Although the Abyssinian is one of the oldest known breeds, there continues to be speculation and controversy concerning its history. In appearance, Abyssinians resemble the paintings and sculptures of ancient Egyptian cats, which portray an elegant feline with a muscular body, beautiful arched neck, large ears, and almond-shaped eyes. Abys today still retain the jungle look of "felis lybica," the African wildcat ancestor of all domestic cats.
The source of the name is not because Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia, is thought to be the original home of these cats, but because the first "Abyssinians" exhibited in shows in England were reported to have been imported from that country. Recent studies by geneticists show that the most convincing origin of the Abyssinian breed is the coast of the Indian Ocean and parts of Southeast Asia. The first Abyssinians to be imported to North America from England arrived in the early 1900s, but it was not until the late 1930s that several top-quality Abys were exported from Britain to form the foundation of today's American breeding programs.
As described in the Abyssinian Breeders International "Kitten Buyer's Guide" by Carolyn Osier, "Abyssinians must be one of the most intelligent animals ever created." This handbook for the potential Aby owner describes these cats as "... a very people-oriented cat. Not a lap cat ... but a cat that likes to be with people, a cat that wants to know what you are doing -- that wants to help. There is probably no breed anywhere more loyal than the Aby. Once you have acquired an Aby as a companion, you will never be able to complain that no one understands you. Abys are very good at training people to do just what they want them to do."