2019, Sarah Hartwell

When the Burmese was developed in the USA it was envisaged as a dark brown cat (“sable” in the USA). Recessive genes meant that other colours popped up: blue (dilution of the sable), champagne (chocolate gene) and platinum (lilac/lavender - dilution of chocolate). Resistance to the newer colours and fears of hybridisation between sables and other colours led to the other colours being registered as Malayans in order to compete for championship status. Some sable Burmese breeders lost sight of the fact that these were just colour differences and that everything else was unchanged. A history of the Blue Burmese, based in part on material researched by Tommy Meadow, was printed in Cat World (International) in the 1980s, but an error means it mistakenly identified the Laos/Yana lines as the carriers of the blue gene.

The earliest documented Blue Burmese was in the 1940s. Mr B. Estes had a blue kitten in a Burmese litter born on 11th April, 1947. This blue Burmese was beautiful, but was never bred and Mr Estes’ cats never produced another blue. The kitten had a sable littermate “So Wat of the Forbidden City”. A Mrs Lee Harris had a blue Burmese that she sold as a pet. The gene was present in one of her cats, “Casa Gatos DarKee,” a son of “So Wat of the Forbidden City,” who was exported to England in 1953. The only other Burmese in England were descended from the 3 imports in 1948. DarKee was mated to a female descended solely from those imported cats and then mated to one of his daughters, resulting in “Sealcoat Blue Surprise” who caused quite a stir in England and the USA. Breeders concluded that colour inheritance in Burmese was the same as that in Siamese. Mrs V. Watson had sent a copy of a fully documented pedigree of a Blue Burmese to the USA (it had been prepared partly by a professional geneticist to present the Britain’s GCCF), only for it to have been conveniently lost and never acknowledged. She concluded that American breeders did not want to acknowledge the appearance of the blue colour. When she approached an American Burmese breeder she was told that she hadn’t looked after her breeding cats properly and there must have been a mis-mating with some other male! When Mrs Watson said this was impossible she was told she didn’t know what she was talking about. Later on she found out that DarKee’s sire, “So Wat of the Forbidden City” had a blue littermate. “Casa Gatos Darkee” had 346 registered offspring – a huge contribution to a small gene pool in the UK.

In the USA, blue Burmese continued to pop up and the cats were definitely not mis-mated. In 1958 Virginia Daly bred “Ch. Su-Ryan Ma Hone Linn of Dalai” to “Gerstdale’s Suddrudin Khan” and got 2 blue Burmese – so both parents carried blue. There was also the blue male “Sable Shadow Milord of HRH Marin” and a short-lived blue female born to “Ruboe Akhatari” when bred to her own son – Akhatari turned out to be another blue carrier. Several others had popped up in litters and common ancestors could be traced.

“So Wat of the Forbidden City” was the sire of “Casa Gatos DarKee,” “Gerstdale’s Suddrudin Khan,” and “Gerstdale’s Mulkraj II,” all of whom produced blue offspring. The parents of “So Wat” were “Son O’ Keet” and “Sin Gu” and both had to carry the blue gene. There were pernicious rumours from the “it must have come from a mis-mating” faction that “Son O’Keet’s” sire, “Paat Keet” was sired by a black or blue domestic and not by “Yen Yen Mau”. It was hard for some Burmese breeders to accept that the recessive gene had been present in the gene pool right from the start.

The article in Cat World suggested the blue gene went back through the Laos/Yana lines behind “Casa Gatos Sanyta,” “Su-Ryan Ma Hone Linn” and “Su-Ryan Mem Sahib” back to “Tai Mau” and ”Wong Mau.” Mem Sahib’s grandfather was “So-Wat of the Forbidden City” and the blue gene appears to go back through his line (not the Laos/Yana lines) back to “Tai Mau” and ”Wong Mau.” Either way, the gene was traceable to the same breed foundation cats.

blue burmese cat
(Click for large size chart.