History and Myte

In the quest for the forest cat's ancestry, one comes across many more or less fantastic stories.

The oldest folk tales about forest cats are from sources that claim that the household pet cats of the Norwegian Vikings were forest cats. The Vikings took their cats with them on their tours to the known World and beyond, and it is believed that this explains the large numbers of half-wild semi-longhaired cats found in Normandy and perhaps in the USA.

In 1559, the Danish-born priest Peter Clausson Friis, who at that time lived in Norway and was greatly interested in nature, split the Norwegian lynx into three classes: the wolf-lynx, fox-lynx and cat-lynx. Later it became clear that all the Norwegian lynx belonged to the same class. What Peter Clausson Friis called cat-lynx were perhaps really Norwegian Forest Cats. It is quite possible since there actually are many similarities between the lynx and the Norwegian Forest Cat. The more apparent of these are that both are large, high legged cats with a long mane and ear tufts. On top of that, both like water and many are the stories that tell of forest cats with the ability to catch fish in lakes and brooks - just like the lynx.

It has been these similarities between the lynx and the forest cat that have time and time again led people to take a not inconsiderable interest in the forest cats.

In the village there were many cats of course, but in the old folk tales there is especially one type that mentioned again and again, and it is a large, longhaired cat. Because of the size and its lynx-like characteristics, folk thought that it was a mixture of dog and cat or, more commonly, that it was a half-lynx.

In Asbjornsen and Moes folk tale the forest cat appears several times. Here they are called "Huldrekat" which in the glossary are described as "forest cat with a thick bushy tail". Folk tales and legends are not the only evidence of the frequent natural occurrences of forest cats. The Norwegian author Gabriel Scott wrote in 1912 a very well-read children's book called "Sølvfaks" (Silverfaks). The main character in the book is a forest cat called Solvfaks.

The biological explanation for the occurrence of the forest cat is that their ancestors probably were South European shorthaired cats that had spread to Norway as well as other parts of Europe in prehistoric time, Through the natural selection that has functioned in Norway's different and difficult climatic conditions, only individuals with a thick fur and other adaptations to Norway's harsh climate survived.

In the thirties, Norwegians with an interest in cats began to look at the forest cat. However, it was not until the beginning of the seventies, when it was noticed that the forest cat, as a result of the ruralisation of the Norwegian wilderness and the consequently improved survival chances of shorthaired housecats, was facing extinction, that serious breeding programs were commenced. As is well known, matings between shorthaired and longhaired cats lead to short-haired offspring, so if there are no longer factors like a shortage of suitable warm places that favor longhaired cats then these will soon become extinct.

In December 1975, enthusiastic breeders formed Norsk Skogkattring (Norwegian Forest Cat Club), and already in 1976 the breed was officially accepted by FIFé, the largest international cat organization of Europe.