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Meet Helen and Aphrodite, Cyprus's indigenous cats
Updated: 2009-11-03 09:34

NICOSIA - The island which gave the world its first domesticated cat 9,500 years ago is about to bag two breeds of its own, the slinky Aphrodite and the stocky Helen.

Thousands of furry felines have roamed Cyprus for centuries but cat lovers have now managed to classify two distinct breeds based on appearance and wants international recognition for them.

"They are very ancient breeds," said Drita Sjekloca, registrar of the Cyprus Feline Society.

Aphrodite is "taller, more elegant with a higher set of pointed ears" while the cats of St. Helen are cobby, with a broader face, skull and a shorter nose, Sjekloca said.

Both breeds come with short and semi-long coats, she said.

Cypriots were the first civilization worldwide to have a cat as a pet. A human and a cat were found interred in the same 9,500 year old site, Shillourokambos (Cypriot dialect meaning Field of Dogs) by French archaeologists in 2001.

Until that discovery, ancient Egyptians were considered the earliest civilization which domesticated cats. The cat interred was a wild cat, larger than today's domesticated felines and about eight months old.

According to legend, the Greek mythological goddess Aphrodite emerged from sea foam off Cyprus, while historians say St. Helen made her foray to Cyprus in the fourth century AD with a boatload of cats to rid the island of snakes.

The Cyprus Feline Society is attempting to register the breeds as unique through DNA testing, Sjekloca told the Simerini newspaper.