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Sokoke

Sokoke

Place of origin

Denmark; Kenya

History

The Sokoke was developed in Denmark from cats found in greater Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Preserve, in the coastal region of Kenya. It was previously known as the African Shorthair, but is only native to this one region within Kenya. The Sokoke had already become a natural breed when discovered by cat fanciers and lived among Giriama tribal elders, who called it Khadzonzo, literally "looks like tree bark," because of the pattern of the coat.

Theories abound as to the origins of cats in the Sokoke region: independent evolution from a local strain of African Wild Cat or descended from domestic cats introduced by Portuguese sailors or from British settlers. DNA testing as part of the Cat Genome Project found it to be related to the Asian group of breeds and related to the Arabian wild cat (with which domestic cats can interbreed).

In 1978, a British/Kenyan woman found some feral Sokoke kittens on a coconut plantation. She allowed them to breed and showed them to a Danish friend who imported a pair into Denmark in 1984. More followed in 1991, and these formed the "Old Line" foundation for the Sokoke (or Afro-Danish Sokoke) breed recognized by the FIFe soon after. When inbreeding became a problem, progressive breeders proposed outcrossing to Oriental and Russian Shorthairs while more conservative breeders sought foundation Sokoke cats imported from Kenya.

Luckily, in 2000, a British/Kenyan resident in the region obtained several Sokokes from near the Arabuko-Sokoke Preserve through her native gardener. These became the "New Line" and were registered with the FIFe in Europe in 2003 and with TICA in the United States in 2004. Outcrossing is no longer allowed, but Sokoke cats may still be imported from Kenya as foundation cats. The breed is becoming increasingly rare in its homeland due to mongrelization with street cats.

Physical description

The Sokoke has a modified wedge-shaped head with medium-large tufted ears and almond shaped amber to light green eyes. The head looks small compared to the body. It has a medium-long, slender body and medium boning, but is surprisingly muscular. The hind legs are longer than the forelegs and are well angled; this is another distinctive breed characteristic-the cats have a tip-toe gait, but the back remains level (leading to comparisons with the wild cheetah). These cats tend to feel rigid when alert. The coat is very short and glossy, with a rather hard texture and minimal undercoat.

Sokoke cats are found in two types that can occur in the same litter. The first type is leggier and more svelte, whereas the second type has a rounder head and heavier boning. These differences are more obvious in young cats than in adults. Males may be considerably larger than females. Old Line Sokokes tend to have a hard, thin, stiff-feeling tail. New Line cats lack the hard tail, although the Old and New Lines are being interbred to preserve the trait.

The Sokoke differs from other domestic purebreds due to its behavior and its color and pattern. The "see-through tabby" pattern is akin to the "marble" pattern of the Bengal and is also sometimes seen in random-bred cats.

Colors and varieties

The only recognized color is black tabby in a modified classic tabby pattern. Agouti regions are present within the black markings, giving a modified tabby, marbled, or clouded pattern sometimes called "see-through tabby." Sokokes sometimes produce tabby colorpoint kittens (Snow Sokokes), solid blacks, blue solid/ tabby, and semi-longhairs probably inherited from outcross cats.

Temperament

The Sokoke is intelligent, active, and nonaggressive. It is playful and family-oriented and forms close bonds with other cats and with its human family. This bonding means Sokokes may take longer to settle into new homes. It is also a very interactive cat, demanding attentions from its family. Although a Sokoke loves to be near its humans, it prefers to be high up rather than on a lap. Sokokes can keep themselves and each other amused for hours with small toys, and they are prone to hiding a toy and then retrieving it at a later date. They often enjoy playing with water.

Activity level

Moderate to high

Vocal level

Moderate to high; Sokokes have a rather strong voice and can be talkative.

Special needs

Due to its geographic origins, the Sokoke appears to have limited resistance to common New World cat illnesses and to be less well adapted to cold climates. Their short coat needs little additional care. Many owners report their Sokokes to enjoy sand-bathing.

From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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