The first known savannah was born April 7th, 1986 , when Judee Frank's female domestic cat gave birth to a kitten sired by an African Serval. This F1 (first generation hybrid cross) was the first on record. This unusual female kitten had both domestic and Serval like qualities. Both the kitten and breed were named “Savannah” by Suzi Wood (the breeder who came to own her). Suzi was interested in attempting to breed Savannah back to a domestic cat. At the time nothing was known about the fertility of an African serval / domestic cat hybrid. As it turned out Savannah was fertile and produced a number of litters of F2's (second generation hybrid crosses) which proved the Savannah might have hope as a new breed. Suzi Wood wrote two articles for animal publications about her Savannah. This attracted the attention of Patrick Kelley who had hopes of starting a new breed of large domestic cat with a wild spotted look. Patrick contacted both Suzi Wood and Judee Frank but neither were interested in taking the breed any farther. Patrick therefore purchased the only female kitten Savannah had produced, and began approaching several breeders of Servals and encouraged them to attempt the development of this new breed along with him. Initially, very few breeders were interested. But Patrick persisted and finally convinced one breeder, Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. During this time Patrick's F2 Savannah was bred back to a domestic and produced the first F3 Savannah kittens, giving further hope to this new breed. Also Patrick and Joyce wrote the original breed standard and presented it to the TICA Board of Directors in February 1996. Today, Patrick's well-known SavannahCat.com website is the foremost promoter of our breed on the internet and he has also had much success promoting Savannahs in “Cat Fancy” magazine. Joyce Sroufe went on to become a very successful Savannah breeder and is often credited with being the founder of this breed. Due to Joyce's diligence, perseverance, and faith in this breed, along with her extensive knowledge and skills in cat breeding, she produced more Savannahs than any other breeder at the time and was the first to breed down to the later generations and produce fertile males. Joyce was also the one who first introduced the breed to the public via exhibition at a major cat show in Westchester, New York in 1997. Her breeding program provided kittens to the pet world that resulted in an explosion of demand for these cats. It also provided breeding females and fertile males that became the basis for many other Savannah breeding programs. Joyce's experience, and her belief in, and commitment to the breed enabled her to mentor new breeders interested in becoming involved with the development of this breed. Another person who deserves much recognition as being instrumental in the development of Savannahs as a very successful and popular breed is Lorre Smith, the first TICA (The International Cat Association) Savannah Breed Chairperson, whose dedicated efforts helped launch Savannahs forward within the ranks of TICA at a rate more rapid than any other breed in TICA history. It was through Lorre's efforts during a moratorium on hybrid breeds within TICA, that this breed was eventually accepted by TICA into its New Breed program. Lorre worked diligently with other breeders to refine the breed standard and thereby ensure the success of the Savannah breed in its advancement through the steps required within TICA in its march towards championship status, and acceptance as a true domestic breed. It is largely through Lorre's efforts that the breed has advanced so rapidly through TICA and has been so well accepted by TICA officials. Savannah Breed Section Members under the guidance of Carol Streit, the previous Breed Chairperson, are presently working on advancing to championship status within TICA and expect to achieve this major milestone within the next five years.The response of TICA Judges and the general public has been overwhelmingly favorable over the past few years, establishing Savannah Cats, with their elegant, exotic looks and interactive personalities, as one of the most sought-after companion animals in the world today.
“Savannah Breed History” ~ written by Cynthia King of The Kasbah, Ltd. with contributions from Patrick Kelley of SavannahCat.com.