Red Rock Savannah Cats
Savannah Cats are a cross between a domestic or Savannah cat and the serval, a medium-sized, large-eared African cat. The unusual cross became popular among breeders at the end of the 1990s. In 2001 The International Cat Association accepted it as a new registered breed. In May 2012, TICA accepted it as a championship breed. Bengal breeder Judee Frank crossbred a male serval, belonging to Suzi Woods, with a Siamese (domestic cat) to produce the first Savannah cat (named Savannah) on April 7, 1986. In 1996, Patrick Kelley and Joyce Sroufe wrote the original version of the Savannah breed standard and presented it to the board of TICA- The International Cat Association. In 2001, the board accepted the breed for registration.
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The Savannahs’ tall and slim build gives them the appearance of greater size than their actual weight. Size is very dependent on generation and sex, with F1 Savannah male usually being the largest. F1 and F2 savannah cats are usually the largest, due to the stronger genetic influence of the African serval. Male Savannahs tend to be larger than females. Low generation Savannahs can weigh 10 lbs or more, with the higher weight usually attributed to the F2 or F3 neutered males, though this is not the norm. Later-generation Savannahs are usually between 10 and 20+ lbs.
Because of the random factors in Savannah hybrid genetics, size can vary significantly, even in one litter.
The coat of a Savannah depends on the breed of cat used for the domestic cross. Early generations have some form of dark spotting on a lighter coat, and many early breeders employed “wild-looking” spotted.
In addition, the Savannah can come in nonstandard variations such as the classic or marble patterns, snow coloration (point), and blue or other diluted colors derived from domestic sources of cat coat genetics. Most breeders are trying to cull these nonstandard colors out of the gene pool by selling nonstandard colored cats as pets, but some Savannah breeders are interested in working with these colors to introduce them as new traits.
The overall look of an individual Savannah depends greatly on generation, with higher-percentage Savannah cats often having a more “wild” look. The domestic breed used will influence appearance, as well. The domestic outcrosses for the Savannah breed that are permissible in TICA are the Egyptian Mau, the Ocicat, the Oriental Shorthair, and the Domestic Shorthair. In addition, some Savannah breeders use “impermissible” breeds or mixes, such as Bengal (for size and vivid spotting) and Maine Coon cats (for size) for the domestic parentage, but these outcrosses can bring many unwanted genes, as well. Outcrosses are rarely used these days, as many fertile males are available, and as a result, most breeders are exclusively breeding Savannahs to Savannahs. The main exception would be when using a serval to produce F1 cats, and even then breeders prefer to use a Savannah with the serval, rather than a non-Savannah female.
A Savannah’s wild look is often due to the presence of many distinguishing serval characteristics. Most prominent of these include the various color markings; tall, deeply cupped, wide, rounded, erect ears; very long legs; fat, puffy noses, and hooded eyes. The bodies of Savannahs are long and leggy; when a Savannah is standing, its hind-end is often higher than its prominent shoulders. The small head is taller than wide, and it has a long, slender neck.
The backs of the ears have ocelli, a central light band bordered by black, dark grey or brown, giving an eye-like effect. The short tail has black rings, with a solid black tip. The eyes are blue as a kitten (as in other cats), and may be green, brown, gold or a blended shade as an adult. The eyes have a “boomerang” shape, with a hooded brow to protect them from harsh sunlight. Ideally, black or dark “tear-streak” or “cheetah tear” markings run from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose to the whiskers, much like that of a cheetah.
Most F1 generation Savannahs will possess many or all of these traits, while their presence often diminishes in later generations. Being a newly developing, hybridized breed of cats, appearance can vary far more than cat owners may expect.