Copyright 2002-2015, Sarah Hartwell

The colourpoint pattern is a form of albinism and is known as the "Himalayan pattern" although it's often simply called "Siamese" pattern by cat lovers. It is found in a number of mammals including rabbits and goats from the Himalayas region. The exact effect of the gene depends on the temperature since its effect is inhibit colour in warm areas of the body and allow colour to develop on the cooler areas such as the ears, face, legs, tail and (in males) scrotum. In warmer climes, there is less contrast between the body colour and the point colour. Colourpoint kittens are born with almost pure white coats on a pink skin because of the uniform warmth in the womb; only after birth does the point colour develop. In cooler regions, the contrast may be very pronounced. The characteristic blue eyes reflects reddish at night because albinism affects the tapetum (reflective layer) of the eye; non-albino cats' eyes reflect greenish.

The most familiar colourpoint breeds are the Siamese and Himalayan (Colourpoint Longhair/Colourpoint Persian), but there are a number of others. Most, if not all, colourpoint cats have Siamese somewhere in the history, or at least have Thai, Asian or Japanese cats in the family tree since this pattern occurs naturally throughout Asia and into Russia. The Burmese has a "low contrast" form of the colourpoint gene andthe Tonkinese is halfway between Burmese and Siamese. There are a series of gene variants and combinations controlling the contrast between body colour and point colour.



Modern Siamese come in different varieties - one is the "Modern" Siamese with its exaggerated wedge-shaped head, bat ears, a muzzle sometimes referred to as a "banana nose" and an often excessively tubular body. Another is the "Classic" Siamese that resembles the 1950s-1960s Siamese and intermediate between the more robust "Old-Style" that resemble early Siamese imports and the extreme modern Siamese. There is a continuum between the old-style and the modern Siamese, with most people considering there to be two types: old and modern. Personally speaking, I find many of the modern showbench Siamese extremely ugly creatures and many owners, as opposed to breeders, prefer a less extreme style of cat. For this reason, there are also traditional (old) style Siamese (Thai Siamese) being bred, recreating the chunkier shape familiar in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Both originate from the same cats. The naturally-occurring colourpoints I have seen in Malaysia and Thailand are closer in type to those being bred to the older (non-ultra-typed) Siamese standard. Of the conformation of Siamese cat, Phyllis Lauder wrote in "The British, European and American Shorthair Cat" (1981): "Cats of eastern provenance have not shown long heads: in the 1930s and 40s there was, at the Natural History Museum in London, a stuffed Siamese cat, and this animal’s head was ‘as round as an apple’ to quote one of England’s prominent experimental breeders, the late B. A. Stirling-Webb. The taxidermist’s work showed a large cat of strictly ‘domestic’ type. "

There are many theories about the origin of the Siamese. The Seal Point Siamese was known as the Royal Cat of Siam because it was found in palaces. It seems to have been familiar in the ancient Siam city of Ayudha which was founded in 1350 and was Siam's capital until destroyed by fire during the Burmese invasion of 1767. In Bangkok's National Library there are manuscripts from Ayudha which describe native fauna. "The Cat Book of Poems" depicts pale coated Seal Point Siamese, describing them as having black tails, feet and ears with white hair and blue eyes. No one really knows what the cats of ancient Siam looked like or whether they were bred for body type or purely for colour and pattern with little regard for shape. Another problem is that artists often stylize their illustrations.

The extinct Annamese from Vietnam is also considered by some to be the ancestor of modern Siamese and that the Siamese cat of Thailand arose through interbreeding Birman and Annamese cats. An early description of the Seal Point Siamese in 1676 calls it "Vichien Mas" (meaning "diamond mouth") and drawings depict extreme expression of the colourpoint pattern - dark ears, nose, paws and whiskers. A cat with Siamese markings appeared on an old engraving discovered by the naturalist Pallas on his journey into Southern Russia between 1793 and 1794. It was the opinion of Sir Russell Gordon (who closely studied these cats) and Auguste Pavie (French explorer and one time resident at Bangkok), that the Siamese cat derived from a cross between the Burmese Temple Cat (i.e. Burmese, not the Birman which was known as the "Sacred Burmese Temple Cat") and the Annamite Cat. The Annamite cat was described as a slender, small and gracefully built variety of cat with a short tail. Like so many varieties it was said to have disappeared due to interbreeding with introduced domestic cats.

Although apparently favoured as palace cats, there is no clear record of an distinct Siamese breed until the 1800s. The British became interested in Siamese cats and imported them from Siam. The earliest documented imports were during the 1870s, but these were apparently not bred. In 1884, the departing British Consul-General Gould was given a Siamese cat by the Siamese king. He brought the cat to England and its progeny were exhibited at Crystal Palace in 1885. The early Siamese cats were round-headed, solid and muscular, but even so, their appearance was so extraordinary that they were described as an "unnatural nightmare of a cat". In Ceylon, the Siamese cat was, for a while, known as "Gould's Cat", having been introduced there by Mr Gould. The Burmese Sacred Cat was known to early British cat fanciers as the "Gold Cat". A wild cat of the region was known as the "Golden Cat" (Temminck's Golden Cat) or "Bay Cat". HC Brooke believed these similarities of name to be the reason that Temminck's Golden Cat was claimed to be an ancestor of the Siamese. The first champion Siamese, "Wankee," was born in Hong Kong in 1895 and exhibited in 1898. He was relatively large and round-headed by modern standards, but had a more distinct muzzle and longer body than modern appleheaded (as in the rounded headed "applehead" dolls of the USA) Siamese - more of an intermediate type.

The myth that the Siamese cat was reserved for royalty was debunked by the Zoological Society (Britain) in 1900, but cat-fanciers and zoologists either didn’t talk to each other or, more likely, cat-fanciers preferred the myth of a royal cat to the reality of a common cat. In the Proceedings of the Zoological Society, April 3, 1900 is a report entitled “Mammals of Siam and the Malay Peninsula” which reads: Felis domestica Briss. The Common Cat. " Kuching" of the Malays. " Mow " of the Siamese. The ordinary domestic cat of the Malaya has a very short twisted or knotted tail, or else a mere bob. In Johore I have seen a very remarkably coloured variety of cat, somewhat like the English "tortoise-shell," but the different colours arranged more in spots than in blotches. The "Siamese" cat is fairly common in Siam, and not "reserved for royalty" (Lydekker, Royal Nat. Hist. i. p. 429, line 7). In Bangkok and the Straits Settlements it is not so much prized as a domestic pet as is the somewhat similar, but darker coloured, "Laos" cat from Northern Siam. In this region as elsewhere cats "frequently relapse from a state of domestication, resort to the jungle, and shun the presence of man." (Cantor, p. 38).

Frances Simpson, editor of "The Book of the Cat" (1903) included contributions from several early breeders of Siamese cats. While acknowledging the existence of blues, blacks, whites and tabbies in Siam, she stated that only the "Royal Siamese" and "Chocolate Siamese" were recognised in England at that time. These were sometimes bred to each other although opinions on the quality of the offspring were contradictory. The royal Siamese was sometimes bred to white short-hairs because the English type was preferred over the foreign type by judges. Because white is dominant and masks other colours, "sports" with "any other colour" points occurred a generation or two later. Most early breeders considered the Siamese cat to be more delicate than the English cat, having delicate lungs and being prone to disease and other upsets. Many did not risk sending their precious cats to shows. One early breeder noted a rarity of female kittens in a litter, the average being 5 males to 2 females. The kittens were said to be difficult to rear, as they suffered from worms and teething, and it was common to foster Siamese kittens on English cats to make them more robust and healthier. Males were described as extremely powerful, great fighters, had terrible voices and would kill strange cats and fight dogs. "The males are, however, antagonistic to others of their sex, and fight with a terrible persistency. I have heard of a stalwart fellow who, being allowed his liberty, cleared the neighbourhood of all other wandering toms. When made neuter, Siamese become most charming home pets."

Miss Forestier-Walker and her sister, Mrs Vyvyan, had received a pair of Siamese cats from the Siamese Palace in 1884-5; Miss Forestier-Walker wrote "Siamese cats were first introduced into England about twenty-five years ago, but were not often seen until a few years later. Since then they have become fairly common. There are two distinct varieties in the present day. (1) The royal cat of Siam" by which she meant the seal point Siamese, "(2) The chocolate cats are deep brown in colour showing hardly any markings, and have blue eyes. The tails are sometimes straight, which is not a fault; but a knot or kink in the tail is a peculiarity of the breed, and therefore desirable. In England it has been asserted that this is a defect, but in Siam it is highly prized […] In the East a cat with a kinked tail fetches a higher price. There is a legend that the light-coloured cats with blue eyes represent silver; the dark cats with yellow eyes, gold; and that the possessor of both will have plenty. This rather gives the idea that originally the eyes of the pure chocolate cat were yellow, and that the present variety has been crossed with the royal cat. It is a great mistake to mix the varieties, as the result after they become adult is a blurring of the markings and a patchy coat." What Miss Forestier-Walker was describing was the range of colours from the brown Burmese (the "Burmese cat" depicted in the 1903 book was an Oriental ticked tabby), through the "blurred" or less distinct markings of the mink range (Tonkinese) to the sharply defined colourpoint of the Siamese.

Champion Wankee was bred in Hong Kong in 1895, the offspring of a female kitten stolen from the Palace in Siam, and imported to England aged 6 months. His owner, Mrs Robinson, wrote "One of the most beautiful of the short-haired cats is undoubtedly the royal cat of Siam, and the breed is increasing in popularity; but is never likely to be common, as the cats are delicate in this country. […] The [standard of] points of the chocolate Siamese are the same as the royal, with the exception of body colour, which is a dark rich brown all over, thus making the markings less noticeable. All Siamese darken with age, and when they get dark there is a tendency to call them chocolates. I know of only one real chocolate - Mr C Cooke's 'Zetland Wanzies' - so consider them more likely to be a freak than a distinct variety. [...] Of the royals there seem to be two types in England: the one - rather a small, long-headed cat, with glossy, close lying coat and deep blue eyes, and with a decided tendency to darken with age - is generally the imported cat or having imported parents; the other is a larger cat, with a rounder head, a much thicker, longer and less close-lying coat, and the eyes a paler blue (these cats do not darken as much or as soon as the other type, and have generally been bred for several generations in England)."

According to another early breeder, Mrs Parker Brough, "There are distinct varieties of Siamese known to fanciers - the palace or royal cat, the temple cat (chocolate), and there is likewise the common cat of the country, which is also found within the palace. The points of the chocolate cat are identical for shows with those of the royal except body colour, but the imported chocolate is often dark chocolate, with blue eyes, stumpy tail with a marked kink, short legs, and heavy, thick body. There are not many chocolates exhibited, owing to the preference given to the royal variety. It must be understood that there is no definite royal breed as such, but the palace breed seems to have originated by selection." Lady Marcus Beresford wrote that Siamese imported from a Bangkok temple "differed from the royal Siamese, being darker and having a more pointed head and face, and their eyes were larger and fuller."

According to Miss Forestier Walker "This breed is said to be kept very carefully in the palace in Bangkok - hence the title 'royal' - and is by no means the common cat of Siam. One gentleman (a missionary), who had lived there fifteen years, had during that time seen only three. A few years ago there was a pair of these cats in the Zoological Gardens at Bangkok, but they were very poor specimens. […] The first specimens were brought to England about twenty-five or thirty years ago, and Mr Harrison Weir says that among those who possessed them were Lady Dorothy Nevill, whose cats were 'imported and presented by Sir R Herbert of the Colonial Office. The late Duke of Wellington imported the breed, also Mr Scott of Rotherfield.' "

Mrs Parker Brough wrote "Until recently the Siamese was but little known in Europe, but occasionally was to be found in the various zoological gardens. At present there is a fine female specimen to be seen at the Zoo at Frankfort-on-the-Main, having been purchased from the King of Roumania. One or two are to be seen at the Hague. London has the first one it has had for six years, but it is not shown owing to its want of condition. […] A point on which the Siamese fancy is divided is where the ideal cat should have a kink in the tail or not.[…] There is a peculiarity in breeding the Siamese - i.e. the rarity of female kittens in a litter, the average seeming to be five males to two females. […] They have naturally rather delicate lungs."

Some of those early (1890-1902) Siamese were evidently large, robust creatures, for example a neutered male called Attache was described as very large and powerful, with massive limbs, and an unconquerable antipathy to all other cats of any description. Frances Simpson summed up in 1903 by saying "I do not believe that Siamese will ever become common in England, for many reasons. These cats are expensive to purchase, difficult to rear, and fancier are afraid to risk them in the show pen; but in spite of these drawbacks, I think as time goes on and the Siamese Club extends its labours, we shall see and hear more of these really curious creatures, for what we call the royal Siamese bears no resemblance to any other cat, and the distinguishing difference, being so great, tend to make the breed one of our best show cats and a clear class to itself, for the Siamese of the purest blood should not be crossed with other cats. We have heard of 'any other colour' Siamese, but these cats of varied hue claiming to be Siamese are but the offspring of a cross. We have been told of black and blue and tabby Siamese; but the fanciers of Siamese look askance at these freaks, and feel that it is worse than useless to attempt to produce any other variety than that which we have learned by custom to designate the Royal cat of Siam."

A great deal has been written about the origins of the Siamese breed. Sydney W France, editor of "Cats and Kittens" magazine, wrote the book "Siamese Cats" in 1949. This was the first major publication on Siamese cats since 1936. "The history of the Siamese in this country is a very short one, and it is true to say that they have only been here within living memory, and that the first ones actually were from The Royal Palace of Siam. Even on this point there is much controversy and it is interesting to note that the first Siamese of which there is any record were said to have been brought to England in 1884 by Mr. Gould who was then Consul General in Bangkok at that time. In 1886 a pair of cats and two kittens were brought to England by Mrs. Vyvyan, these had actually been procured from the King’s Palace in Bangkok. In the same year, Mrs. Walker, the General’s daughter, brought over one male and three females. There is no doubt that at that time the true Siamese were kept in the Royal Palaces and Temples, and that few of them ever found their way from there except as gifts, which were then considered as of great worth."

In direct contradiction, Ida M. Mellen, well-known American authority on cats, in her "Practical Cat Book" (1939) writes "Although this cat generally is referred to as the Royal, and even as the Sacred Siamese, it is the common cat of Siam, just as the Manx, equally an aristocrat, is the common cat of the Isle of Man." In other words, the gifts given to visitors were Siam's regular moggies and the givers of the gifts might have been rather bemused that Europeans and Americans were so interested in common cats.

France also reproduces a letter Mellen received from Dr. Hugh M. Smith, Adviser in Fisheries to His Siamese Majesty’s Government between 1923 and 1934. In addition to the Siamese cat, he mentions a "mauve" cat which is no doubt the Si-Sawat (Korat) and kinked-tailed cats which were, and still are, common throughout Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (and in the modern Japanese Bobtail breed). "I was well Acquainted with cats in Siam, but made no special study of them. There appear to be two races peculiar to the country: the common form with pale fawn colour, black or dark brown feet, tips of ears, tail and muzzle, and blue eyes, well-known to cat fanciers all over the world, and a form of uniform mauve or Maltese colour with yellow eyes. There are no "palace" cats in Siam. There are no "royal" cats, although the strikingly marked creatures would be the natural ones to be kept in palaces. Any person can have a Siamese cat, and as a matter of fact there are many people outside the palaces and many foreigners who keep such cats as household pets. There are no "temple" cats. The Buddhist priests, who do not live in the temples but in special buildings in the temple grounds, may keep cats, as they do dogs. A Siamese prince whom I know very well was visiting in London and was interviewed by one of the thousands of Siamese cat fanciers there. He told her there were more Siamese cats in London than in all Siam. You probably know about the cat not peculiar to Siam but found over much of South Eastern Asia, which always has a sharp kink near the tip of its tail. It is of various colours but never of the special Siamese cat colour, and is of no interest except for its tail."

There is no doubt that Siamese cats came from Siam (modern day Thailand), but some disagreement in the 1940s as to their "royal" origins. France disagreed about Siamese not being Royal cats. As well as mentioning the various royal legends relating to the tail kink and squint (faults in show cats), he stated: "This does not bear out my own information on this point, because whilst living in Jersey I had the good fortune to meet and become friendly with Major Walton of Verona House, Grouville, who was until recently, in Siam in connection with the Rice purchasing Commission, when he and his wife, both cat lovers, became friendly with the Prince Regent of Siam. Major Walton told the Prince Regent that he and his wife wanted to bring back some Siamese to England, but had not been able to find any at all in the country that were for sale. Before leaving Siam, Mrs. Walton was presented with a pair, male and female by the Prince Regent, and I actually went and saw them in quarantine in Jersey where they had a litter of five kittens, of which, later on, I bought two; a male and female. These Siamese cats had coats of extremely fine quality texture, and colour, and very good head and body shape, splendid long whip-like tails, but with eyes which definitely failed in colour according to our standards here in England. They appear to be hazel, whereas there is no doubt that we have enormously improved the eye colour and have cats with beautiful deep blue eyes."

Major Walton’s remarks to France about the Siamese cats of the Royal Palaces were also mentioned in an issue of "Cats and Kittens" magazine, of which France was editor. This prompted the following letter from Mr. A. N. M. Garry of Minehead, Somerset:

"My wife and I are ardent cat lovers, and having spent most of my working life in Borneo, I feel I have some justification for writing to you about Siam and its cats. When I was in Siam in 1930, I was told that there were two distinct types of Siamese cats - apart from the Malay cat and crosses with it. The first is the one we see in England, but I think its points are a shade different, [chocolate] brown instead of seal. The second, which was said to be peculiar to the Royal family and palaces, had the body colour of the first - but not the points; and hazel eyes. Having been a contemporary at Eton with the then King, I got a special permit to see the Bangkok Palace more thoroughly than the usual tourist does, and I saw one or two of these "Royal" cats, whose appearance was (to the best of my recollection after so long) as I have described. At that time, the export of the first type, except neuter ones, was absolutely forbidden, owing to the fear that they might become extinct in Siam, because so many had been exported. The second type was absolutely unobtainable, far less exportable, for it was not to be seen outside the royal palaces. But owing to the war, and the various constitutional changes that Siam has undergone, the rules may well have been relaxed. It certainly looks as though Major Walton has been lucky enough to get hold of a pair of the scarcer "Royal type." Incidentally, I hope he is aware of the tendency of Siam born Siamese to chest troubles ~ damp or cool weather. I know of several people even out there, who have lost their pets from this cause.

I am afraid I am quite unable to agree with Mrs. Adney’s friend that a Siamese must have a kinked tail to be considered pure bred out East. In my experience, the .connoisseur out there, just as at home, demands the straight tail; but the fact remains that the majority of so-called Siamese cats in Malaya and Borneo have kinked tails, owing to one of their parents or forefathers having been a Malay cat. They still make lovely pets, and have the characteristics of pure-bred Siamese, such as the deep voice and the love of following their owners like dogs. The Malay cat, like the British domestic cat, is of varied colours, ginger, black, black and white, tabby and tortoiseshell. Some having Persian forbears, are long haired. Practically all have kinks, and I had one, a beloved ginger, called Peter, who was considered a cat of particularly good omen, as he had two kinks quite close together. They were very tender, and he hated them being touched. He lived to the age of seventeen - very old indeed for an animal in the tropics. He died a few months before the Japanese invaded Borneo."

The first Siamese fanciers club was founded in Britain in 1902 at which time they were apparently variable in type. Possibly the conformation depended on which cats the early Siamese had been out-crossed to, there being few pure Siamese in the country at the time, or to the variability of imported cats and inbreeding from a limited gene pool.

Early photos show differences between the "compact" cats and the "lithe" cats, but the difference is nowhere near as extreme as that between modern "classic" and "old-style" Siamese. Early Siamese are more robust and have more rounded heads than modern classic Siamese, however, they were longer-bodied (less cobby) and more wedge-headed than the British Shorthairs and Persians of the time. The 1892 Siamese breed standard (Harrison Weir) described them as a marten-faced, Oriental type of cat distinctly different from the cobby, round British cats. Weir described the Siamese wedge as beginning at eye level, at the muzzle (in modern cats it begins from the ears downwards).

Based on only a few imported Siamese, early breeders believed that there to be 2 types of Siamese. Judge and Siamese-fancier, Mrs. Carew Cox, said (reported 1903) "There appear to be two distinct types - the compactly built, short in body, short on legs, and round in head; and the long-bodied, long-faced, lithe, sinuous, and peculiarly foreign-looking variety." An early Siamese breeder, Mrs. Robinson said, "Of the royals there seem to be two types in England: the one - rather a small, long-headed cat, with glossy, close-lying coat and deep blue eyes, and with a decided tendency to darken with age - is generally the imported cat or having imported parents; the other is a larger cat, with a rounder head, a much thicker, longer, and less close-lying coat, and the eyes a paler blue (these cats do not darken as much or as soon as the other type, and have generally been bred for several generations in England)."

The Siamese Cat Society of America was founded in 1909 although the date of their arrival in the United States is not precisely known. Many early Siamese had kinked tails and cross-eyes or a squint; these faults have largely been bred out of modern Siamese.

In 1949, Kit Wilson (Vice-Chairman of GCCF) wrote in the Sydney W France's book "Siamese Cats"

"A few years before World War 2, interest was beginning to be shown in Blue Pointed Siamese. These had caused some considerable controversy among breeders, many of whom were of the opinion that they were "sports" and therefore could not be bred true, but a few, whose convictions based on research refuted these opinions, and "The Blue Pointed Siamese Cat Club" was formed. Lately particular interest is being taken by some breeders in Chocolate Pointed Siamese. The greatest living authority on this fascinating variety is Miss Wentworth Fitz-William of Slingsby Yorks., one of the most valued breeders and judges of many years standing who has always owned some, and from whose stock most of those in existence to-day have sprung. [...] It is an interesting fact however that there are considerable numbers of chocolate points in France, but their Owners have no idea as to their origin, the strain however must have been good, as they are without exception the only Siamese worth showing over there (or at least they were at the January 1948 show, when I was judging. [...] For those who have never seen a Chocolate they are often smaller in build than the seal or blue point, and their points are of a rich milk chocolate colour.

Blue points are very popular in the U.S.A. many of them winning high awards at shows over there, but, although I am open to correction, I have not heard of any chocolates. I only had one of these in my classes at the Danish (Darak) show in 1946, and this was a very poor specimen and hardly worthy to carry on the breed, and was, in all probability a "sport." It had been bought at quite a high price when a kitten as a seal point, and having met the vendor as well as the owner I am of the opinion that neither of them had the slightest idea that it was anything other than the usual seal. While writing this an interesting fact has come to light with regard to chocolate points. Mr. Brian Stirling-Webb, the Hon. Treasurer of the Siamese Cat Club has been making a close study of this variety, and he states that practically every chocolate in the country can trace their pedigree back to an imported cat brought into this country in 1896, this may also account for those on the continent. Who knows, perhaps another from the litter was taken over there and that those now being shown are direct descendants."

In that book, Wilson wrote in disapproving tones of cross-breeding of Siamese. Luckily the experiments in breeding Siamese with other breeds (not species!) did continue in spite of early disapproval, leading to a wide variety of attractive Oriental and Foreign varieties.

"From America we have heard of the Black Siamese with orange eyes but to my knowledge no specimen has ever been seen in this country. Then there have been long haired specimens, described as Burmese, they have the same colouring as the seal point, and long fur, which although in no way comparable with the Persian yet is definitely more long than short. Experiments however have proved that in breeding Siamese to other species - varied forms can be made - this practise is not to be encouraged, as it may lead to definite malpractices as have occurred in other livestock."

Her comments show some confusion between Burmese and Birman. The "Black Siamese" is probably the Foreign Black; essentially a Seal Point Siamese without the colourpointing gene.

While they became more popular in the US and Europe, the purebred Siamese was dwindling in its native Thailand. In the 1950s, a breeder obtained 3 Siamese kittens of the robust type from Thailand. While the debate over "2 types" of early Siamese continues to this day, what is certain is that early Siamese cats were far more moderate in type than either of their modern counterparts. During the early 1960s, the "robust" Siamese lost out to the longer thinner type. While owners often preferred a moderate cat, exhibitors preferred an extremely slender cat with a very long, triangular head, almond-shaped eyes, and flaring ears. This look caught on with show-oriented Siamese breeders and judges. A cat called "Fan Tee Cee" was an early example of the increasingly extreme conformation that was impressing the judges. Fan Tee Cee appears many times in some pedigrees, demonstrating his contribution to the new-style Siamese. The growing number of new-style Siamese put pressure on cat fancies to change the breed standard to reflect the changing shape, putting old-style cats at a disadvantage.

The original Siamese cats were Seal Points ("black" points) although Blue Points and Chocolate Points also appeared in Siamese litters and were for many years considered "poorly marked" Seal Points. In the USA at the end of the 1960s, breeders in Britain and the USA were working with different colours of Siamese-type cats e.g. ebonies, reds, chestnuts and lavender. Lynx-points (tabby points) were being bred in Britain. Because blue-pointed Siamese appeared spontaneously in seal-point litters, they were known as "sports" or "freaks". In 1896 Louis Wain, father of the modern cat show, refused to judge a Siamese on grounds that it was blue rather than seal. When the first book on Siamese was written by Phil Wade she wrote, ‘"Even the best blue pointed cannot, I think, equal the beauty of our seal pointed cats and I can see no real object in trying to breed them. Their value at the moment is their scarcity, but I cannot believe there will ever be a great demand for them."

Cat World (International) May-June 1978 contains a quote from the "Stud Book Fanciers Association Newsletter", No. 11, Summer 1974 relating to the origin of the blue gene in Siamese cats: “Some years ago, an attempt was made to trace the source of the blue gene in Siamese cats. The group, which included a geneticist, found that virtually all the early blue points they traced could be taken back to CARLISLE LAD and concluded that he carried the factor even though he was himself a seal point. Unfortunately, the Korat being unknown in the western world at that time, they also concluded that he could only have acquired the gene for blue through the cross breeding of a Siamese and a British, or possibly a Russian Blue. This seems grossly unfair to both CARLISLE LAD and his owner who, having registered him as born 1910 in Siam and imported into England, is thus accused, ipso facto, of falsifying. Knowing as we do now, that the Korat cat is native to that part of Asia, there seems little reason to doubt that this was the true source of the blue gene, not some cross to a western cat."

Tabby Point Siamese had been mentioned as early as 1902 in Britain. Between 1944 and 1949, they were bred in Scotland and known as Silverpoint Siamese. They were introduced to the cat fancy at a London cat show in the 1960s and in 1966, the Tabby Point Siamese was granted recognition by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).

By 1986 the old-style Siamese had vanished from the showbench and many people assumed that Siamese cats had always had a long body, wedge-shaped head and disproportionately large ears (known as "bat-ears and spaghetti-nose.") Siamese cats had become extreme parodies of the original imports. In Australia, some Siamese appear even more extreme than their American cousins - with larger ears and even more fragile bodies. In Britain they have also become more extreme - and ugly - in type, especially facially. It really is up to judges to do a sanity check and prevent the cat from being taken to ever greater extremes of type. In the USA, the old-style cat was still being bred in a small way even though it could no longer compete against the modern style cats. It was popular with the general public. There is a separate Siamese breed known as the traditional and recognised as distinct from classic Siamese by some registries in the USA. The term "Old-Style Siamese" is often used. In Britain, interest from the public wanting to buy old-style Siamese cats has led to a revival of the Traditional style Siamese during the late 1990s. Those would be owners expressed dismay at the wedge-headed Siamese seen on the showbench. On mainland Europe the Thai Pointed is a naturally occurring colourpointed (Blue-point, Lilac-point) Korat variant. The Thai Siamese is a European term for the traditional (round-headed) style of Siamese derived purely from non-ultra-typed Siamese cats. The term Thai Siamese has sometimes been used for colourpointed Korat variants.

In the American CFA, the Siamese is recognised in seal point, blue point, chocolate point and lilac point. Other colours (red point, cream point, tabby point, tortie point etc) are known as Colorpoint Shorthair (Colorpoint Oriental Shorthair). In other associations, these other colours are classed as Siamese, and they occur naturally in Thailand. The additional colours were introduced through out-crossing, however they have been so extensively back-crossed with Siamese cats that only the most ardent purist would claim that they are not Siamese! The additional colours are not permitted in the traditional old-style of Siamese which seeks to breed only the traditional colours as well as the more moderate conformation.

Lynx point (UK) 1990.

Lynx point (UK) 1990.


Breakthrough Tabby Pattern in Colourpoints

Cats born of Siamese parents sometimes have a tabby/spotted pattern breaking through so strongly that the cat appears to be a tabby/spotted Oriental or a tabby/spotted sepia (Burmese) pattern. Viewed closely, the pattern colour is heavily ticked on a paler ticked background. This breakthrough pattern is evident from kittenhood and not the same as age-related darkening in Colourpoint cats. It is inherited, possibly due to modifier genes that prevent the colourpoint gene from properly inhibiting the colour/pattern on the normally pale areas of the body.

A stongly marked seal-tabby Siamese with a breakthrough spotted pattern (looked like a Spotted Tabby Oriental with blue eyes) mated to a Siamese produced a litter containing one strongly marked classic tabby that looked more like a Classic Tabby Oriental with blue eyes. The breakthrough pattern has become a problem in some Australian lines. Another example was a lynx-point Siamese female (old-style conformation) in England that looked like a slightly washed out tabby with blue eyes. Her colour raised questions as to whether she was genuinely colourpoint or was genetically mink or sepia pattern from Tonkinese lines.

colourpoint with dorsal line


As with the Siamese, there are 2 types of Balinese - Balinese and the traditional style of Balinese (Apple- or round-head). In both cases, they are semi-longhaired versions of the 2 different types of Siamese

Semi-longhaired variants have appeared now and again in purebred Siamese litters. There have been various explanations. The recessive nature of the longhair gene means it can be carried for many generations without coming to light - in which case the gene was present in one of the early imports of Siamese. Some say that at least one Chinese tapestry depicts pointed longhairs. Longhair can also occur as a simple mutation; again the gene may be carried hidden for many generations. An unlikely explanation is that it came from the domestication of the longhaired Pallas cat (F manul) of western China although genetic evidence is lacking. More feasibly early british breeders may have outcrossed early Siamese imports to longhaired cats or to shorthaired cats which had a recessive gene for longhair. Possibly they were crossed with Turkish Angoras, another breed popular at the time.

Longhair kittens were appearing in purebred Siamese litters for many years with few Siamese breeders willing to admit it. For the most part these kittens were either given away as pets without papers or carefully disposed of. A long-haired Siamese cat of pure Siamese ancestry was registered with the Cat Fanciers Federation (USA) as early as 11th October, 1928, but there were no serious efforts to promote the breed until the 1940's.

After many years of hiding their existence, a "Longhair Siamese" was registered with the Cat Fanciers Federation in 1928, however they were not bred in earnest until 1955 when Marion Dorsey began breeding and showing the longer-haired variety in the USA. Since long hair is a recessive trait, these long-haired Siamese bred true. To keep it separate from the conventional shorthaired Siamese it required a new name. "Balinese" was chosen to reflect its grace, like that of Balinese dancers, and also because Bali is close to Thailand and this reflects the breed's links with its Siamese ancestors. In 1961 it was recognized in the USA and accepted for registration in the same point colours as Siamese: seal, chocolate, blue and lilac. Other colours were introduced from outcrossing: red, cream, tabby, tortie, cinnamon, fawn, smoke, silver and more. These were registed in the USA in 1979 as Javanese, but are considered Balinese in other countries since they have been so extensively back-crossed to Balinese that they can no longer be considered hybrids.

singhalese cat

singhalese cat

The development of the Balinese paralleled that of the Siamese. In the 1950s most Siamese and Balinese cats were less extreme than we are used to today. The more extreme look gained in popularity for the Siamese and its longhaired counterpart followed suit since Balinese were bred back to Siamese to improve the type of the Balinese. In addition, much of the Balinese cat's long fur was lost, leaving it as a more-or-less shorthaired cat with a plumy tail, a side-effect of breeding back to the Siamese. As with the Siamese, a few breeders preserved the older style and it is now becoming more popular in its own right.

In the 1960s, a cat very similar to the Balinese was bred in the USA and Canada. These resulted from crossing Siamese cats to red/red-tabby 'Angora-Persian' (less typy Persians, not Turkish Angoras) resulting in semi-longhairs with Siamese conformation and red or tortie points. The fur was shorter, but fluffier than the Balinese and the tail much fluffier. The temperament was also calmer than the Siamese due to the Angora influence. The Balinese which US registries recognised only in seal, blue, lilac anc chocolate, with other colours beingtermed 'Javanese' but the Singhalese came in red series and in tabby and tortie points. The Singhalese was allowed to be bred to either Balinese or Himalayan and the progeny could be registered as Singhalese. It was to be judged to the Balinese standard with allowances made for its different coat type, but I have not seen any records of Singhalese in competition classes. It appears to have lost out to the Balinese.

singhalese cat

singhalese cat