Savannah Breed History
Although Savannahs did not gain worldwide popularity and recognition until the late 1990s, the first known Savannah (pairing of an African Serval and a domestic cat) was achieved in the Mid-1980s by breeder Judee Frank. The F1 female resulting from this breeding was named "Savannah," and most appropriately, is the official name of this fascinating breed today, more than 20 years later. However, the breed was actually named after the savannahs of Africa: the grasslands from which the breed's serval ancestors originate.
Judee Frank's Savannah attracted the interest of Patrick Kelly, who purchased one of Savannah's kittens. Patrick Kelly's enthusiasm and vision for establishing a new domestic breed based on the Serval / domestic cat cross prompted him to research what steps would be needed to be recognized and accepted by an official feline registry. Armed with that information, obtained from Leslie Bowers at TICA , Patrick approached several breeders who owned Servals and encouraged them to attempt the development of this breed. Initially, very few breeders were interested. But Patrick persisted and finally convinced one breeder, Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. 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 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 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 Savannah Breed Chairman, 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 the 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. Savannah Breed Section Members are currently working on advancing to championship status within TICA and expect to achieve this major milestone within the next five years. 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.
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 perhaps the most sought after companion animal in the world today.