BlogPaws posted a fascinating article yesterday arguing the case for purebred dogs from a different perspective.
While the article is mainly about purebred dogs, but it raises an interesting point: “A [purebred] dog is as much a part of a people’s culture as is its language, dress and art.”
This is true of cat breeds as well. While many modern breeds can be documented back thousands of years. Siamese and Korats, for example, decorate the pages of the Cat-Book Poems, which was written between 1350 and 1767. Japanese Bobtails and Singapuras are common street cats in Japan and Singapore, but they weren’t registered as “breeds” by the CFA until 1976 and 1982, respectively.
Cat breeds symbolise their native countries. Manx cats are so entwined with the cultural identity of the Island of Man that they’ve even graced that country’s currency. But what happens if a breed becomes extinct?
Abyssinians are one of the oldest registered breeds (which means that people have kept track of their linage and parenting) and have been known as a “breed” since the mid-1800’s. While they are thought to have existed in Ancient Egypt, no one really knows for certain. Representations of cats that look like modern Abys have been found in pyramids and settlements around the Nile…but they also look like a lot of other types of cats. The cats we know as “Abyssinians,” along with Persians and Siamese, have been bred for less than 200 years.
Abyssinian cats are a breed that was nearly lost, and not so long ago, either. They almost died out in Europe during WWII and only through cats that had been sent to the US and Canada during the previous 20 years kept the breed alive.
From “Journey from the Blue Nile – A History of the Abyssinian Cat” by Aida Bartleman Zanetti:
“During the Second World War English breeders were compelled by food shortages and the constant threat of being “bombed-out”, to drastically cut their stock in Abyssinian cats. Some were exported for safety to America. A nucleus of their fine stock however has been preserved and is once again a matter of great interest to all breeders everywhere.”
People often ask me why I have purebred cats and not rescues (although, as Angel can tell us, the two are not mutually exclusive), and I have a lot of reasons, asthma and allergies chief among them. But there is also that sense of…history? I suppose that’s as good a word as any. My pedigree is mixed and shadowy; I know my grandmothers’ maiden names, but that’s about as far back as I can go.
Jacoby, however, can trace his history back to Sedgemere Peaty, born in 1894, and to me is an amazing thing to me. I guess that I like that I can vicariously climb his family tree since I haven’t one of my own.