Photographs illustrating this article are by Helmi Flick and are her copyright.
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Just had a look at this very little known cat and she is probably the rarest domestic cat on the planet. The breed's history is what interested me but it is a little hazy and to my mind leaves some questions to be answered. This is a great cat with a character a little like the Bengal cat but it is the history that requires the most attention.
It is said that this breed has existed for perhaps centuries in and around the Sokoke Forest which is close to the Savanna that straddles North Tanzania to South East Kenya. There is a town called Sokoke as well.
The local people, of the area, the Giriama tribe, knew of the cat. They knew it wasn't a wild cat nor a domestic cat as her appearance was quite distinct. This cat has an elegant slightly rangy appearance with long legs. She is not dissimilar to the Savannah cat, which is a man made cross between the wild Serval and a domestic cat (and the Bengal being introduced later).
The locals called the cat, "Khadzonzo". This word means "look like tree bark", because as you can see from Helmi Flick's photographs the modified tabby pattern (marbled) against a brown background looks a bit like bark.
It is said that they ate the cat as she tasted sweet. This apparently has stopped (perhaps as a result of the intervention of Western people in exporting this cat to the Wet and making a breed of cat out if her).
Anyway, this is a cat well known to the area in Kenya and is probably a feral domestic cat on the evidence. She still inhabits the area but as far as I can gather is rarely seen.
As she looked very similar to the Savannah cat, whose genetic parents are the Serval and a domestic cat, I thought that the Sokoke could be the result of the mating of a Serval and a local domestic cat. Especially as the habitat of the Serval is the Savanna, which is close to the Sokoke forest area.
As it happened a former horse breeder, plantation owner and artist (Jeni Slater) lived near the forest. One of her servants found kittens and mother hidden in a tree. Their interesting coloring and conformation attracted her and the first steps in the founding of this breed began. The year was 1978.
Since then they cat has been exported to the West, firstly to Denmark, Italy and then the US and Canada. The breed is accepted for full registration by FiFe and the TICA has agreed registration fairly recently
There are few breeders of this lovely cat. She has a pleasant character and like a lot of "jungle type" cats likes or doesn't mind the water. Lots of cats hate it.
As far as I can ascertain there are probably no more than about 50 Sokoke in existence but this is a bit of a guess. It is certainly a very small number as there are very few breeders.
The breeder who seems to top the list is Sunbright Sokokes
From Sokoke to Serval