Naturally occurring hairless mutations have appeared in many different species of animal throughout history all over the world.       
The ancestry of the naked Canadian Sphynx cats we have today can be traced back to Elizabeth, a black and white domestic shorthair cat, who gave birth to a hairless male kitten called Prune, in Ontario,Canada in 1966. Prune was subsequently mated back to his mother and the resulting litter contained both coated and naked kittens. These cats, along with other hairless mutations born later, formed the foundation of Sphynx world-wide.

With such a small gene pool, outcrossing was necessary and several breeds were used:- Cornish Rex, American Shorthair, domestic shorthair and, more widely – Devon Rex. The gene responsible for hairlessness was found to be recessive, i.e. it has to meet up with a copy of itself before the said characteristic manifests and breeders in the early days worked diligently to progress the breed.  Recent work at U.C. Davis in USA has discovered that the hr gene (Sphynx) is actually dominant to the re gene (Devon Rex) which is why so many early breeders had success in achieving the desired appearance.

Today, outcrossing to maintain health is still undertaken and GCCF guidelines allow the use of two approved breeds - Russian Blue and domestic shorthair.