What is a Savannah Cat

What is a Savannah cat, sounds like an easy question doesn't it, but is there an easy answer, lets see.

If a Male Tiger is mated to a Female lion the resulting offspring is called a Tigon,  No, this is not a joke and to prove it here is a picture of one.


Now if a Male Lion is mated to a Female Tiger the resulting offspring are called  Ligers.


(As a side note) Ligers are huge because the male Lion has a growth gene and the female Lioness has a growth inhibitor gene, when the lion mates a tigress (who has no growth inhibitor) then the Liger offspring keeps growing, conversely the male tiger has a growth inhibiter and the female lioness also has one, so the Tigon will  generally be smaller than either of it's parents. Anyway back to the Savannah story...  When an African Serval is mated to a domestic cat (no easy feat in itself) then the resulting offspring are  called  Savannah cats.

Savannah F1 Hybrid

The question is, are any of these three examples a breed of cat, well the answer obviously is No because they are all cross breeds, or as we generally refer to them, Hybrids. In the case of Savannahs we can say that, at this early stage, they are a breed in the making. The early hybrids are designated with a filial generation number, that is to say, the first cross to a Serval is an F1 (50% Serval), the F1 when crossed with a domestic cat  produces an F2 (25% Serval) The F2 produces an F3 (12.5%Serval) and so on. Unfortunately the F1 designation is also used on higher percentage breedings i.e. if an F1 (50% Serval) is mated to a Serval the offspring will also be designated F1 but will be 75% Serval and so on down the line, I say unfortunately only in that the designation can not by itself represent the percentage of wild blood and while showing an F3 for example in a cat show (which is allowable in TICA (the international Cat Association)  with the intent of perhaps having all cats at the same level  (for judging purposes) of 12.5%  may  now be compromised by having some cats with considerably more Serval blood than others, the judge however cannot make an allowance based on the percentage of Serval because it will be unknown to them. So while we are  not against the practice of creating high percentage Savannahs it  would be nice to see  a designation that clearly represents what the cats truly are It is possible to have a Savannah with such a high percentage of Serval that it is basically a Serval being called a Savannah, clearly this is not the intention of the cat fancy.  

      Breeding a domestic cat to an African Serval does not a breed by itself make, but the foundation of a breed may well be created this way. The objectives/goals of various breeders will of course be different, some will want to keep to a high percentage Savannah hybrid which more closely resembles the Serval, others will take on the challenge of creating a breed removed from the wild blood that also resembles or captures some of the beauty of the Serval and may also be judged in cat shows. The biggest challenge when using two distinctively different genotypes is that the male offspring are sterile usually until the 4th or 5th generation. Keeping type therefore is very difficult but the objective of the show breeder is to breed Savannah to Savannah thus developing a domestic cat with Serval traits. Until a viable breeding is possible between male and female of the species then a breed does not exist.   So we have two very different approaches being taken within this breed, both with their own rewards, regardless of your preferences be assured that some very wonderful and beautiful creatures have and are being developed, ready and willing to be a lifelong, loving companion. Remember this is a relatively new breed in the making and uniformity of type is still a work in progress.

In order to collectively breed towards the same look a standard has been created and accepted by TICA (The International Cat Association) The following is the show point distribution and standard for the Savannah.

Revised 02/15/03 Savannah Breed Standard, 05/01/2003


HEAD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 points

Shape . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Ears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Eyes . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Chin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Muzzle . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Nose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Neck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

BODY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 points

Torso . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Legs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Feet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Tail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Boning . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Musculature . . . . . . . . 8


Texture . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Pattern . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Color . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

CATEGORY: Traditional.

DIVISIONS: Solid, Tabby and Silver/Smoke Division.

COLORS: Black, Brown Spotted Tabby,Silver Spotted Tabby and Back Smoke ONLY.


Shape: The face forms an equilateral triangle. The top of the triangle is the brow line over the eyes; the sides follow down the jaw bone meeting at the chin. The triangle excludes the ears. The head is small in proportion to the body.


Ears are large and high on the head; wide with a deep base and rounded tips. The inner base of the ears are quite close at the top of the head. There are ear furnishings present that rarely extend beyond the edge of the ear. Light colored, horizontal bars (i.e., occelli) on the back of the ear are desirable.


 The top of the eye resembles a boomerang set at the exact angle so that the corner of the eye slopes down the line of the nose. The bottom half of the eye has an almond shape. The eyes are set directly underneath a slightly hooded brow. The eyes are moderately deep set and low on the forehead with at least one eye width apart. Tear stain markings are present along and between the eye and the nose. Eye color is considered independent of coat color; the deeper, more vivid colors are preferred.


 From the frontal view the chin tapers to follow the triangle of the head. In profile, the chin is very shallow without much depth.


The muzzle is a tapered muzzle with no break. It falls within the bottom portion of the facial triangle that runs from the brow to the point of the chin.


The forehead is a straight to slightly convex curve from the top of the head to the ridge just above the eye where there is a slight change of direction and a straight to very-slight concave curve from that ridge to the tip of the nose. In profile, the face also forms a triangle from the top of the eye to the tip of the nose, turning to follow the jaw line and back up to the eye.


 Viewing from the front, the nose is wide across the top with low set nostrils. In profile, there is a slight downward turn at the end, giving a rounded appearance. Nose leather is slightly convex not flat.


              Long and lean.


Torso: A semi-foreign body type with a full deep rib cage and a slight, but not extreme, tuck-up and a rounded rump. The hip and thigh are full and long and somewhat heavy in proportion to the rest of the body.


            Very long and slender yet strong. Back legs are slightly longer

than the front legs, and due to this extreme length, may now and then give a false appearance of being cowhocked.


        Oval, small to medium, with elongated toes.


           Medium length and thickness, not reaching the floor when standing and tapering slightly to a blunt end; very articulated and expressive.


           Medium boning with density and strength.


                   Firm, well-developed, yet smooth.


        Short to medium in length with a slightly coarse feel to it; a coat that has remarkable substance and texture. Coarser guard hairs cover a softer undercoat, though the spots have a notably softer texture. The coat is not inordinately dense and lays relatively flat against the body.


Black, brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby, black smoke ONLY. The only color variations allowed are the gold to orange ground color with bold dark markings, the silver ground color with bold dark markings, solid black and black smoke. In any variation the lips are black, as are the prominent black tear duct lines on the inner sides of each eye.

On the spotted Savannahs the nose leather can be either brick red, solid  black or black with a light red or pink line running down the center. In black Savannahs, the nose leather must be solid black. Paw pads in either color variation should be deep charcoal or brownish black.


                 The spotted Savannah pattern is bold, dark-brown to black with round, oval and elongated spots. A series of parallel stripes, from the back of the head to just over the shoulder blades, fan out slightly over the back and the spotting pattern follows the line of the stripes from the shoulders continuing the length of the body. Smaller spots will be found on the legs and feet as well as on the face. The black Savannah should be solid black. Black spotting on a black background is the ideal. The spots should conform to the spotted Savannah's standard. The smoke pattern will conform to the spotted Savannah’s standard.


                             The ideal Savannah is to be a confident, alert, curious and friendly cat.


The overall impression of the Savannah is a tall lean graceful cat with striking, large, dark spots and other bold markings on a luxurious tawny, gold , orange, silver, black or black smoke background. The cat is a replica of the tall, lean, muscular Serval cat of the African plains from which it originated. Affectionate and outgoing, with exceptionally long neck, legs and ears, as well as a medium length tail, the Savannah is both unusual and beautiful. The Savannah is also an exceptionally graceful, well-balanced cat with striking color and pattern.


                    Spots that are any color other than dark brown to black. Any distinct locket on the neck, chest, abdomen or any other area not provided for in the standard. Vertically aligned spots or mackerel tabby type stripes. Cobby body. Small ears.


Extra toes.


Temperament must be unchallenging; any sign of definite challenge shall disqualify. The cat may exhibit fear, seek to flee, or generally

Complain aloud but may not threaten to harm.

In accordance with Show Rules, ARTICLE SIXTEEN, the following shall be Considered mandatory disqualifications: a

cat that bites (216.9), a cat showing evidence of intent to deceive (216.10), adult whole male cats not having two descended testicles

(216.11), cats with all or part of the tail missing , except as authorized by a Board approved standard (216.12.1), cats with more than five toes on each front foot and four toes on each back foot, unless proved the result of an injury or as authorized by a Board

approved standard (216.12.2), visible or invisible tail faults if Board approved standard requires disqualification (216.12.4), crossed eyes if Board approved standard requires disqualification

(216.12.5), total blindness (216.12.6), markedly smaller size, not in keeping with the breed (216.12.9), and depression of the sternum or unusually small diameter of the rib cage itself ( See Show Rules, ARTICLE SIXTEEN for more comprehensive

r u l e s governing penalties and disqualifications.


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