Red Abyssinians

by Edna Field (published in CFA Yearbook 1967, pp. 254-259)

New breeders often ask "How will I know if I have a red Abyssinian in a new litter of kittens?" There can be no doubt - from the very moment of his arrival he will be quite different in color from even the ruddiest of his brothers and sisters. Most Abyssinian breeders know the thrill of seeing a new kitten so ruddy in coloring that only the tip of the tail and top of the head show the black of a new-born ruddy Aby kit. The red kitten, however, will have absolutely no black whatsoever - not one single hair! The tip of his tail, top of head and fur around the footpads will be chocolate-brown. The footpads and nose leather will be a bright rosy-pink, compared to the darker tone of his ruddy litter mates.

When the ticking starts to form at about four weeks, the tips of the hair will be chocolate-brown and so will any markings the kitten ay have, leg-bars, necklace, etc. The CFA standard for red Abyssinians states: "Color: warm, glowing red, distinctly ticked with chocolate-brown. Deeper shades of red preferred. However, good ticking not to be sacrificed merely for depth of color."

Some bloodlines produce red kittens that are quite pale at birth but within a few months they will darken to a good red, while others produce deep reds that do not show distinctive ticking, but resemble a solid colored cat. It is most important to have a well-ticked coat, as this is surely one of the distinctions of the Abyssinian breed

When could a red kitten be expected in a litter from two ruddy parents? Simple - if BOTH parents carry the recessive red gene, there is a very good chance that one out of four kittens will be red. According to Shaw, it is probable that on every five-generation pedigree of show Abys, there is at least one cat which carries the recessive diluter which will produce the "sorrel" coloring when made homozygous

This recessive gene can be likened to the blue gene in the Siamese. Just as two Seal-points can produce a blue-point kitten, two ruddy Abys can produce a red Aby kitten, provided the recessive gene is carried by both parents. However, to be sure of producing a litter of all red Abys, both parents must be red

According to Dyte, the yellow (red) coat color of the Abyssinian breed is inherited autosomally. This is in contrast to the inheritance of the yellow color in other breeds of red cats, which is sex-linked. An autosomal recessive gene is not easily followed in pedigrees, because cats heterozygous for the factor appear normal (ruddy). Both parents and all four grandparents of a yellow (red) kitten may in this case be of normal (ruddy) color. Shaw points out that close exaination of the ticked hairs shows that the normal black ticking is reduced to brown, (just as seal-black is reduced to chocolate in the Siamese), with only a minor (if any) reduction of the color intensity in the ruddy or orangeish interbands. The particular recessive diluter reduces the intensity of the black-sepia pigment, allowing the already present orangeish color to predominate, hence the overall effect of a golden fawn color, deepening to a bronze or coppertone. The orangeish pigment is NOT the sex-linked yellow-orange-red phaeomelanin, but instead it is the extremely low concentration of eumelanins (black-sepia) under the maximal influence of the browning or shredding effect.

Red Abyssinian kittens have been appearing in litters from standard ruddy parents for many years and most of the early ones can be traced to the well-known British studs Bruerne Achilles and Nigella Contenti, or back even further to Croham Abeba. The late Mrs. Clare Basnett was one of England's earliest breeders of Abyssinians and owned the famous "Croham" cattery. Most of the American Abyssinians can be traced back to the Croham, Woodroofe and Kreeoro bloodlines. The une 1952 issue of the Abyssinian Cat News Letter reported that Mrs. Menezes' female Taishun Dawn had produced a red kitten when bred to Croham Abeba. However, it was not until 1959 that there is a record of a breeder using two red parents and then it was the Countess of Liverpool who bred Raby Honey to Coleswood Christopher, producing two red kittens

To Mrs. Dorothy Winsor ust go most of the credit for establishing the reds in England. She worked constantly to supply accurate and valuable information to other breeders and to geneticists working with the reds' pedigrees. Owning her first red Aby in 1954, a beautiful female, Adrash Saba, bred by Mrs. V. E. Major, from Kreeoro Sheba and Bruerne Achilles, her abition was to breed red to red and then to get the color recognized for championship by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. In 1959 Mrs. Winsor obtained two red females from the Countess of Liverpool - both Raby Honey and a four month old daughter Merkland Yilma, but it was not until the next year that she could find a red male available, when Taishun Khephra, bred by Mrs. Menezes, oined the Tranby Cattery as a stud. Finally, Mrs. Winsor was rewarded for her long wait and in 1961, both Honey and Yilma presented her with all-red litters, sired by Khephra.

Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Denha had been providing invaluable publicity for the red Abyssinians through the medium of the Abyssinian Cat News Letter - an excellent and widely circulated International publication (now in its seventeenth year), reporting news of red Abys appearing in litters in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, USA, and Southern Rhodesia. In 1963, the GCCF accepted the Abyssinian Cat Club's recommendation for the standard of points and officially recognized the red Abyssinian, granting them breed number 23a.

Following Mrs. Winsor's progress with great interest, I too, was trying at the sme time for that elusive all-red litter and had run into many difficulties. My first red had appeared in a litter with three ruddies in 1957 fro an English import Chatwyn Taha of Chota-Li and an Aerican male Dalai Deta Tim of Selene - both parents being ruddy. I kept this lovely little female Chota-Li Cayenne and showed her in the AOC class in 1959. Unable to find a red stud for her, she was bred to a ruddy male Chota-Li Grenadier, but as he did not carry red, there were no red kittens, I decided to keep a ruddy female from this litter, as she would be valuable for breeding, and later, when I bred her to her half-brother, Chota-Li Ulysses, she presented me with three kittens on Christmas Day 1961 and as a special Yuletide gift two of the were red boys. The third, an exceptionally fine ruddy female Chota-Li Melody of Ro-Da-Cam, was later owned and shown by Dr. and Mrs. R.S. Terceira. Melody was not only a good show cat, but a fine mother of excellent red and ruddy kittens. Of the two precious boys, one - Chota-Li Omar Rai of Nelarie, went to Mrs. N. Guild in California, who was working with a different line of reds, the other, Chota-Li Paprika, was kept as a uch-needed stud. Now I was all set - I had a red pair, but tragedy struck and Cayenne died suddenly

Once again the program was delayed, until Mrs. Winsor agreed to part with one of her red females and shortly after, Tranby Red Listra of Chota-Li arrived from England amid much anticipation! At about the same time, I also acquired another red female Siab's Ginger Oun of Chota-Li and both females were bred to Paprika within a few days of each other and the long days of waiting were counted impatiently. Finally, on Easter Sunday, (my reds seem to favor special days!) both girls each had three kittens and at long last I had my all-red litters - believed to be the first in North America

In 1964, CFA accepted the red Abyssinian as a separate color class of the breed, using the nubers 0380R and 0381R. However, in preceding years, one of the first red males to be shown for exhibition in 1957 was Mrs. Schuler-Taft's Rufus the Red. Mr. and Mrs. C. Cowell were two of the earliest exhibitors, showing their red Abys extensively in AOC classes, in order that they may be seen as much as possible. They were Du-Ro-Al First Lady and Du-Ro-Al Sorrel Sultan, from GC Sheramain's Yankee Sultan of Du-Ro-Al and Blue Grass Tagetes of Du-Ro-Al, as was Du-Ro-Al Sorrel Sue of Pallady, owned by Mrs. C.W. Pallady. Sue's outstanding daughter, Pallady's Sun Song, was the first red Aby to win a CFA Grand Chapionship and also the Hydon-Goodwin All Star award for Best Abyssinian Female in 1966. Mr. R. de Burgh purchased Blue Grass Stellaria, a little red male from Mrs. Winsor with plans to start a good line of red in the Seattle area. Mr. and Mrs. . Kalapich showed Chota-Li Flame Mist of Kala and Fredna's Flame Beau of Kala, Mrs. B. Nuttal competed with her red male Chota-Li Petit Rouge Matou and Mrs. A. Peckham with Du-Ro-Al Cinderella of Peck. These cats, along with First Lady, Sorrel Sultan and Sorrel Sue, all won high awards in All Breed competition the first year that the color was officially accepted.

Red Abyssinians are now being raised in many parts of the world, and the popularity has spread to Holland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Southern Rhodesia, Australia and New Zealand. It was fro the latter that Mrs. Z. Curran reported in 1959 that a female of her breeding, Finesterre Shendi, owned by Mr. H. Arthur, had produced a litter of five kittens, four of them red. The sire, Taishun Fernando, like Shendi, was ruddy, which is especially interesting, considering the expected ratio from this breeding would be one red in four. In a letter to the Canadian Aby Purr-View publication in 1962, Lieutenant-Colonel N.B. Scott wrote that working with Mrs. Davies (who by this time owned Finesterre Shendi) in New Zealand, they had produced three generations of red Abyssinians.

Greatly in demand as very attractive pets, one little red Aby boy had the distinction two years ago, of going to a new hoe with Dr. and Mrs. D. Burford. Mrs. Sheila Burford is the author of the famous book "The incredible ourney" (later made into a movie). The kitten - Chota-Li Pia of Ethiopa - went as a companion for Simon, the aging Siamese hero of the story. Whether they are pets or show cats, the reds are delighting people around the world with affection and brilliant, glowing color.