The recorded history of the Cyprus Cat starts some 9500 years ago and was brought into the public domain as a result of the archaeological discovery of domesticated cat remains by a French archaeologist, Prof. Jean Guillain, in 2004. The most influential period for the cat’s development occurred, however, in 328AD when two boatloads of cats were sent to the island from Egypt and Palestine by St Helena. This was done to combat the infestation of snakes on the island following a drought lasting 37 years. The cats were able to breed for 12 hundred years with little outside influence; this has resulted in a breed of cat which is unique, robust, and extremely healthy.
Sadly, whilst cats have been on Cyprus for thousands of years they are not well respected in their own country and are often mistreated, being shot, poisoned and run-over with impunity. They desperately need protection and respect in their country of origin. A British family, who had been involved with the U.K. cat fancy for 25 years, moved to Cyprus in 2005. They were struck by the plight of so many of the indigenous cats and also immediately noticed the very distinctive features of many of the Cyprus cats. They appeared to be of a specific type but did not fit any existing recognised breed standards. They decided, just as a matter of personal interest, to have a few test litters to see whether the cats bred true to type.
It quickly became apparent that, not only did the cats breed true, but also, under controlled conditions and with good nutrition, the kittens were very large and grew into substantial cats weighing up to 10kg. It was then that they wondered whether the Cyprus cat could possibly be a breed in its own right? And if so, would it be possible to gain international recognition for the Cyprus cat and could national pride then be stimulated by this so that the cats would be respected and protected?
In 2008 a WCF all-breeds judge visited Cyprus to judge at a cat show and was introduced to the breeder. He considered that these cats were, indeed, different. He wrote a Standard of Points, and named them Aphrodite Giant cats. The President and Board Members of the WCF advised that the Aphrodite cats should be shown as widely as possible outside Cyprus so that they could become known within the Cat Fancy. Subsequently, a group of interested people in Cyprus decided to form a club, which was named the Cyprus Cats National Breed Association. The CyCNBA applied for Government approval and started functioning in late 2009. CyCNBA applied to affiliate to the World Cat Federation in April 2012.
In addition, it was agreed that a letter be sent to Professor Leslie Lyons of U.C. Davis, California (the leading specialist in cat genetics), asking whether she would agree to DNA test a selection of Cyprus cats to see whether it was possible to genetically define them as a breed. The Professor, who intended shortly to begin a further study of Turkish Van and Turkish Angora cats, agreed to study samples submitted from Cyprus. A total of 248 cats were studied, including a number of random bred Cyprus cats from the Malcolm Cat Sanctuary, for comparison. “All cats were considered in one large analysis. The analysis partitioned the cats based solely on genetic variation, not by any other identification.” (L.Lyons – 2nd January 2012) The January 2012 report concluded in its Overall summary that “Cyprus cats are a distinct population within the Mediterranean” and that a “breed from Cyprus could be developed.”
Aphrodite Giant cats were first shown on Cyprus in 2007 (before they had a formal name and SOP) and have continued to be shown in local shows since then. Aphrodites were first shown abroad in October 2009 at the WCF Supreme Show in Berlin, where Llelayne Jacob, great grandson of the Foundation cats, won 2nd place in the WCF Ring; a unique feat by a cat from an un-recognized breed. Since then Aphrodite Giants have been shown in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Kurgygystan, Majorca, Poland, and Russia. In April 2012 the Cyprus Cats National Breed Association attended the WCF General Assembly in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and applied for recognition of the Aphrodite Giant cat. This was approved by an overwhelming majority of the delegates (86.7%) and thus, on 1st July 2012, the Aphrodite cat became a fully recognised breed of the World Cat Federation.
Foundation female found in the Troodos Mountains. WCF Olympia Bronze winner Alexandria of Troodos
Since full recognition, the Aphrodite Giant has performed with distinction at shows across Europe. We now have Triple Masters, Double Masters, Silver Jubilee Masters, a Bronze Olimpiad Master, International Premiers, International Champions, Champions, Premiers and Kitten Champions. In the WCF Best Cat Competition 2011 an Aphrodite kitten gained 15th place. In the 2012 Best Cat Competition, Aphrodite Giants achieved 3rd Place Best Alter, 3rd Place Continental Winner Asia and Best Alter Asia. The WCF Best Cat Competition 2013 has produced some truly wonderful results for the Aphrodite Giant cats including, amongst other awards - World Best Neuter, Best Veteran, and 2nd Best Kitten.
Anchises Armani, SBV Aphrodite
TEMPERAMENT AND CHARACTER
Aphrodites are strong, lively, very affectionate and active cats. They love to play and often develop very close relationships with one particular care giver, rather as dogs do.
They get on well with dogs, particularly if introduced early. They are generally good with other cats, especially those with strong characters. Aphrodite Giants are a slow developing breed that do not reach full maturity until about 4 - 5 years of age.
Males are considerably larger than the females, with the largest males weighing around 10-11kg, females average between 5 + 7kg. In the semi-longhair version both sexes develop wonderful ruffs/manes in the winter. Full ruffs are not generally seen before the age of 3.
GROOMING AND CARE
The S/H needs brushing once or twice a week and a wonderful sheen can be produced by using a piece of velvet or chamois leather to buff the coat after brushing. The SLH needs regular grooming – every other day is best, particularly during the moulting season. It must be remembered that due to the climactic conditions in Cyprus (country of origin) the SLH coat sheds dramatically in spring and the cat may look almost shorthaired, albeit with a bushy tail. Particular attention must be paid to grooming the ruff, under the forearms, and the breeches to prevent knotting.
Good quality, premium cat food should be served. We also give some meals of fresh, minced chicken and steak. It must be borne in mind that this breed matures very slowly and we have found it best to keep to a kitten diet until the cat reaches 18 months to 2 years, particularly if un-neutered. Because neutered cats have a tendency to put on weight the owner needs to ensure their animal is kept at a good weight for its size. We do not recommend a sudden change of diet as Aphrodites can have sensitive stomachs. Gradual is best.
CATS IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Cyprus has a large number of feral cats, however it is increasingly difficult to find really good representative specimens of the Aphrodite Giant. Many Cypriots regards cats as vermin and they are shot, poisoned, and deliberately run over. Our Foundation Stud, Master & I.Pr. Llelayne Cassidy has survived a severe leg injury (hence his name), gun- shot, poison and snakebite. One of the reasons we started our campaign to get the Aphrodite Giant cats international recognition was the hope that by doing so, we might be able to get the general Cypriot public to realise that they have a very special and unique cat here and that they should give it the respect and protection that it so richly deserves.
T. Litherland March 2014 – Not to be reproduced or copied, in whole or in part, except with specific permission.
“It is wonderful to see them, for nearly all are maimed by the snakes; one has lost a nose, another an ear; the skin of one is torn, another is lame: one is blind of one eye, another of both. And it is a strange thing that at the hour for their food, at the sound of a bell, they collect at the monastery and when they have eaten enough, at the sound of that same bell, they all depart together to go fight the snakes.”
Visiting Venetian Francesco Suriano (1484)
(This extract comes from the archives of Kikkos Monastery)