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A bit more history! The Wildcat Foundation of Oriental Lines.

In the 1960s, Maria Falkena-Rohrle (Cattery “van Mariendaal”) in the Netherlands was involved in breeding small wildcats as well as domestic cats. The foundation queen of her Oriental breed was a “Sudanese Desert Cat” (Felis silvestris rubida) and its alert character of this cat was inherited by its descendants via cat named “Ruby.”

A Dutch family had brought Ruby's mother, a Sudanese wildcat back from Sudan and a biologist described the animal as a "Felis silvestris rubida", one of the many subspecies of the Silvestris group. Felis silvestris rubida has brownish reddish cat with more or less faint markings. The specimen brought to Holland had only very faint spots on it.

Back in the Netherlands, the owners tried to keep their wildcat like a normal domestic cat. This worked in the sense that she always returned from her long trips away from home, but it turned out that she was eradicating the chickens on surrounding farms. When the Sudanese female mated with a local red tabby tomcat and had 2 kittens, the family decided to get rid of her. Mrs Falkena-Rohrle was not able to acquire the wildcat female, who first went to a small private zoo and later to the Tiergarten "Artis" in Amsterdam, but she was allowed to have the two female offspring. They were sweet and tame and outwardly barely distinguishable from domestic cats. They had completely different voices, a mew and a shriek when they wanted something. They also had significantly longer canines. The two half-Sudanese were named "Sylvi M. Callas" and “Ruby R. Tibaldi. " Sylvi stood for" silvestris" and Ruby for “rubida". The other parts of their names were the surnames of famous female singers.

Sylvi was spotted and resembled the cats in Egyptian paintings in the Louvre. She was much prettier than her sister Ruby, who was more robust and not so elegant. Ruby had a sandy background colour and grey-black stripes which were interrupted in places by smaller markings. Sylvi went to Groningen with Mrs Falkena-Rohrle’s daughter and soon ran away. Her fate is unknown. Ruby was bred several times. Her first litter was with the Abyssinain male, Sothis, and produced Caruso who had a very small trout patch pattern (which is apparently shown in a photo of him), a red brother and two sisters. Caruso went to a woman in Munich who was a friend of Dr. Rosemarie Wolff who used him in breeding. A beautiful female kitten, Columbine, was homed to Mr and Mrs Taubert in Dusseldorf and appears to have closely resembled an Abyssinian. Columbine reached 23 years old. Ruby’s red son reached at least 21 years old, but there are no details about Caruso’s lifespan. Falkena-Rohrle attributed the longevity to the influx of fresh wild genes.

Right after birth, Caruso and his 2 sisters looked almost black. Later, the two kittens developed into outwardly beautiful Abyssinians with stripes around their paws, like the earliest Abyssinians, but very clear ticking – described as threefold – on a warm orange-brown background. This appeared to confirm the theory of African descent of the Abyssinians.

Ruby’s second litter was accidental and was sired by a lilac-point Siamese tomcat. This resulted in kittens with small, very uniform markings not trout-spotted. They inherited numerous colours and dilution factors from the father and in later generations black-spotted, chocolate- (brown) spotted, Iilac- and blue-spotted kittens appeared. It occurred to Mrs Falkena-Rohrle that this (Abyssinian x Sudanese Desert Cat x Siamese crosses) could solve the problem of so many people wanting to have wild-looking, spotted cats with tame temperaments. However the idea did not take off. She exhibited a very beautiful, brown-spotted tomcat named "Choco Spot" at the International Cat Show in Amsterdam, but hardly any visitors bothered to look at him and the judges dismissed him as "This animal does not belong to any breed I know. Probably it is a hybrid and has nothing to look for at a cat show.”

In retrospect she knew she should have bred three generations and fought for recognition, but she decided not to. At that time cat-fur coats were in fashion and she was terrified that she would produce a spotted breed that would end up being bred for their fur, not as pets. Instead, she continued to breed from her wildcat hybrid, and its offspring, and when self-coloured cats with good Siamese conformation were born she registered them as experimental Orientals and they were well received. The self blacks became "Ebony", the chocolate brown became "Havanas" and there were also Blue and Lavender Orientals. She also had Cinnamon cats before these arrived in England – meaning she was the first person to produce Cinnamon Orientals. Mrs Falkena-Rohrle’s Orientals all trace back to a spotted Sudanese cat -many breeders of Oriental cats probably don’t realise that their cats carry a relatively recent influx of wild genes.

Photos of F.S. rubida wildcat.

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