CLOSE
Original image
iStock

8 Cat Breeds with Wild Roots

Original image
iStock

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

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES