The Savannah is a breed still in development, recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association) since 2001. Although rapidly growing in popularity and numbers of cats registered, these cats are still relatively rare due to the difficulty in breeding the first few generations.
The first known serval and domestic cross was an unplanned mating between Judee Frank’s pet serval and a domestic female. She named the female offspring “Savannah”, which is the name of the breed today, although the name is actually to recognize the native African savannah of the serval.
Joyce Sroufe was the first breeder to actively breed Savannah cats in the 1990’s, and was largely responsible for bringing the breed to popularity. Patrick Kelly helped develop the breed standard, and presented it to TICA. TICA lifted its moratorium against new breeds, accepting the Savannah as an Experimental New Breed in 2001, with Lorre Smith as the first Breed Chairman. The savannah cat is now a Championship breed in The International Cat Association (TICA).
Savannahs are identified by generation with each succeeding generation descended from the serval given a “filial” number, such as F1, F2, etc. F1 Savannahs are 50% serval, F2’s 25%, etc. Females are fertile from F1 generation, males are sterile until the F5 generation, with occasional fertile F4 males. As Savannahs are bred back to the earlier generations, the B and C designations are added, and the percentage of serval genes is higher correspondingly. A B Savannah kitten has both parents Savannah, and a C kitten has both sets of parents and grandparents Savannah. For example an F2A female is bred to an F5B male, her kittens will be F3B. Two “C” Savannahs will produce SBT or “Stud Book Tradition” kittens.
Savannah cats are quite expensive due to the difficulty of producing the first few generations. Just imagine the logistics of producing kittens from a 35lb serval and a 10lb domestic. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and C-sections are the norm. The first generations are the most expensive, with later generations becoming more affordable. Color and spot patterns, and conformation to the breed standard affect pricing greatly also.