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The Abyssinian

I now come to the last variety of the tabby cat, and this can scarcely
be called a tabby proper, as it is nearly destitute of markings,
excepting sometimes on the legs and a broad black band along the back.
It is mostly of a deep brown, ticked with black, somewhat resembling the
back of a wild (only not so gray) rabbit. Along the centre of the back,
from the nape of the neck to the tip of the tail, there is a band of
black, very slightly interspersed with dark brown hairs. The inner sides
of the legs and belly are more of a rufous-orange tint than the body,
and are marked in some cases with a few dark patches; but they are best
without these marks, and in the exhibition pens it is a point lost. The
eyes are deep yellow, tinted with green; nose dark red, black-edged;
ears rather small, dark brown, with black edges and tips; the pads of
the feet are black. Altogether, it is a pretty and interesting variety.
It has been shown under a variety of names, such as Russian, Spanish,
Abyssinian, Hare cat, Rabbit cat, and some have gone so far as to
maintain that it is a cross between the latter and a cat, proving very
unmistakably there is nothing, however absurd or impossible, in animal
or everyday life, that some people are not ready to credit and believe.
A hybrid between the English wild cat and the domestic much resembles
it; and I do not consider it different in any way, with the exception of
its colour, from the ordinary tabby cat, from which I have seen kittens
and adults bearing almost the same appearance. Some years ago when out
rabbit-shooting on the South Downs, not far from Eastbourne, one of our
party shot a cat of this colour in a copse not far from the village of
Eastdean. He mistook it at first for a rabbit as it dashed into the
underwood. It proved not to be wild, but belonged to one of the
villagers, and was bred in the village. When the ground colour is light
gray or blue, it is generally called chinchilla, to the fur of which
animal the coat has a general resemblance. I have but little inclination
to place it as a distinct, though often it is of foreign breed; such may
be, though ours is merely a variety--and a very interesting one--of the
ordinary tabby, with which its form, habits, temper, etc., seem fully to
correspond; still several have been imported from Abyssinia all of which
were precisely similar, and it is stated that this is the origin of the
Egyptian cat that was worshipped so many centuries ago. The mummies of
the cats I have seen in no case had any hair left, so that it was
impossible to determine what colour they were. The imported cats are of
stouter build than the English and less marked. These bred with an
English tabby often give a result of nearly black, the back band
extending very much down the sides, and the brown ticks almost
disappearing, producing a rich and beautiful colouring.

I find there is yet another tint or colour of the tabby proper which I
have not mentioned, that is to say, a cat marked with light wavy lines,
and an exceedingly pretty one it is. It is very rare; in fact, so much
so that it has never had a class appropriated to it, and therefore is
only admissible to or likely to win in the class "For Any Other Colour,"
in which class usually a number of very beautiful varieties are to be
found, some of which I shall have occasion to notice further on. The
colour, however, that I now refer to is often called the silver tabby,
for want of a better name. It is this. The whole of the ground colour is
of a most delicate silver-gray, clear and firm in tone, slightly blue if
anything apart from the gray, and the markings thereon are but a little
darker, with a tinge of lilac in them making the fur to look like an
evening sky, rayed with light clouds. The eyes are orange-yellow, and
when large and full make a fine contrast to the colour of the fur. The
nose is red, edged with a lilac tint, and the pads of the feet and
claws are black, or nearly so. The hair is generally very fine, short,
and soft. Altogether it is most lovely, and well worthy of attention,
forming, as it does, a beautiful contrast to the red, the yellow, or
even the brown tabby. A turquoise ribbon about its neck will show to
great advantage the delicate lilac tints of its coat, or, if a contrast
is preferred, a light orange scarlet, or what is often called geranium
colour, will perhaps give a brighter and more pleasing effect.

This is by no means so uncommon a colour in the long-haired cats,
some of which are exquisite, and are certainly the acme of beauty in the
way of cat colouring; but I must here remark that there is a vast
difference in the way of disposition between these two light varieties,
that of the former being far more gentle. In fact, I am of opinion that
the short-haired cat in general is of a more genial temperament, more
"cossetty," more observant, more quick in adapting itself to its
surroundings and circumstances than its long-haired brother, and, as a
rule, it is also more cleanly in its habits. Though at the same time I
am willing to admit that some of these peculiarities being set aside,
the long-haired cat is charmingly beautiful, and at the same time has a
large degree of intelligence--in fact, much more than most animals that
I know, not even setting aside the dog, and I have come to this
conclusion after much long, careful, and mature consideration.

Next: The Short-haired White Cat

Previous: The Brown Tabby Cat

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