.g. hawk, ibis, crocodile) cats were regarded as an intermediary between gods and men. The Egyptians saw cats as an embodiment of the goddess Bastet, whom the Greeks called Bubastis.
It is hard to tell when the Egyptians started domesticating cats. Historians believe that by the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, cats had been already living in the households at the Nile Valley. By hunting rodents, cats protested the granaries of the great agricultural civilization of Egypt; and they gradually assumed the role of household pets. Farmers loved their long-tailed friends so much that after the death of a beloved pet, they shaved their eyebrows as assign of grief.
In the home, the hearth symbolized the goddess Bastet, who was then venerated as the protector of the house, family, women and children. Bastet was usually depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, playing with her kittens, and with a sitar, a musical instrument in her hand.
Paintings, statuettes and amulets depicting cats served to bring their owners good luck in love, and to protect them from the dark forces. Sanctuaries dedicated to Bastet were always thronged with crowds of pilgrims and suppliants. In the temples, farmers and craftsmen bought mummified cats, which they then asked the priests to bury in special chambers. Perhaps it was believed that dead cats could act as intermediary, conveying the pleas of pilgrims for a happy marriage or the birth of a child, or the healing of a relative, etc. to the goddess Bastet herself.
Because the rows of those who were pleading were endlessly growing, manufacturing of the mummy messengers became a massive production. The large number of cats' remains is evidence of phenomenon.
Herodotus, who visited Babista in the 5th century B.C., was amazed by the huge cat goddess's sanctuary. He was lucky enough to participate in the annual celebrations of Bastet. During the festivities the Egyptians drank wine celebrated and rejoiced.
There are two main kinds amongst the cats' remains: Jungle cat (felis chaus) and African wildcat (felis lybical). Archaeologists have gathered data about the age of these animals and in most cases they also managed to identify the cause of their death. Most of the skeletons belonged to kittens up to the age of 6 months, but amongst them there were young tomcats 1- 1.5 years old. More than 2/3 of these animals were killed – some of them had crushed heads, others were suffocated. It was only the priests who were allowed to sacrifice a cat in ancient Egypt. Capital punishment awaited any other Egyptians who dared to carry that out.
Cat remains are often found in two main positions. The first is like a skittle – the legs and the tail are laid along the body; in the second, the cats have their legs and the tail stretched sidewise. It is possible that these mummies belonged to two different periods or that they had two different purposes – the archaeologists still have to find answers to that.
Amongst the numerous cat remains scientists found some mummies that were distinctly different from the others. These seemed to be mummified with extra care. Before their burial these animals were embalmed, wrapped in cotton bandages, dried, painted and then buried in a nice stone or wooden sarcophagus. They were put to the grave wrapped in jewellery, amulets and other precious gifts. Such 'works of arts' could only have been afforded by very rich pilgrims.
Archaeologists also found some fake mummies – empty or half full wrappings which had only a few bones and an unknown organic binder. These were probably sold for nothing to the poorest of pilgrims. Purchase of such 'second rate' mummy gave an Egyptian the opportunity to plead to mercenary Bastet.
Did you know that …
THE HISTORY OF THE BREED
Abyssinian cat is a dog that you have at home when you don't have
The Abyssinian cat is one of the oldest breeds. This unique animal shows 'wild' coloring and possesses an unusually kind nature. Numerous myths exist about the origin of Abyssinian cats, yet nobody can exactly say when and how they came into existence.
In the ancient Egypt, where a cat was regarded as sacred, painters and sculptors were depicting animals with a firm, muscular torso, a slightly stretched gracious neck, big ears and almond like eyes. The real Abyssinian cat is very much like the one depicted by the ancient artists. It is also quite similar to the wild African cat 'Felis Lybica' which is regarded as the mother of all existing cat breeds.
In the literature, the Abyssinian cat was mentioned for the first time in a magazine 'Harper's Weekly' on 27th January 1872, in relation to a cat exhibition at the Crystal Palace in December 1871 in which the Abyssinian cat appeared for the first time and came the 3rd. The article was decorated by a picture of this Abyssinian cat.
In the 1890s when Abyssinian cats began to appear in the exhibitions in the Great Britain, they neither amaze the visitors by their size, nor by the length of their hair nor by the blue eyes like other breeds. Nevertheless, they did not stay unnoticed. Their colouring was unusual – without any stripes or patterns – very much like that of a wild rabbit or hare. Moreover the overall appearance of the new race combined everything that one would imagined under the word cat – a wild cat, gracious in its nature, with the loving temperament of a household pet. For having remarkable harmonious look, Abyssinian cats represent “the golden ratio” in a living cat appearance.
Despite of the wild look in the Abyssinian cat, it can be described as the first bred cat in Europe. A cultured strain of an animal is a breed that was purposefully created by humans through special the selection of individuals, in contrast to the indigenous breeds that were created by natural selection. Genetic analysis has proved that the Abyssinian cats are related to the mummified cats from Bubastion and that the cultivation of the breed started 5500 years ago!
Gordon Stables, in his book 'Cats: their Points and Characteristics' - published by Dean & Son in 1876 – mentions Abyssinian cats and shows a colored picture, depicting a the breed: a dark cat, with no stripes on the paws, snout or neck.
The caption reads:
„Zula - a cat of Mrs. Kapteyn Barrett Lennard. This cat was imported from Abyssinia after the war, was kept at home and maintained the characteristics of a wild animal for a long time. But now it loves its master, even though it stays rather unique and different from other domesticated cats.”
Many breeders prefer the opinion that they are the oldest breed and were the companions of the ancient gods of Egypt. This assumption is based on the breed’s gracious look and also its stunning resemblance with the sculptures and frescos depicting the goddess Bastet as a cat.
There are also theories about Indian origin of Abyssinian cats, based on which the cats got into the ports of ancient Egypt and Ethiopia either by natural migration or on the board of stallholders’ ships as one of many kinds of their goods. What might prove this theory is that exactly south-west Asia is the most abundant place of ticked-coat cat appearance.
The exhibit of Zoological Museum in Leyden, Netherlands, under the name „Ratrie“ - domestic cat of India, became the foundation stone of this theory. The mentioned exhibit was purchased in 1834-36 from a stall-holder selling his goods at wild cat exhibits.
Another theory suggests a connection of Abyssinian cats with ticked coat cats of Indonesia. According to the known facts a few beautiful cats were reportedly found by British soldiers in Abyssinia (Semitic name of Ethiopia, used until 1945), in a ruined and looted palace in 1868, after a successful military campaign against the emperor Tewodrosa II, which were subsequently presented to several officers’ wives who then brought them to England when returning back home. We only got a picture and a description of only one of them – a cat named Zula. One way or the other it is obvious that with the course of time domestic cats – ordinary, striped and British short-haired ones - had to be used in breeding as well, which is also documented by the oldest records. Soon after, Abyssinian cats started to lose their elegance and their furs their warm colors and the distinctive ticking. Breeders had to face a new task that arose from that – to give back the ancient breed its charm and appearance, and they solved it by using cats imported from Asia and Middle East.
Cats with the most interesting ticking (coat coloration) can be found in the population of Singapore cats from where spreading of this coloration continues through a narrow passage to the west and ends approximately in the surroundings of Teheran (today’s Iran). In the second half of the 19th century England led many colonial wars all around the world and thus it was no problem for returning soldiers to bring home similar cats of all kinds from many parts of the world.
Nevertheless, Abyssinian cat formation could have started anywhere although there is no doubt that the modern history of the bread started in England.
At the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries in Great Britain the name “Abyssinian Cat” took root for the breed, referring to the origin of officially first Abyssinian can named Zula. Gradually this name was applied in the rest of Europe and later in the U.S.A., where they wittily began to call this new and unusual breed - due to its coloration similarity to the wild rabbits - “bunny cats” or “rabbit cats”.
Intensive work of selecting cats with typical ticking – without having an obvious paragon – started in the 1970s in Great Britain.
At first a great range of ticking was reached – from “wild” silver agouti up to a deep yellow. If we analyze animals’ names of this period we come to believe that that silver was a dominant colour. A black (wild) cat or a red (Sorrel) coloured one hardly could have been named “Aluminium”, “Quicksilver”, “Silver Mameluke” and “Silver Fairy”. Today some breeders start again to look up to silver (genetic) “mutation”. But already among the first British breeders voices against the silver colour started to sound. Thus Mr. H. C. Brooke used a tom cat in his breeding, which he described as the most rust-coloured one out of all his tom cats (Denham and Denham, 1951) in order to “… bring back the warmth of the coloration…”
In the history of every breed there are written names of the “founders”. In case of Abyssinian Cats there are: Mrs. Constance Carew-Cox, Miss E. A. Clarke, Mrs. Frederick, Mrs. Patman, lady Edith Douglas-Pennant and lady Decies. Another two significant names are: Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and Mr. H. C. Brooke. Each of the named ones was at their times an excellent breeder and it was largely their effort that helped Abyssinian Cats achieve their recognition as a breed.
Abyssinian Cats were officially registered in the National Cat Club of Great Britain in 1896. The first record about the breed states that the tom cat Sedgemere Bottle, born in 1892 and the female cat Sedgemere Peaty, born in 1894, are in the ownership of Mr. Sam Woodiwiss. Peaty formerly had belonged to Mr. Swinyard and later was bought by Mr. Brooke (Denham and Denham, 1951). Therefore we can responsibly say that Abyssinian are the oldest officially declared cat breed.
In the period of 1900-1905 there were 12 Abyssinian Cats recorded in the breeding books where one or both parents of each of them was recorded as unknown. In 1903 an especially beautiful cat named Fancy Free was born. On 13th July 1905 a tom cat named Aluminium was born. Both animals were bred by Mrs. Carew-Cox and they became founders of many bloodlines. Mrs. Denham recalls in the book “Gods’ Child“, that Fancy Free was silver and won a cup in the championship Westminster Show in 1909. Fancy Free and Aluminium gave a birth to a kitten Aluminium II, which was bought by Miss J. R. Cathcart from the United States who also got a cat named Salt. According to what Mrs. Zanetti claims (Zanetti, Dennis, and Hantzmon, 1906) Aluminium II and Salt were the first Abyssinian cats imported to the U.S.A.
In 1929 Mr. Woodiwiss jr. founded the Abyssinian Cat Club of which the first president was Mrs. Stables. In the book “Cats, Their Points and Classification” her husband, doctor Gordon Stables dedicated an extensive and thorough article to Abyssinian cats. This book brings us back to 1877 and publishes lithography with the portrait of an excellent first cat Zula – which starts the modern history of Abyssinian cats - in a place of honor, opposite the introductory page.
The World War II dealt a heavy blow to cat breeding, not excepting Abyssinian ones. In fact only Mr. and Mrs. Basnett were able to continue breeding. At one of the first post-war cat exhibitions their daughter presented several Abyssinian cats that had survived. With help of American breeders the breeding was fast restored and a period of blooming of this gorgeous breed started soon after. Sidney and Helen Denham, owners of the breeding station “Frensham”, had their big share in it. They were very influential people at that time. Together they wrote an information brochure dedicated to Abyssinian Cats “Gods Child” published in 1951 and in the beginning of 1980 also in the U.S.A.
Unfortunately, Sidney and Helen Denham could have not foreseen that in the 1970s threat of the breed’s complete extinction was going to appear – leukaemia.
Luckily thanks to breeders – enthusiasts the breed was restored. In 1979 the English Club of Abyssinian Cat Lovers proudly celebrated its hundred’s anniversary. In honor of that a cat exhibition, dedicated to Abyssinian cats, took place. 89 animals registered for review.
In present Abyssinian cats are recognized by all international felinology organizations. Abyssinian cats have been gradually gaining popularity all over the world and meanwhile they are most popular in the United States and Russia. In the U.S.A. for the last twenty years they have been even standing among the five most popular breeds in the country.
In the book by Carolyn Osier „Kitten Buyer’s Guide” an Abyssinian cat is described this way:
„Abyssinian cats are the most clever creatures on our planet.”
„Abyssinian cats love humans and love to keep relationships with them. They are not intrusive but love having under surveillance all your activities and if necessary, the willingly come to help you. They are very loyal and become great understanding companions and unnoticeable train their owners, calmly demonstrate their preferences and wishes.”...
Apart from magnificent coat coloration (no other breed has one like that!) Abyssinian cats have plenty of other features to show you off – unusual grace of slim, elegant yet not extremely slim body (as oriental of Siamese cats have), charming look, deep and extraordinary “sculpted” profile view. Moreover they have excellent character – they are loving creatures and are extremely devoted to their owners. They love playing with children, watching what is happening at home and easily coexist with other pets.
Abyssinian cats are very sharp-witted, love fetching toys and pencils. Their upbringing is easy, because they are very cuddly animals, loving contact with human beings. You will not have to explain hundred times to an Abyssinian cat that flowers at home are not meant for eating and curtains are not meant for swinging on them. Despite being full of energy and extremely playful – it is a huge boredom for them to sit in a small flat – but you do not have to worry about your curtains any more – Abyssinian casts are intellectual to the bone! :-)
It is possible to talk long hours about Abyssinian cat character. It is exactly her who as the first one gains the happy owners’ heart “Children of the Sun”. Abyssinian cat – is a breed for people, who do not want to have a “couch potato”, a passive and unconcerned animal to what is happening around it. An Abyssinian cat is a true companion in all aspects of this meaning. It is a rightful owner of the flat along with you. It needs your attention! Therefore an Abyssinian cat is for people who can and want devote sufficient time and attention to their tiny friend.
Abyssinian cats always show interest in everything that is happening in the household. They spend Most of the time by your side like little helpers for the all housework. The rest of time they devote to the check-up of “their treasures”. Most likely they succeed in doing both at the same time. :-)
Abyssinian cats are above average intelligent and sophisticated animals, at the same time lively, cuddly, exceptional, mobile and emotional as well with beautifully balanced character and are unbelievably brave. At the age of three months my tom cat fearlessly attacked a huge hornet that had flown in through the window. While fighting with pain in his tiny paw, in which he had been stung, the kitten had killed the hornet before I was able to hurry to help. Exactly in the same way behaved a little queen kitten when a big bumble bee had flown in.
I should not omit their absolutely exceptional patience and trust in a man. Either it is by the thousand-year-lasting living together with people or by careful selection or by above average intelligence, but these cats are very cautious – no one has been ever scratched by an Abyssinian cat! Not ever while playing or taking a bath!
In a relationship with other pets Abyssinian cats show distinct leadership qualities. All together along with inventiveness, cunningness, ingenuity and courage gained Abyssinian cats immense admiration of this breed’s fans. Perhaps therefore Abyssinian cat breeders say about them that they are big peculiar dogs in a small cat format.
Abyssinian cats do not need any special care. It is sufficient enough to brush their fur a couple of times a month, especially when they moult. At the same time I admit that Abyssinian cats moult very rarely. Our tom cat moulted only every three years in times of tropical temperatures. I recommend bathing the cat 2-3 days before an exhibition using special cat shampoo – human shampoo is absolutely unsuitable!!! Approximately once a month and before an exhibition it is needed to trim their claws and clean their ears. Use special cat claw clippers that can be bought in pet shops or at a veterinary and ordinary Q-tips for their ears that can be bought at any pharmacy.
Because Abyssinian cats are very active, mobile and full of energy it is a good thing to get them special equipment – a cat tree, toys, scratchers, little houses and beds, where they can hide and rest without being disturbed.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BREED
An Abyssinian cat is not a large breed but unbelievably graceful and elegant one. An elegant body structure and tightly clinging short-hair fur, big almond eyes, ears big like a bush-cat, copper coloration – all this conspicuously resembles a depiction of an immemorial fawn cat in the reliefs of ancient Egypt.
Proportions of these cats are absolutely harmonious and are a living illustration of “the golden ratio”.
The ratio of the value approximately 1.618 is referred to as the golden ratio (sectio aurea in Latin). In mathematics and art it is considered the ideal proportion among various lengths. Two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. The value of the golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant 1.618033999769894848...
E.g. standard CFA states that an ideal Abyssinian cat is a radiant animal of an average size, royal look with visibly ticked coat.
„Ticking is unique coat coloration when each hair has a base colour with three or four darker-coloured bands; the hair is the lighter colour at the root and the darker "ticking" colour at the tip. “
It is necessary to see an Abyssinian cat with your own eyes, especially when it is moving, to see and appreciate how beautiful its short, silky zone-coloured fur is. Only while it is moving you can perfectly see the glittering effect. There are several varieties of Abyssinian cats – black (n), red (o), blue (a) and fawn (p) one, but all have to have the ticking coat–colored bands and have to glitter during a cat’s move.
In regards to the different look of European and American Abyssinian cats there is an assumption that in order to achieve longer ears and legs Abyssinian cats were crossbred with oriental cats. As a result two base breeding lines of this breed as well as two standards were de facto created nowadays – a European and an American one.
The animals of the American breed are more “oriental” – they have a lighter skeleton, significantly larger ears, that lie further apart, a bit weaker chin and a long mouth and a dimple in the mouth transition is missing.
On the other hand European lines animals retained smoothness of lines and proportions that are most identical to the Egyptian sculptures. The most amazing fact of these lines is, of course, famous “Abyssinian smile”, allegedly British blood heritage from the times of an English period in Abyssinian cat history.
This breed is very lively, curious and playful. Cats of this breed are self-confident, extremely active and tirelessly run, jump and climb. Their thirst for climbing should be satisfied by various perches or other assorted climbing cat attractions. Otherwise a cat finds a substitution to it which will unavoidably be furniture, curtains, lamps etc. People who work from dawn till dusk should realize that active yet bored Abyssinian cats will start demanding big attention because they don’t like to be alone – exactly the opposite – they look for company. They are not noisy and are very pleased by any physical contact.
Some individuals of this elegant breed easily learn to open the door, fetch small things and love learning various tricks. This breed usually doesn’t mind travelling.
Abyssinian cats are of middle size, lively, nimble, active, intelligent, playful, curious and social.
Shape: Wedge shaped, of medium proportions, wide at the top; the contours are soft and graceful.
Nose: Medium long. In profile the head shows a soft curve with neither a stop nor a straight nose.
Chin: Firm and well developed
Muzzle: Not sharply pointed. A shallow indentation forming the muzzle is desirable, but a pinch is a fault.
Shape: Relatively large, broad at the base; Slightly rounded at the tips with a thumb print and tufts of hair at the tips are desirable.
Placement: Set well apart and pricked
Shape: Large, almond in shape and set well apart
Colour: Brilliant and expressive; amber, green, on yellow; pure, clear and intense colour; outlined with the colour of the ticking
Structure: Medium built, medium long; firm, lithe and muscular, having a firm feeling
Legs: Sinewy, fine and long, in proportion to the body
Paws: Small and oval
Tail: Fairly long and tapering; broad at the base
Structure: Short, fine and close, lying flat
Colour: 2 or 3 bands of colour on each hair with dark tips for preference.
Remarks: White is tolerated on the chin and the nostrils
Colour: Ruddy /ABY n, Blue/ABY a, Sorrel/ABY o, Beige-fawn/ABY p
too deep stop
too much marking on the face
small or pointed ears
unclear eye colour
absence of outline around eyes
rings on the tail
cold or sandy tone in colour
ghost markings or other tabby markings on the body and legs