These old cat breeds have been with us for such a long time that nobody knows since when they started living with us. Unlike most other animals, cats chose to live with us, we did not really domesticate them. What started as a mutual gain to survive the hardships of the world, grew into even worshipping them in some periods of the ancient times.
Although there are a lot of theories as to how cats and humans started living together, one thing that is certain is we know the roots of these old cat breeds as far the documents tell us. These oldest cat breeds date far back but since there is no documentation in modern sense that categorizes the breeds and identifies them according to many criteria, the exact dates of the natural or man-made mutations are not known.
1 – Abyssinian
Although there is no written document, a lot of experts believe that the Abyssinian might be the cat portraited in a lot of Ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures. Even Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) states “Abyssinians resemble the paintings and sculptures of ancient Egyptian cats which portray an elegant feline with a muscular body, beautiful arched neck, large ears and almond shaped eyes.”
It may look like it has some wild cat genes in it but the truth is the current genetic studies on the Abyssinian show otherwise. The first Abyssinians arrived to Europe as late as 1868 and it is believed to be originating form Abyssinia (which is modern day Ethiopia). It is also one of the cat breeds that act like dogs.
2 – Japanese Bobtail
Japanese Bobtail is mostly a white cat. The known origins of Japanese Bobtail date back as far as 600-700 A.D. thanks to the Buddhist monks taking them to their temples to protect their rice-paper scrolls from rats. In Japan a tri-colored cat with a bobbed tail and a beckoning paw is a symbol of good fortune since ancient times. This breed has been depicted in Japanese art for more than 1000 years.
By 1600s when the silk trade was in dire times because of a rat problem, Japanese Bobtails were used to get rod of the rats and this duty helped increasing their numbers making them the street cats they are today in Japan.
3 – Maine Coon
Maine Coon is often called the “gentle giant” of the cat world. Although some sources state that they are American cats, they were actually brought from Europe by sailors in 1700s or by Vikings who came earlier. Either way, the genetic studies show that Maine Coon is originally a descendant of the famous Norwegian Forest Cat and an unknown domestic cat breed that is now extinct.
Their laid-back personality and loving nature combined with their charming looks brought them popularity and this once hunter cat breed with amazing survival skills and climbing abilities became America’s giant indoor kitties who love comfortable sofas or their humans’ laps.
4 – Persian
One of the old cat breeds I can not exclude is the Persian cat. As you may guess, the Persian cat originates from Persia (modern day Iran). There are some ancient texts describing cats that were similar to the Persian and travelling with desert caravans carrying spices and jewels but it is not clear whether those were Persian cats or not.
The first Persian cats documented to arrive in Europe were brought from Khorasan (Greater Persia) to Italy in the 17th century. Although the modern Persian cat breed standards are a little off from the traditional Persian due to the breeding carried out in the west due to aesthetic reasons, it is still one of the old cat breeds that is still on top of its popularity.
5 – Turkish Angora
The Turkish Angora is an elegant cat with a soft and silky coat. Considered a national treasure in Turkey, Turkish Angora has its own official breeding program that is run by the state. The first documentation of the Turkish Angora was made by the French in 1600s when a scientist brought some Angoras from Turkey to France and gifted them to the French royalty. Gaining popularity real fast among the 17th century French high society, it took its place in the art history by being depicted in many paintings posing with its humans.
Although a lot of sources state that the Turkish Angora likes water, this can not be further from the truth. This misunderstanding arises from confusing the Turkish Angora with the Turkish Van cat which is physically similar but genetically different cat that not only likes water but also loves to swim in it.