Egyptian Mau and Persian Cats Are Losing Their Roots

That’s genetic roots, not hair coloring.

Researchers have discovered that two of the most popular fancy-cats – the Egyptian Mau and Persians – are losing genetic links with their original feline races. (Lipinski and others)

After cats were domesticated thousands of years ago in the Near East and Egypt (Driscoll and others, 2007; Serpell), they developed eight races as they spread out over the world.  These included the race from modern-day Iran/Iraq. (Kurushima and others, 2012a)

Many cats stayed in ancient Egypt; today’s Egyptian cats are descended from them and their ancient forebears. (Kurushima and others, 2012b.

“Plumy Persians,” as English writer G. K. Chesterton called the long-haired beauties, became so popular in France and England after their arrival in Europe during the 1500s that they were bred intensively for an increasingly extreme appearance.  As a result, today’s genetic tests place the Persian in the European race of cats, not those from Persia. (Kurishima and others, 2012a; Lipinski and others)

The Egyptian Mau still retains some of its original genetic heritage, but its genes show a strong European influence. (Lipinski and others)


Featured image: Egyptian Mau (left) by Nickolas Titkov. CC BY-SA 2.0. Persian cat (right) by Si Griffiths. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Driscoll, C. A.; Menotti-Raymond, M.; Roca, A. I.; Hupe, K.; and others. 2007. The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication. Science. 317:519-522.

Kurushima, J. D.; Lipinski, M. J.; Gandolfi, B.; Froenicke, J. C.; Grahn, J. C.; Grahn, R. A.; and Lyons, L. A. 2012a. Variation of cats under domestication: genetic assignment of domestic cats to breeds and worldwide random-bred populations. Animal Genetics. 44:311-324.

Kurushima, J. D.; Ikram, S.; Knudsen, J.; Bielberg, E.; and others. 2012b. Cats of the pharaohs: Genetic comparison of Egyptian cat mummies to their feline contemporaries. Journal of Archaeological Science. 39(10):3217-3223.

Lipinski, M. J.; Froenicke, L.; Baysac, K. C.; Billings, N. C.; and others. 2008. The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluation of breeds and worldwide random bred populations. Genomics. 91(1):12-21.

Serpell, J. A. 2014. Domestication and history of the cat, in The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour, eds Turner, D. C., and Bateson, P., 83-100. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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