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8 Cat Breeds with Wild Roots

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Treating a wild cat as a pet is not a good idea, but throughout history, some have taken servals, caracals, fishing cats, ocelots, and even lions and tigers into their homes. The desire to own a wild animal can have consequences, so cat breeders have used their skills to develop cat breeds that fulfill the desire for an exotic cat without the danger.

1. Savannah

Savannah cats are created by crossing a house cat with an African Serval. The original hybrid is called an F1 and is considered too "wild" to be a house cat. When you breed an F1 Savannah with another Savannah or another cat breed, the resulting kittens are called F2. Breeding F2 females produces a generation called F3, which still has a considerable amount of Serval genes, but three generations of domesticity. F1 females are retained as breeding stock, although the male hybrids are often infertile. Sometimes F2 or F1 Savannahs are bred with Servals to create Savannahs with a higher number of Serval genes. Or they may be bred with Savannah males of even later generations (F5 or F6). Male Savannahs are usually sterile in the first few generations.

The first Savannah hybrid was born in 1986 and named Savannah by breeder Judee Frank. That cat's traits inspired Patrick Kelly to team with Joyce Sroufe to develop the breed. A Savannah is the largest of all domestic cats, can leap great distances, and is illegal to own in some states. They are intelligent, curious, and often remind their owners of a dog. The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes Savannahs as a championship breed

2. Bengal

Tyler T, Wikimedia Commons

The Bengal cat is a considerably older breed than the others in this list, but as a breed derived from a wild cat hybrid, it is worth a look. The Bengal breed, which developed from a cross between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard Cat, is also the starting point for other breeds in this list. There have been stories of naturally occurring crossbreeds in Asia from way back, with the oldest confirmed case in 1934. The breed as we know it began with geneticist Jean Sugden-Mills, who crossed ALCs with domestic cats in 1963. Twenty years of breeding resulted in the breed that was accepted as truly domestic by TICA. Bengal cats are large cats with distinctive markings. Generations F4 and beyond are considered to be good house pets.

3. Toyger

Gaynorjl, Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles cat breeder Judy Sugden has been working since the late eighties to breed a house cat that resembles a tiger. The result is the Toyger, a registered breed that has a lineage beginning with domestic shorthairs and Bengals selected for their markings. Toygers are now available from breeders all over the world. The breed is still in development, and TICA now has the toyger classified as a championship breed

4. Ocicat

The Ocicat was named for its resemblance to an ocelot, but it has no actual ocelot, or any wild cat, in its family tree—at least since the breed was developed in 1964. Only its appearance earned it a spot on this list. Virginia Daly, a longtime Michigan cat breeder, was trying to get a Siamese cat with Abyssinian points. She bred together cats with Abyssinian, Siamese, and American shorthair lineages. A kitten named Tonga resulted, which had ivory-colored fur with golden spots. Tonga was not used for breeding, but the same parents later produced kittens with the same markings. Ocicats come in a variety of colors, but are known for their spots. The breed standards say an Ocicat should be heavier than it appears and be well-muscled. Ocicats are sociable and their behavior may remind you of a dog—such as the way many like to play fetch. The Ocicat is recognized by TICA as a championship breed

5. Chausie

Lance Klausner, Wikimedia Commons

The Chausie was developed from hybrids of the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), the largest species of the genus Felis, found in Asia. They can grow up to three feet long and weigh 35 pounds, but are generally around 18 pounds. Like the hybrids that developed into the Savannah and Bengal breeds, the males of the first few generations are usually infertile, and the F4 and F5 are considered truly domestic and suitable for cat shows. TICA classifies the Chausie as a championship breed.

6. Cheetoh

The name "Cheetoh cat" probably brings up the image of the laid-back cartoon cheetah named Chester who advertises Cheetos. But it is also a fairly new breed of house cat. According to the International Cheetoh Breeders Association, the Cheetoh is an attempt to breed a cat that looks more like a wild cat than other breeds but is still a gentle house pet. Carol Drymon bred the first Cheetoh in 2001 by crossing a Bengal and an Ocicat. A Cheetoh is a vary large cat, with healthy males reaching 23 pounds. Such a large cat with leopard-like spots may scare strangers, but is quite tame and as safe around children as any other house cat. TICA considers the Cheetoh an experimental breed.

7. Serengeti

The goal of breeding the Serengeti Cat is to produce a cat that resembles the wild Serval but does not contain any Serval bloodline. The first Serengeti Cat was bred by Karen Sausman in 1994 by crossing a Bengal and an Oriental Shorthair. This "foundation cat" and its progeny have been bred with many other types of cats to improve the breed—but no Servals. However, its lineage does include the Asian Leopard Cat whose genes contributed to its Bengal Cat ancestor. Serengeti Cats have long ears and long legs like a Serval, and a neck that does not taper where it meets the head. They are agile, active, and vocal. TICA classifies this cat as an advanced new breed.

8. Pixiebob

Nathalie Bent, Wikimedia Commons

The PIxiebob breed began as a result of natural mating. Carol Ann Brewer observed bob-tailed cats in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. She adopted one of these cats in 1985, who then mated with a neighbor's cat. She obtained more of the "legend cats," bob-tailed local cats that somewhat resembled bobcats, and are thought to be results of natural matings between bobcats and domestic cats, although no proof exists. Pixiebobs are tall cats with back legs slightly longer than the front legs. They have thick double coats that may be short or long. Breed standards allow for up to seven toes in a PIxiebob, the only championship breed allowing for polydactly. Pixiebobs gained championship status with the TICA in 1998. Although Pixiebobs are often stone-faced like a wild cat, they are loyal and make good pets.

You should, of course, check with specific breed organizations before you select a breeder or adopt an exotic show cat. A great alternative is to check with your local shelter for a cat that desperately needs a home.

See also: In the Beginning: The Origins of 9 Cat Breeds and 8 Obscure but Adorable Wildcat Species

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Animals
Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
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Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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9 Wild Facts About the Bronx Zoo
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Even if you’ve never set foot in New York, you almost certainly know of the Bronx Zoo. Opening its doors for the first time in 1899, this sprawling 250-acre wildlife reservation has over 4000 different animals and 650 species. Take a look at a few things you might not have known about one of the world’s most famous zoological retreats.

1. IT WAS CO-CREATED BY A TAXIDERMIST.

William Temple Hornaday was working as a taxidermist for the Smithsonian Institution when he noticed that the nation’s population of bison was shrinking. Eager to promote conservation efforts, Hornaday used his voice with the Smithsonian to spread the word about the threatened species. After a spat with the Institution, he was approached by the New York Zoological Society in 1896 to serve as director of the Bronx Zoo. In doing so, Hornaday helped bring the bison back from the brink of extinction by sending several of the Zoo's bison back out west in 1906. He remained with the zoo for 30 years.

2. IT ONCE HOUSED TASMANIAN TIGERS.

Thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, were nearing extinction in the early 1900s, but the Bronx Zoo was able to acquire several for exhibition beginning in 1902. The first lived for six years; the next two, arriving in 1912 and 1916, lived only a short time in captivity before perishing. The zoo's last thylacine was secured in 1917. The species was thought to have died out in 1936, but in early 2017, several eyewitness accounts of the distinctive animals were reported in Australia. Zoologists are working to determine if the thylacine might still be alive.

3. THEY EXHIBITED A MAN.

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In the most ignoble chapter in the zoo’s history, organizers opened an attraction in 1906 that featured a "Mbuti pygmy” or “bushman”—an African man named Ota Benga. Benga and other tribesmen had been brought to America by anthropologist Samuel Verner at the behest of organizers of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair so visitors could gawk at them in mock-up villages. When the fair was over, Verner brought Benga and others back to Africa: the two struck up a friendship, and Benga reportedly asked to come back to the States. Verner approached the Bronx Zoo with the prospect of Benga becoming a fixture: Hornaday agreed to let him live on and roam the grounds. Public outrage followed, and Benga was released after just two weeks to the care of an orphanage. He committed suicide in 1916.

4. THE ZOOKEEPERS HAD TO BE TOLD NOT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE BEARS.

Too much children’s literature about cuddly bears may have proven disastrous for early zookeepers at the park. In 1919, Hornaday told the New York Tribune that he had to constantly warn his employees not to try and befriend the mammoth bears housed on the property. Two keepers ignored his advice; both had to be pried from the clutches of the bear and suffered “severe” injuries.

5. IT’S HOME TO A REMNANT OF THE ICE AGE.

Not all of the Zoo’s attractions are feathered or furred. The Rocking Stone sits near the World of Darkness exhibit and packs 30 dense tons into a formation standing 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The boulder was carried by glaciers in the last Ice Age. The “rocking” label came from the fact that the stone was so perfectly balanced that it could be moved with slight pressure. The Zoo, fearing someone might one day push it too far, eventually shored up the base to keep it on firmer footing.

6. THEY ONCE SAVED A SPECIES OF TOAD THAT WAS DECLARED EXTINCT.

The kihansi spray toad was in dire circumstances in 2009: A hydroelectric dam in Tanzania had dried up mists showering a five-acre area near Kihansi Gorge, the toad's only known micro-habitat, and the species was officially declared extinct in the wild. Fortunately, Tanzanian authorities had seen the situation coming and allowed the Bronx Zoo to come in and obtain 499 toads to bring back to America. A portion went to the Toledo Zoo; both facilities spent nearly a decade breeding them in a captive assurance population. The Zoos replicated their habitat while Tanzania created a gravity-operated misting system that would restore water. Roughly 100 toads were returned in 2010 as test cases; a full-scale reintroduction followed in 2012.

7. A COBRA ONCE ESCAPED (AND SIGNED ONTO TWITTER).

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Animal escapes have been few and far between at the Zoo. One of the most publicized was the the disappearance of a 20-inch venomous Egyptian cobra in 2011. Zoo officials weren’t certain how the reptile broke out of her habitat, but felt confident she would remain in the building. She did, and was found after a week’s search. In the interim, someone on Twitter engaged 203,000 followers with the freed snake’s fictional exploits. It’s still tweeting.

8. IT SET AN ORIGAMI ELEPHANT WORLD RECORD.

In 2016, the Zoo was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the largest displayed collection of origami elephants in the world: 78,564. The display, which was briefly open to the public, was intended to draw attention to the plight of the creatures and their poaching rivals through their 96 Elephants campaign meant to stop the trafficking of ivory. The Zoo is down to just three live elephants, and has vowed not to acquire any more once they pass. On August 3, 2017, Zoo organizers plan to crush two tons of ivory in Central Park as part of the awareness campaign.

9. IT HAS PLANS FOR YOUR POOP.

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With thousands of daily visitors, the Bronx Zoo could probably make use of its own sewage system. Instead, the park unveiled an eco-friendly restroom on park grounds in 2006 that captures human waste and diverts it into compost. The system, which uses only six ounces of water per flush, is estimated to save a million gallons of water a year.

Want to learn more about the Bronx Zoo? Catch The Zoo, a documentary series now airing on Animal Planet. New episodes premiere in February.

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