Spotted Street Cats of Cyprus

This is a nice picture of three beautifully spotted, street cats of Cyprus. Their coats are very high quality spotted tabby. They are a “a spotted male and some of his family”. The three are, no doubt, looking for food from the person in the chair that I have covered with the map.

Despite being community cats, DNA tests establish that they are:

78% Turkish Ankara kedisi, and 28% mixed bag which UC Davis strangely calls Turkish Van (Harvey Harrison).

“Turkish Ankara kedisi” is the Turkish Angora.

Spotted street stray cats of Cyprus

Spotted street cats of Cyprus. Blank map by Carport. Rest by Michael. Picture of cats by Harvey Harrison.

These are the real spotted cats, descendants of the African/Asian Wildcat as far as I am concerned (Harvey can correct me if I am wrong). Harvey makes the point that there is no need to breed wild cat hybrids when these cats are available.

It is interesting that genetically they are Turkish Angoras. People think of the Turkish Angora as a white cat with odd coloured eyes, one blue and one yellow, that looks a but like the traditional Persian.

At the present time the earliest known domestic cat was one unearthed from a grave with his human companion in Cyrus dated at about 9,500 years ago.

As we know that the domestic cat is a domesticated African/Asian Wildcat, I think it is fair to guess that the cats in the picture are quite possibly descendants of the wildcat and similar to the first domestic cats. They are similar to the Egyptian Mau street cats in Egypt – see below. The Eyptian Mau is said to be the descendant of the first domesticated African Wildcats and the only naturally spotted cats (whatever that means!).

Feral cats of Egypt - Egyptian Mau

I’d like to mention that in Suffolk and Norfolk, England in the 1880s and earlier (in fact, going back to at least the late 1600s) tabby cats were called Cyprus cats. The name was based on a cloth called “Cyprus” made of silk and hair with wavy lines that came from Cyprus. I wonder if the cloth was inspired by the tabby cats of Cyprus. It seems Cyprus is a important place in the cat world.

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Spotted Street Cats of Cyprus — 9 Comments

    • Yes, the Cairo Egyptian Maus (street cats) are more slender. I guess these Cyprus cats are well fed! Look at their faces. Who could deny them?

      The Egyptian cats are persecuted.

  1. We have moved on quite a bit from simply knowing that our domestic cats are descended from F s Lybica. We now know that F s Tristami which is still found in Israel for example also contributed to the development of domestic cats. Whether the Turkish Angora , Persian, or British SH etc all can be traced back to the same cats which inhabited the fertile crescent. The connection between cat domesticated and crop growing is very clear as people transitioned from being hunter gatherers to living in a fixed area and growing crops which needed to be protected from rodents. It is unlikely that this occurred in Egypt as the first evidence of cat domestication so far is in Cyprus at Shillourokambos which pre-date the Egyptian civilisation by thousands of years. The findings in Cyprus are linked to settlers from Anatolia by the specific kind of obsidian tools buried with them. It is easy to assume that the first felid domestication must have taken place in Egypt because of the assumption that the African Wildcat only lived in that area and from the Egyptian art, but the same wildcats would have had no difficulty in living along the great stretch of fertile land reaching as far as Turkey. In actual fact Egypt was not a particularly good candidate for the site of cat domestication , as the corn crop called Einkorn which enabled the agricultural revolution to take place was not found in Egypt. The movement of domesticated cats was more likely to have been north to south from Turkey to Egypt. All cats were originally SH’d so it should not come as a surprise to see a SH’d cat which is genetically a Turkish Angora-Turkish Van mix. There are also LH’d spotted cats in the same colony that my 2 SH’d spotted cats came from which means they must be from the same extended family. The spotted coat would have survived over millennia as it confers the best camouflage for concealment and hunting day and night. I still find it thrilling to see cats with this original wild coat.

    • Thank you Harvey for taking the time to say more and to allow publication of your photo. There is a nice picture in Harrison Weir’s well known book “Our Cats and all about them” of a drawing by Mr Weir of a spotted tabby that is the spitting image of the cat at the top of the photo on this page. He called the spotted tabby the “leopard cat”.

    • I added a little note at the bottom of the article about a cloth called “Cyprus”. Tabby cats were called “Cyprus Cats” in parts of the UK at one time.

  2. Interesting pictures and information. Are these cats more or less the size of a “domestic cat”?

    Michael, I seem to remember that you wrote a comment about one of the tabby cats I photographed in Morocco, but I can’t find it. (Apart from the comment about the calico.) It was a mackerel tabby, but its head and body shape were somewhat different that what I’ve seen in the US.

    But reading back, what I recall about the grey/ brown tabbies in Morocco were that almost all were spotted tabbies- not a very frequent pattern in the US.

    So, the picture from Harvey is interesting, plus the info that spotted cats are common in Cyprus. So, is it just a coincidence that spotted tabbies were the predominant type I saw in Morocco, or, somehow related to the “originals”?

    • I think there is a connection between the cats you photographed and Harvey’s Cyprus spotted tabbies. The center of the cat world is the Fertile Crescent – an area immediately east of the Mediterranean – where the first domestic cats were. Trade routes fanned out from there to places like Cyprus, Egypt and Morocco. That is why it could be argued that the community cats of Morocco and Egypt and Cyprus etc. are more directly descended from the original domestic cats.

      It seems this area is the most important. The Turkish Angora is one of the most important domestic cats and Turkey is an area close to and part of the Fertile Crescent.

  3. The stereotypical image of the Angora cats which should be white cat with blue/odd-eyes – is very inaccurate. The term ”The Angora” only refers to the longhair Anatolian cats. Actually this is the same cat like a shorthair ones, this is we, people, want to separate them according to the length of fur…

    The Turkish Angora DNA is the Anatolian random bred cats DNA. But since nobody has ever heard a breed like ”Anatolian cats” there is nothing wrong to describe them all as ”Angoras” 🙂

    So spotted shorthair cats from Turkey and Cyprus well, are the same cats like the Angoras 🙂

    The Turkish Van? It’s probably a mix of something like Harvey said – maybe remain from Europeanean/American cats…

    The real breeds in the world are random bred cats having geographical origins: Angora (Anatolian), Europeanean/American (yes, they are not mixed moggies, but another ”race”), Asian cats and maybe some other cat populations we have no idea about (No breeder has discovered them yet?). These natural breeds are found in very wide areas, they are not quite rare like cat fancy wants to see them. Those cats underwent thousand of years of natural selection and are very healthy, special and beautiful cats (although not impressive enough for cat shows?)

    Besides anyone can make a breed out of nowhere. It may just be harder to find very distinct looking cats and create fairy tales for them, but still if you have enough imagination, you may become a creator of a ”breed”:)

    In genetics the ”Founder effect” may be a driving force for various cat breeds…

    Not talking about the outcrossing, selective breeding and inbreeding also may create ”breeds” – genetically different cat populations, just artificially…

    BUT still any breed will be representative of random bred cats it originated from – European/American, Asian, Anatolian etc…

    Random bred cats are the REAL cat breeds.

  4. Hi Valley Girl. Yes these are about the same size as the European and US domestic cats on average , but much bigger ones can be found. It depends on how well fed they are and maybe the genes of certain individuals cats. This is what led to the “new” Cyprus Aphrodite Giant breed. Breeders of the Aphrodite refuse to acknowledge that their new breed is a duplicate of the traditional Turkish Angora. This is just one the ridiculous consequences of the small elegant fake Turkish Angora being fraudulently proclaimed as the genuine Angora. Males up to 9 kg can be found but the size of the bigger ones is mote likely to be 6-7 kg. Spotted coats may be more frequent here on account of being closer to, or actually being, where domestication of the original spotted wildcats took place.

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