The Lykoi is a lean cat with wide ears and a hairless face. While the amount of hair varies from cat to cat the Lykoi’s fur is a blend of black and white (known as a roan) that is unique to the breed.
A Lykoi’s mixmatch of hairlessness and colouring contributes to its scruffy appearance, which is caused by a natural-occurring mutation. This mutation affects the cat’s hair follicles causing both continued hair loss and an inability to grow a complete coat of fur, which is why the breed does not have an undercoat. The lack of hair is the leading theorised cause, as to why there is not a flourishing Lykoi population in the wild – without a coat of fur to protect them Lykoi cats are unable to survive in the cold winter.
Although the mutation has been found in feral domestic short hairs for over twenty years, the Lykoi’s journey as a recognised breed began after a litter of supposedly mutated Sphinx kittens came into the care of one Patti Thomas. DNA testing by Dr. Leslie Lyons proved the kittens did not possess either Sphinx or Devon Rex genes. Without the resources to further test and establish the breed, Patti chose to entrust the litter to Tennessee veterinary, Dr. Johnny Gobble. Dr. Gobble’s extensive testing confirmed that the kittens did not possess any genetic disease or skin condition, and they were instead a new breed.
Two litters were eventually presented to Dr. Gobble and his wife, Brittney: the first, from Patti born approximately in July 2010 and found in Virginia. The second, born approximately in September of the same year and found in Tennessee. Dr. Gobble selected two cats to breed—one from each litter and thus unrelated—and on 14 September 2011 the first intentionally bred Lykoi was born.
Six years later, Australia’s first ever Lykoi kittens were born in Tasmania thanks to the tireless efforts of breeder, Emma Vernon. Back in 2010, Emma contacted the Gobbles, and became Australia's official Lykoi breeder. In 2015, Emma was able to import a male Lykoi—named Vukasin—from America. Emma was also fortunate enough to discover one male Lykoi here in Australia, and after breeding him with the daughter of Vukasin (a female domestic black shorthair who carried the recessive Lykoi gene) became the happy owner of four kittens – two of which have been confirmed as Lykoi.
Dr. Gobbles credits Patti Thomas for the breed's name. Lykoi is a play on the Greek word, ‘Lycos’, which translates to ‘wolf’ – hence the loose translation of Lycos cat to ‘wolf cat’. Like their namesake Lykoi are loyal, cautious, and predatory with their play. The International Cat Association describes how the Lykoi, “appear to have dog-like attributes because they will fetch, hunt, and chase as a wolf would on the hunt.” According to Dr. Gobble, Lykoi cats also have surprisingly soft fur, are driven by scent, and are extremely intelligent.
Research into the relatively new breed’s genetics, origins, and mannerisms continue to this day.