Colour: Silver, Bronze, and Smoke
A cat with spots or very short stripes that looks like the domesticated felines depicted in the art of ancient Egypt.
Domestic Breed: A cat with spots or very short stripes that looks like the domesticated felines depicted in the art of ancient Egypt. There are two forms, one artificially created and the other a natural breed taken from the streets of modern Egypt.
Appearance: The artificial form of this breed has the build and personality of a Siamese, but with a tabby coat. The natural form of this breed has a rounder head and a less exaggerated, more muscular body.
History: The Egyptian Mau has two distinct origins that must be considered separately:
(1) In the 1960s a British breeder, Angela Sayer, decided to initiate a programme that would recreate the cat of the ancient Pharaohs. The appearance of the domesticated Egyptian cat was well known from wall paintings dating from the second millennium BC.(see Egyptian Cats, above.) It was shown as a long-legged, slender bodied, big-eared animal with a coat that was covered in markings that were intermediate between stripes and spots. Each mark was a dash, or very short stripe, and these were sometimes shown, not only on the body but also on the legs, the tail and even the ears. In some cases, these short stripes were reduced to spots and in other cases they were elongated to create full striping, but these two extremes were the exceptions. The common form was always the 'dash' or abbreviated stripe.
To sum up, this ancient Egyptian cat looks to us today rather like a mackerel-tabby Siamese, and it was this type that Angela Sayer was seeking to re-constitute. The idea arose when, during a programme designed to produce a Tabby-pointed Siamese, certain individuals appeared with all-over short stripes. They were rejected from the programme, but Mrs Sayer decided to take one of them, a female called Panchusan Zerina , and use her as the foundation queen for her new project. Using back-crosses with Siamese and Havanas, she aimed to complete her Egyptian programme by the early 1970s.
At an earlier date (see below), a second, quite separate attempt had been made to recreate the Egyptian cat, and this was eventually to overshadow the Sayer project. The name 'Egyptian Mau' was kept for the cat developed from this other line, and Sayer's cat became known by the less romantic title of 'Oriental Spotted Tabby'.(In some countries it is called the 'Oriental Shorthair Tabby' or the 'Spotted Oriental'.)
(2) In 1953, a Russian expatriate, Princess Natalie Troubetskoy, who was living in Rome, became fascinated by a pair of spotted cats belonging to the Egyptian Ambassador to Italy. These cats, a silver female and a smoke male, were not being kept for breeding, but as mascots. The female was, in fact, spayed, so breeding was out of the question. With the help of the Ambassador, she did, however, manage to acquire a similar one from Cairo, a silver female kitten called Baba. When Baba was successfully mated with the Ambassador's male cat, Geppo, two bronze-coloured male kittens were obtained, called Jude and Joseph. Jude died, but Joseph, nicknamed Jo-Jo, was mated back to its mother to produce a female kitten called Lisa. Baba, Jo-Jo and Lisa were the first ever Egyptian Maus to be exhibited. This happened in Rome at the International Cat Show in 1955. Late in December 1956 the Princess left Italy to live in the United States and took her three cats with her. These were to form the basis of the breed in America. In 1957, Lisa was the first Mau to be shown there (at the Empire Cat Show) and quickly attracted the attention of other breeders. By 1968 the breed had gained Championship status with the CFF. Other cat organizations were soon to follow. By 1978, this line of Egyptian Maus finally arrived to Britain .
In the United States a special organization has been formed to promote this breed, called the Egyptian Mau Breeders and Fanciers Association.
Regarding the name of the cat, it should be mentioned that Princess Troubetskoy stated that she preferred the title 'Egyptian Cat' for this breed because the word Mau simply means 'cat' in Egyptian and should be translated as such. She was ignored, probably because the name had already become so widely accepted, but it is worth pointing out that, to call this breed by the full name of the Egyptian Mau Cat is an error, because this is, in effect, to call it the Egyptian Cat Cat.
Comparing the cats from these two lines - the British and the Italian - it is clear that there are slight differences. The British line is effectively a Siamese with fine spotted-tabby markings, whereas the Italian line is closer to a spotted Abyssinian. Strangely, it is the artificial British breed that looks more like the ancient Egyptian cat as depicted in some of the early wall paintings. The Italian breed, which is descended from Cairo alley cats, that were presumably themselves directly descended from the cats of the Pharaohs, is ironically slightly less convincing, being almost too elegant and too perfectly spotted. (See also Spotted Cats (1))
Several authors make reference to a possible additional source for Egyptian Maus. They report that the first ones to reach America were a pair called Gepa and Ludol, and that they arrived there in 1953. If correct, this would put them three years ahead of the arrival of the Troubetskoy cats, but it seems more likely to be an error, with 'Gepa' being a garbled version of the original male 'Geppo'.
Writing in 1995, American breeder Len Davidson mentions that further examples of Maus were later imported into the United States and were used to enlarge the gene pool of the breed. He comments: 'Traditionally, obtaining more Maus from Egypt has been nearly impossible. It was not until the early 1980s, when Cathie Rowan exported 13 beautiful cats, that additional Egyptian Maus were brought to the United States....Because no other allowable out-crosses exist, these efforts helped save the breed. In 1991 I brought four more Maus into the United States.'
Personality: Terms used to describe this breed include: good-tempered, calm, hardy, shy, agile, healthy, robust, reserved, quiet, good-tempered, loyal, affectionate, active, intelligent and with good memories. It is claimed that they can be walked on a collar and lead. Originally they were said to be unpredictable, aloof, excitable, fiery and wild, but after generations of selective breeding their temperament has clearly improved.
GCCF: (Accepts the British version under the title Oriental Spotted Tabby. See under that name for colour details.)
CFA: Silver (with black markings); Bronze (with brown markings); Smoke (with black markings).
National Egyptian Mau Club. Address: 52 Gregory Road, Framingham, MA 01701, USA.
Petside: Get Started
- Kitten Life
Learn about the different life stages of your Kitten and much more!
- Puppy Life
Everything you need to know about raising a Puppy, all in one place! Check it out.
- Find a Breed
Browse dog and cat breeds to find your perfect pal.
- Diagnose a Condition
Use PetVet to research what's ailing your pet.
Check out these deals picked by petside.com just for you!