CURLY-COATED CATS
Copyright 2002 - 2013, Sarah Hartwell

The origins of the major Rex breeds are well documented elsewhere so I have included a summary only. In some instances there appear to be several versions of events, dates of origin or disagreement over some issues. Where this is the case, I have included all relevant information without prejudice. Other opinions are mine alone. 

REX CATS

Curly coated cats have appeared Europe and America from time to time. Some have been bred, some were considered curiosities and have been lost. Several have proved to have the same type of mutation, others look similar but are genetically different. Curly coated cats are known as Rexes after the Rex type of rabbit. This term has therefore been applied retrospectively to early curly-haired cats which died out within a single generation as a recessive gene became hidden again.

A curly coated cat now known as the Prussian Rex was discovered in Konigsburg (Kaliningrad), East Prussia in the early 1930s. Called "Munk" (or "Kater Munk") his name has been linked to the first German Rex cats which appeared in 1946. Munk was owned by Frau Schneider and was the offspring of a Russian Blue/ Chocolate Angora ("tobacco colour")cross. There were either one or two other curly cat in the litter, but they were castrated. Munk allegedly mated freely with local cats until his death in 1944/5, but he left no known descendents and there was no attempt to breed him in a controlled way. Another Rex-type, known as the Karakul Cat, appeared in the USA also in the 1930s. Though a novelty, the trait was never established as a breed in either case.

Perhaps the oldest established Rex variety (as opposed to breed) is a curly coated Russian variety which has been found in the middle Urals region since the Second World War, but which was not recognised as a breed until 1991. The Urals Rex has a wavy coat of short or medium length, body is strong and muscular. The gene causing the Urals Rex has been shown to be dissimilar to the Cornish Rex; its relationship with the gene for Devon Rex is unknown. The Urals Rex may have a tufted tail tip. The semi-longhair version has a looser coat, but is less popular. According to some sources, the German Rex may initially have occurred in 1946, but no interest was taken until the 1950s.

The Italian Rex discovered in Italy in 1950 also vanished after three Rexed kittens were born to a non-Rex mother (probably recessive gene). The Ohio Rex occurred in the USA in 1953 (other sources indicate 1944) but was lost. It appears to have first emerged in 1944, but was ignored because of World War II. The gene was not lost and in 1953 a curly coated male kitten was born to a domestic cat owned by Mary Medderman of Plainsville, Ohio. Called Toni, this cat died young from an infection, but 3 more curly coated kittens were born to the same parents. No serious programme was established and the mutation died out - somewhat unfortunately after it had survived for almost 10 years since its first discovery. The owner provided British geneticist A C Jude with colour slides of the cats, but hair samples were not available as the whole of Miss Medderman's cat family had been put to sleep.

So although curly coated cats have appeared from time to time, the first formally recognised Rex breed was developed from a curly-coated cat discovered in 1950 in Bodmin, Cornwall, England. Kallibunker became the founding father of the Cornish Rex breed. Cornish Rexes are lean with whip-like tails and a long, large-eared face. The fur falls into close-lying ripples as though the whole body surface has been crimped. There appear to be no guard hairs, although more recent studies have suggested that guard hairs are present, but in very modified form. The Longhaired Cornish Rex exists but is not very popular; longhaired cats turn up from time to time as the gene for longhair is recessive. To avoid confusion, these are sometimes known as British Cornish Rexes or European Cornish Rexes since the American version has diverged greatly from the original Cornish Rex. It was originally known as the English Rex until the Devon Rex appeared a few years later.

In The Observer Book of Cats (1959) Grace Pond wrote that curly fur could be introduced into any breed without any need to change the breed name. The GCCF would merely require an description to be added to the cat to denote it had rex fur. "At one or two cat shows within the last year or two, cats with coats of a third type have been exhibited. In these, as with some other animals, the hairs of the coat are waved and it is this type of hair that is known as ‘rex’. The rex coat is considerably shorter than the normal short-haired type, and feels much finer and silkier. The coat is dense, and no guard hairs are visible, these being shortened to just below the top level of the coat. The rex-coated rabbits have no wave in their coats nowadays, even though they have been evolved from waved stock, and if so desired, the wave in the rex coat of the cat could be eliminated by selective breeding to give the same wonderfully attractive kind of coat. Rex hair type can be transferred to any breed, colour or type of cat. This means that any existing breed or variety will retain all the characteristics of its breed when ‘ rexed’, except only that its normal coat type will be changed to the rex type. It will be understood, therefore, that ‘rex’ is not a new breed of cat, and that should the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy accept this additional hair type, no new breed number would be necessary, but just a description in the book of standards of rex type of hair and coat."This was before the appearance of another type of rex cat in Britain; with 2 different types of rex fur, the GCCF abandoned this early proposal.

In others the prefix "Si" is used e.g. the Si-Rex is a colourpointed Rex and is further identified as Cornish Si-Rex or Devon Si-Rex. It exists unofficially or experimentally in a few breeds e.g. Si-Manx (Manxamese). In the American "Cats Magazine" of June 1965 there was a photo of two Blue-Point rex-coated kittens born to a blue self (Cornish) Rex in August 1964. Their pedigree showed that four generations back, there had been a Blue Point Siamese outcross in the breeding program. In addition, one ancestor was an Oregon Rex mutation owned by Mrs Mildred Stringham of Warrenton, Oregon. A Si-Rex was being developed in England at the same time, by Mrs Ashford (Annelida prefix).

In America, the Cornish Rex has been developed to be quite different to the ancestral British Cornish Rex. The American Cornish Rex has a different look and different genetic history and should, perhaps, be considered a separate breed. It started as a hybrid between Cornish and German Rexes but this lost the Cornish Rex body type so it was crossed with Orientals resulting in a more delicate and long-legged version than the British Cornish Rex. This also produced the Si-Rex which is recognised as a separate breed in America. In the UK, colourpoint Rexes are simply a colour pattern.

The German Rex was discovered a year later in 1951 at Berlin's Hufeland Hospital by Frau Dr Scheuer-Karpin. A curly-coated stray cat known as Laemmchen (Lambkin) had reared kittens in the hospital grounds. Some reports give 1946 as the date, which pre-dates the Cornish Rex and som suggest Laemmchen was a descendant of Kater Munk. If so, Laemmchen was then just a curiosity and there was no attempt to deliberately breed curly-coated cats until the 1950s, probably prompted by the discovery of the Cornish Rex. In any event, Laemmchen mated with one of her own sons in 1956, producing more Rex-coated cats. Test matings demonstrated that the German Rex was caused by the same recessive gene which caused the Cornish Rex. It is similar to the Cornish Rex but with a thicker coat and different body shape from mating with European Shorthairs. The Angora German Rex (Longhaired German Rex) is an important part of the German Rex breeding programme.

Laemmchen's kittens prior to Dr Scheuer-Karpin adopting her are unaccounted for and many of her later ones are untraceable. Laemmchen's last kittens were born in 1962 and she died in 1964. By 1968 only three of her direct descendents known. The Barensfeld family in East Berlin had maintained the pure German Rex lines and produced Ferdi, Roland and Silke von Grund. Various East German cat breeders had bred cats from Laemmchen's curly-coated offspring. In 1957, a German Rex kitten was sent to a British breeder but died soon after arrival. In 1960, some were sent to Paris but died in transit; a later export arrived healthy and was exhibited. In 1961, German Rexes were exported to the USA and enthusiastically bred. The breed was featured in an American magazine in 1971, though the last American-bred German Rexes were born in 1970 and the breed soon vanished and was forgotten. It seemingly could not compete against the Cornish and Devon Rexes.

Swiss breeder Fru Schwarzenbach revived the German Rex. By 1999 it was down to only 2 known breeding females (Batu Happy von Quiomme and Bonsai the Frizzled Frolic) and no breeding males. Since there might be unneutered pet German Rexes, she advertised for a male. A cat rescue centre responded in 2000 that they'd obtained a male and female from a former breeder who was giving away his remaining cats. Unfortunately, during collection, the male panicked, was injured and had to be put down. The pregnant female miscarried and had to be spayed. The breeder's remaining cats were either feral or were sick and died. To make matters worse, 3 year old Batu Happy von Quiomme developed a womb inflammation due to not being bred so it was imperative she be mated otherwise she would have to be spayed. The closest in conformation to the original German Rex was the Abyssinian so an Abyssinian stud was used and his German Rex/Abyssinian male offspring were mated to pure German Rex female Bonsai and a rescue female that was now of age. Then in 2005, some "German Rexes" turned up in Stralsund, NE Germany when a cat breeder requested help homing two litters of German Rex. They turned out to be descendents of known German Rex lines and useful additions to the gene pool. Their sire's ancestors included a black rex kitten (Pumina) found in 1993 on a building site only 14km from where Lammchen had been found. Pumina's own kittens were straight-coated, but when bred among themselves the rex coat re-emerged. She was possibly one of the "lost" descendents of Lammchen.

Further "German Rexes" occurred in Berlin, Essen and Siegburg. These are far enough apart that they were probably different mutations to Kater Munk and Laemmchen. A Rex-coated black and white male cat turned up as a spontaneous mutation in Sieburg (close to Essen) in 1979. Named Pushkin (renamed Kater Preu) he was used in the German Rex breeding programme but turned out to have a different mutation to the German Rexes he was bred to. As a result, Kater Preu was neutered. When mated to a German Rex, Preu produced straight-haired offspring. Some of those offspring were bred together and produced rex kittens (a recessive gene) that were termed German Rex. Sadly, no-one thought to investigate his mutation further and the Sieburg Rex was lost.

The California Rex (better known as the Marcel Cat) was first discovered in California in 1959 cats in a rescue centre in San Bernadino. These were a female odd-eyed Tortie (Mystery Lady of Rodell) and her Red Tabby son which were later bred together. The California Rex had a wavy-haired coat, but with longer fur, giving it the look of 'marcel-waving' hence its alternate name. The Marcel Cat mutation was found to be the same as the Cornish Rex and it was not pursued as a new breed, instread being bred with Cornish Rexes. The Oregon Rex found in the USA in 1959 is another vanished mutation. Like the Ohio Rex, the Oregon first emerged in 1944 and was ignored due to the war. In 1959, Mrs Stringham of Werrenton, Oregon found a wavy coated black-and-white female kitten in a litter born to her tortoiseshell cat. She called the kitten Kinky Marcel. It proved to be a recessive gene, but cross-breeding with both Cornish and Devon Rexes produced non-Rex kittens.

The second Rex breed to be formally recognised was the Devon Rex (formerly the Butterfly Rex) discovered in Buckfastleigh, Devon, England in 1960 and named Kirlee. This was a curly-coated grey male kitten in a litter born to a tortie female. Its discoverer had previously seen a cat with tight curls in and around a tin-mine in the area which suggests it was the kitten's father.

For some years a local variety known colloquially as the "Buckfast Blue" was reported in the area of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. This was a strain of free-ranging (mostly stray and feral) grey-blue cats with slightly woolly, wavy coats. These were apparently a familiar sight in the 1950s and considered nothing more than an attractive curiosity by locals. The Buckfast Blue may have been longer coated versions of the Devon Rex; the colour was probably coincidental though it is interesting that Kirlee was grey. The Buckfast Blue strain has since been lost through random breeding - the one reference I found was a reminiscence in an old Cats Protection League newsletter and lamented its disappearance.

Kirlee was initially assumed to be a Cornish Rex since the two are neighbouring counties, but when mated to a Cornish Rex, only straight-haired kittens resulted. This meant it was a different genetic mutation. The Devon Rex has very large, low-set ears and a short face giving it a gremlin-like appearance. The body is slender with a broad chest. The wavy coat is a looser and less rippled than the Cornish and the whiskers are twisted. The Longhaired Devon Rex, caused by a recessive gene, has a shaggy coat but is not currently pursued as a breed. Some consider its thicker coat to be more attractive than the sometimes sparse coat of the traditional shorthaired Devon Rex. More recently, the Devon Rex and the Sphynx genes have been found to be alleles (variants) of the same gene. Note for US readers: the proper name of the English county is "Devon" not "Devonshire".

Test mating between Devon and Cornish Rexes in the 1960s led to some crossing over of genes. A British breeder with both breeds also had an accidental mating between a Devon Rex and a Cornish Rex; such a mating would normally only produce straight haired kittens, but the litter contained two Rexes, something that could only happen if one of the parents carried the gene from the other breed. That gene would have been inherited from one of the test matings and passed down over many generations. These are sometimes called Double Rexes as they have both genes. Some of the progeny from test-matings were left in their respective genepools and occasionally a difference in the coats is noticed and may be due to the double Rex effect.

A Dutch Rex mutation appeared in Zaandam, the Netherlands in 1968. This mature female produced a rex daughter which bred with local normal-coated males producing further rex offspring. The rex daughter was then acquired by a cat breeder and her progeny were mated to unrelated straight-coated cats resulting in a mix of rexed and straight-coated cats. It was a dominant gene mutation and the hair tended to form dreadlocks. The coat ranged from wiry or springy to softer curls, but it was prone to balding in places and the unruly hair tended to become coarse as the cat matured. Some cats had bald backs and soft curly hair on the lower parts of the body. Others had bald hindquarters and longer, coarser, curly hairs one the forequarters. It was reported that the cats lost their curly fur if they bore offspring. The cats were bred for a short time, but the coats were always variable - one owner suggested it traced to an American Wirehair cat taken to the Netherlands by American military personnel. The slightly oriental conformation resulted from using Siamese outcrosses in the early 1970s. The Dutch Rex mutation was reported again in 1985, having a coarse wavy coat with a brittle texture and was also called the Wirehair Rex. Those reported in the 1980s were the offspring of the earlier Dutch Rexes. The last known Dutch Rex was an adult female found in the late 1990s on the streets of Amsterdam whose coat was closer to that of a rex cavy. She was never bred so no-one knows what gene she had. Apart from the 1990s female, whose origin was unknown, all of the Dutch Rexes could be raced back to the first mutant. The 1990s cat was initially believed to be a Blue Cornish Rex in poor condition, but was later recognised as a Black Dutch Rex. The dominant gene for Dutch rex produces a rex type of coat in the heterozygote and a very thin coat in the homozygote. All 3 hair types are thinner than normal and are crinkled.

A curly coated cat was discovered in the Victoria area of London, England in 1972, but this Victoria Rex was never established as a breed. A hair sample taken from the Victoria Rex proved to be different from the Devon Rex. Named Tuoh, the Victoria Rex was described by Peter Davis in the 1972 Cats Annual noting that no matings with Cornish Rex had yet been achieved. Other related cats also had curly coats, but nothing more was heard of the breed after that.

Two rexed cats occurred in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in 1981 and again in 2000. It is possible they were due to recessive genes in a random-bred population (e.g. from an imported rex cat) though the 19 years between them makes this less likely: a recessive gene would have shown up more often. It isn't known if the mutation (or mutations) was compatible with the other rexes in existence at that time.

The Bohemia Rex (a Rexed Persian) first appeared in 1981, but not established at that time. In the 1980s some Rex-coated Persians appeared in Britain, but the breeder who had bred the kittens decided not to continue the variety. Whether these were related to the Bohemia Rex isn't known.

The Poodle Cat (Pudelkatze) was developed by Rosemarie Wolf,a German Scottish Fold breeder, in 1987 (a date of 1994 is also given) in Starnberg, Germany from crossings between Devon Rexes and Scottish Folds. It is a large, healthy cat with folded ears and a curly coat resembling lambswool. It is chunkier than the Devon Rex and has a denser coat. Recent German rulings prohibiting the breeding of cats with defects (the Scottish Fold may suffer skeletal defects) may curtail the breeding program in Germany, but there is interest in Poodle Cats elsewhere in Europe. The next stage of development is to use Manx cats to introduce the tailless trait. Some interested breeders have proposed crossing the Poodle Cat with the short-legged Munchkin to produce a breed to be known as the Poodlekin, but this is currently theoretical only.

The Selkirk Rex is a chunky cat with a thick coat. Selkirk Rex Longhair and the Selkirk Rex Shorthair arose from Miss DePesto, a cat discovered in Wyoming, America in 1987. Adopted by a Persian breeder, the original calico Rex cat produced 3 curly-coated kittens in a litter of 6, indicating a dominant gene. Selkirk Rexes were bred with Persians and Exotics to produce a chunky cat with loose wavy curls and a plush, thick coat. It was recognised in 1990 and is now a well-established, popular breed.

The Czech Curly Cat or Bohemia Rex was discovered in 1981 in Liberec, The Czech Republic but not recognised until 1994. Persian breeders discovered curly kittens in pedigree Persian litters. The parents of the kittens traced back to two blue Persian males imported from Germany in the 1970s. Either the gene arose from a spontaneous mutation or because Persian cats had been used in a German Rex breeding program and some of their progeny had been registered as Persians. Like the German Rex, the gene is recessive. One test mating of a Cornish Rex and Bohemia Rex produced curly-haired kittens, but another test mating produced straight-haired kittens. This suggests that some, but not all, Bohemia Rexes have the Cornish (German) Rex gene in addition to a new unknown Rex gene and that other Bohemia Rex have the unknown gene on its own. Czech Curly cats are basically Persians with the fur falling in tight ringlets and crimps on the body and looser curls on their backs. At first there was little interest in longhaired Rex cats because the fur was untidy and unruly. Following the success of the Selkirk Rex Longhair, there seems to be renewed interest in the Bohemia Rex.

The LaPerm (formerly the Dalles LaPerm) also comes in Longhaired and Shorthaired varieties. These trace to a group of farm cats in Oregon. A kitten born in 1982 was bald at birth, but developed a coat of curly fur and was named Curly. Curly's offspring inherited this trait and as more and more curly kittens arrived, a serious breeding programme began. . The LaPerm was recognised in 1995; the names Indian Rex and Native American Rex having been rejected. LaPerms are lean semi-foreign cats, originally described as having silky single coats, though they actually do have a minimal undercoat. The longhaired variety has ringlets while the shorthairs have tight curls.


LaPerm photos copyright Helmi Flick. The cat is Quad Grand Champion Alter RedDazzle BC Sweet Tyler, bred by Doreen McCann & Jerrie Wolfe and owned by Shirley Lawler

Like the Devon and Cornish Rexes, the LaPerm has become a foundation breed in another variety. The Skookum (formerly LaMerm) was developed by crossing LaPerms and Munchkins to produce a Rex-coated Munchkin with either long or short hair. It is described as the Shirley Temple of the cat world.

The Dutch Rex (Wirehair Rex) reappeared in 1985 and was described as having a bristly, wavy coat with a brittle texture. It was reported in Dutch cat fancier magazines but little has been heard about this variety in recent times. Meanwhile, the Si-Rex achieved recognition in the USA in 1986, but is simply a colourpointed Cornish Rex. Elsewhere it is necessary to define whether a "Si-Rex" is A Cornish Si-Rex or Devon Si-Rex since both exist as colour varieties of the main breed.

The Maine Coon Rex or Maine Wave appeared in pedigree litters in a number of breeding lines in the 1980s, causing huge controversy in the very conservative and inflexible British cat fancy and Maine Coon Cat Club. It has fine, frizzy, crinkled fur. Many were immediately neutered by breeders despite the interest shown by others and by the public. Maine Waves is a pet name for those Rexed Maine Coons born from test-matings in a Rex elimination Programme. The Rexed Maine Coons appeared in a number of breeding lines and the few test matings with Devon and Cornish Rexes were inconclusive, but indicated that this was either a recessive or incomplete dominant gene and was not a result of recent outcrossing to established Rex breeds. Several imported cats were implicated as carriers but were no longer available for testing, besides, only British breeders had encountered the trait. There were accusations of undeclared crossing with Cornish Rexes even though test matings suggested different genetics.

Where widely used breeding cats are retrospectively found to carry a recessive anomaly, inter-breeding will already have resulted in a rash of the same anomaly and can expect to see more. Breeders are faced with trying to preserve the breed while eliminating the undesirable recessive gene. By the time the link to the original carrier is established, it may be impossible to eliminate the gene. The British Maine Coon Cat Club declared the Rex gene to be deleterious on the basis of one or two early deaths in Rexed Maine Coons (others remain healthy). In the 1990s, it was decided to neuter male carriers (no test matings allowed) and restrict female carriers. Due to the use of undetected carriers in several breeding lines, the recessive "taint" will persist, hidden, in the breed. It will skip generations, only to resurface by chance years later.

Under UK cat fancy rules, they cannot form a New Breed because they are 100% pedigree Maine Coons and can therefore only ever be recognised as a Maine Coon New Variety. This is a shortcoming of the British system (highly inflexible and also inconsistent). In America, the new variety of Maine Coon would probably have been greeted with some enthusiasm and kept separate from mainstream Maine Coons and given an appropriate name which may or may not have referred to its Maine Coon origins. In Britain the matter was to be swept under the carpet. Even more ludicrously, the club demanded that breeders should declare in writing that the term "Maine Wave" should not be used in any publication in any context. Maine Waves have been shown on the Continent and won certificates. They are very attractive cats and, regardless of cat club politics, bureaucracy and short-sightedness, they deserve recognition in their own right as a breed separate from the Maine Coon. The opportunity to develop this gene may have been lost as a result. It can only be hoped that the mutation will show up again (due to undetected carriers), but will do so in a country with a more progressive attitude to the appearance and handling of new mutations.

The rex gene is either still in the Maine Coon gene pool or the rex mutation has occurred a second time. In 2002, Ellen Levin of Tribeca Maine Coons had two rexed Maine Coons turn up in a single litter. Tribeca is close to the site of the Sept 11 attacks and the breeder and her cats had to evacuate with her cats. This took several days due to safety issues and the overpowering chemical stench and lack of water. A few weeks later, one of her cats gave birth to two rexed kittens. It is believed to be a spontaneous mutation and though attributed to stress, the "few weeks" means the mother cat was already pregnant and the kittens already developing i.e. the mutation was already present in the developing embryos prior to the stressful events.

The Urals Rex finally achieved recognition in 1991. Previously it had been a long-established informally recognised variety, but only when Russia developed a cat fancy following glasnost and perestroika, could cat breeds be properly developed, recognised and shown competitively. Under the strict communist regime, cat breeding was seen as a capitalist affectation. With its long history, it is considered to be the first homegrown Russian breed. Urals Rexes occurred as spontaneous mutations in feral cat populations in and around Yekaterinburg. Both occurrences were developed separately as breeds and not interbred, but they may prove to be genetically identical. Both breeding populations are reported to be highly inbred. The gene involved is known to be different to the German/Cornish Rex gene.

The Missouri Rex appeared in the early 1990s. it is shorthaired cat with smooth wavy fur, a semi-cobby body, large low set ears and "loopy" non-brittle whiskers. Its coat is due to a recessive gene. By the late 1990s there were only three Missouri Rex in existence due to financial mismanagement of the breed which led to most being destroyed. Missouri Rex have been test-bred to Devon and Cornish producing only straight-haired kittens demonstrating that it is a different mutation to either of these. If it still exists, its future is uncertain. The Dakota Rex also appeared in the late 1990s and there are plans to establish this breed although breed development is very much in its infancy.

The Iowa Rex mutation was reported in 2001 when a male cat sired curly coated kittens in several litters, including longhaired Rexes. The longhaired version has fur which hangs in "dreadlocks". Iowa Rex have long whiskers and are large, muscular rangy cats. They have a distinct head type with well developed broad muzzles. The discoverer hoped that an experienced breeder would take over these cats as foundation cats for a new breed.

The Ruffle appeared in the early 2000s among pedigree American Curls. Investigation showed it to be derived from the Cornish Rex. According to one source, in an attempt to improve the ear size of American Curls, one breeding line introduced the Cornish Rex. This had the side-effect of introducing the recessive gene for curled fur. The gene lay hidden, resurfacing as curly coated American Curl kittens some generations later. The rippled effect of the fur reminded the breeder of a type of potato snack hence the name Ruffle. Unfortunately the breeder's circumstances changed and further development of a ruffle breed could not be funded. According to a different source, it resulted from a deliberate attempt to create a new breed combining the curled ears with a curled coat. Regardless of its origins, it is a Rexed version of American Curl (longhair and shorthair) apparently having the Rex gene from the American Cornish Rex. It has curled ears and a curled coat. Face is a modified wedge curled ear and a curled coat. Hind-legs are longer than forelegs. The description suggests a curl-eared Cornish Rex rather than an American Curl with curly fur.

A rexed version of the Himalayan (Colourpoint Persian) has also occurred; either as a spontaneous mutation or due to carried from a historical outcrossing to cats carrying Rex genes. In 2002, a Dutch source mentioned the Scottish Rex, which might refer to a Rexed Scottish Fold or Pudelkatze.

In 2002/2003, several curly-coated cats were found at a farm in Saskatoon, Canada. A colony of curly coated cats had apparently been breeding for up 10 years. Being farm cats, they were healthy and vigourous. Martine Sansoucy of Butterpaws Cattery (breeders of LaPerms) found the rex colony of cats on a farm just outside of Saskatoon. She took 7 marcel cats (cats with wavy kinked coats and curly whiskers) and one extremely curly coated female. The marcel cats were all neutered and homed as pets, while the curly coated female was kept for test mating. A test breeding of the female with a straight coated (to determine whether the gene was dominant or recessive) produced 7 kittens including one solid blue bald female. The gene was proven dominant, but the kittens were all extremely small and unhealthy and all but 2 died. The blad female was one that did not survive. The surviving kittens were both straight coated; they were neutered and homed as pets. The curly coated mother went bald during her pregnancy and her coat grew in straight coated afterwards which was odd. After many Vet visits it was confirmed that she had elbow dysplasia in her left elbow and Butterpaws decided not to pursue the new gene due to the mother's genetic health problems. She was spayed and homed as a pet and remains straight coated, but with extremely curly whiskers. Martine Sansoucy visits the same farm yearly, but no further rexes have appeared there. The main producer of the rexes appeared to have been a chocolate point marcel male. Although the line appears to have died out, this rex variety has been named the Prairie Rex because the cats were found in the prairies.

Martine is waiting to see if any coat changes happen with Bobby in the next few years as she is only about three years old and was 8 months old when bred. The necessity to spay Bobby due to health problems makes it regrettable that the less curly marcel males were neutered. Intriguingly, the problems of balding and of curly hair being replaced by straight were encountered in the Dutch Rexes, another dominant gene mutation, during the 1960s.

Left: Bobby in full curly coat
Above: Bobby (full curly coat) and a marcel male
(These are the best quality photos available)

In 2003, some "Wirehair Rexes" were born in Brooklyn, USA, but unfortunately died. The mating was repeated, additional heating was provided for the kittens, and the breed is now under development by Sarah Sweet. The sire, Wooley, was a cat with wiry rex coat, curly guard hairs and hardly any undercoat. Wooley's mother (the foundation cat) had 2 bald kittens with curly whiskers, born before Wooley, that did not survive. The effect of the Brooklyn Rex mutation is a rippled coat with all hair types and bald kittens which grew coats. By 2006, there were a total of 9 Wooleys. They are low-shedding on a day-to-day basis, but periodically moult the hair on the belly and inside the legs, creating bald spots that an unwary observer might mistake for a skin disease. The hair regrows as wavy as before. In general, Brooklyn Wooley kittens are born bald, or almost bald, and grow (or regrow) curly fur, but have minimal fur on their bellies. Early on, a variety of fur types and fur growth patterns were noted: some were born bald on the belly and had normal-haired siblings; straight-haired cats with coarse coats developed wavy fur. Outcrosses have not produced any Wooleys, but even in matings between a wooley and a related cat there might be no Wooleys or a mix of curly-haired and straight-haired kittens! The hair type can also change: kittens with straight, coarse hair later turn wooley while born-curly wooleys turn straight and then curl up again periodically for a few months and then remain curly, but they may have a bald belly until about 9 weeks. Kittens tend to open their eyes early. Wooleys are very outgoing and affectionate cats and really love to greet people and cuddle. Blue-eyed colourpoint Wooleys also occur. Initially the Ojos Azules gene was suspected due to the flattened tail-tip and wide-spaced eyes, but this has been discounted. The Brooklyn Rex mutation is being developed under the breed name of Wooley (originally Brooklyn Wooley) and initially thought to be identical to the Texas Rex mutation or to the short-haired LaPerm. Breeding over the next few years established it to be a new recessive gene.

Wooley Marjan

Wooley Tapioca

Scrappy Wooley (Photos copyright Sandy Sweet. )

Also in 2003, a magazine featured a truly odd almost hairless cat. Described as the result of inbreeding, it was bald apart from long whiskery guard hairs all over the body; possibly similar to Pyewacket described earlier in this article.

In December 2003 a Manx Rex/Curly Coated Manx strain, now called the Tasman Manx, was reported in Australia and New Zealand. Some Manx breeders found curly coated kittens in their breeding lines. They liked the look of the cats and rather than take the Maine Waves approach and vilify them, decided to research the variety. The gene is recessive and produces a frizzled, relatively thick coat with guard hairs. When test-mated to Devon Rexes, only straight-haired kittens were produced. It also appears different to the Cornish Rex gene as the cats have visible guard hairs while Cornish Rexes lack. The Tasman Manx cats can all be traced to an outcross mating in Australia using a cream Persian male with some European ancestry. This led to the suggestion that the gene is the same as that which causes the Bohemia Rex (discussed earlier). Debbie Munro provides the following description, history and photos of the Tasman Manx. She hopes to have the variety recognised by the NZCF and to conduct test matings with Cornish Rex. Debbie had the first Tasman Manx born in New Zealand. Tailed curly-coated Manx kittens turned up with Debbie and also with two other breeders, one in Australia and one in New Zealand. However the Australian kittens were stillborn and a test mating resulted in further stillborn kittens so it was not pursued due to fears of a lethal mutation. The two tailed curly-coated Manx kittens born in New Zealand were not bred, leaving only Debbie's cats cats.

Debbie's first tailed curly-coated Manx were born around 1998 and went to another Manx breeder for breeding. Unfortunately, that breeder's stock was later dispersed and the whereabouts of those two curly-coated Manx males is unknown. A Brown Classic tabby Bi-Colour Manx, "Arther", was born to Bywater Barabbas (one of the founders of the "CC" [Curly Coat] gene) and was the first tailless CC Manx in Australasia. A year later, "Curly Sue", a half-sister to Arther, was born. She was mated to straight-coated Manx who were suspected of carrying the CC gene as well as to her half-brother. "Brandy", a straight-coated half-sister of Arther was mated to Arther, resulting in "Kiwi", a cream curly-coated Manx male. Curly Sue has since produced a much needed Blue-Cream curly-coated Manx female. Debbie's photos show Peewee, a Blue curly-coated Manx and the Blue-Cream curly-coated Manx female. The kittens are born well furred, but this starts dropping at around 3 weeks, starting with belly and working upwards. The fur under the neck form nice rings of curls. Debbie has also provided a photo of one of the "Egerton" Curly Coat Persians from Australia, where the CC gene is known to have come from. In contrast to the GCCF's approach, the Australian/New Zealand cat fancies seem more open to accepting, investigating and pursuing spontaneous mutations or carried recessives in existing breeds.

CC Manx (Tasman Manx) and CC Persian photos courtesy of Debbie Munro, The Manx Cattery, New Zealand

In 2004, an abandoned curly-haired female and her 4 curly kittens were found in Indianapolis, USA. Dubbed the Hoosier Rex, the female had short, loose curls while all 4 kittens had curly fur ranging from tight curls to loose waves and were curly-furred from birth. This could have been a new dominant mutation although it was possible that the female was from LaPerm stock. All 5 cats were relinquished to a shelter where there was a legally binding neutering rule, so it was not possible to research the gene further. Further information has been provided by Ashley Lewin. The mother cat was a dilute calico with Foreign features: an angular face, large ears and blue eyes. Her coat had short swirly curls that felt like velvet. Three of the kittens had the same conformation, though the fourth was an orange tabby male with a rounder face and smaller ears. The orange tabby male had long, soft, wavy fur. The other male resembled the mother and was white with light orange markings on the head; his coat was short, kinky and felt like cotton. The first female kitten was a Foreign-looking tortie-and-white with a short, kinky coat. The remaining female kitten, named Saganaki, resembled the mother with a Foreign face, large ears, long, curved whiskers and green eyes (cross-eyed).


Hoosier Rex "Saganaki". Photos courtesy Ashley Lewin

Saganaki is tabby-tortie with silvery blue in place of black with the short, swirly curled velvet-like coat of the mother. Saganaki had an approx 2 inch mohawk (mohican) ridge that started at the back of her head, paused on her shoulder blades and then extended down her back and tail. The ridge grew in when she reached 4 months old, but has mainly gone as the other fur grew and caught up with the mohawk. The hair on her head and face remained quite short and that on her shoulder blades is also shorter, resulting in a ruff on the back of her head and upper back. She resembles a LaPerm, but with a more oriental face. She is vocal with a comical, affectionate personality. Her coat is somewhat greasy and can be easily plucked, like a rabbit’s coat, and has the habit of picking things up.

In the previous two and a half years, the Humane Society of Indianapolis had received two other curly coated adult stray cats. One was a large adult black and white unneutered male with long, tight ringlets all over his body. There is no description available of the other except that it had curly fur. Ashley says there are stories of curly or kinky coated cats and kittens of unknown parentage turning up in shelters across the state.

Possible Hoosier Rex "Ugly Betty". Photo by Trish Madigan

Trish Madigan, a rescue worker in Columbus, Indiana, USA cared for a pregnant feral female that had 2 curly-haired kittens, only one of which survived. Four other surviving kittens were straight-haired. The father's coat type is unknown. "Ugly Betty" was born with a bald belly and legs and has kinked whiskers. No feral rex cats (of known breeds) have been reported in Southern Indiana. LaPerm was originally suspected due to the baldness at birth, but this may be another Hoosier Rex type cat as these turn up across the state according to Ashley Lewin (Saganaki's owner)

In August 2004, cat lover Franklin Whittenburg in the Tennessee Valley in the Chattanooga area took in a feral female and her 3 kittens, of which 2 had curly fur. They had taken refuge on his back porch and a previous feral litter had been killed by a large tomcat. At the vet clinic, where they were treated for parasites, everybody wanted to see the 2 rex-coated kittens. The mother had straight fur and the mutation appears to be recessive and probably manifested due to inbreeding. The kittens were curly from birth and had very short, extremely curly whiskers and eyebrow whiskers. Curiously, the 2 curly-coated kittens moulted heavily on their temples and were temporarily bald in those areas. DNA swabs will be taken and test matings arranged to determine whether they have a known rex mutation or a new one entirely. They are currently known as Tennessee Rexes, or T-Rexes for short. There are now kittens from two totally unrelated females that were mated to different T-Rex brothers. If the gene is recessive then it should show up by mating the offspring together. The next test mating is with the daughter of one T-rex to her uncle.

Tennessee Rex kittens have small tight curls which become "corkscrews" when and where the hair grows longer. The curly hair is most prominent on the neck, shoulders, chest, stomach, legs and tail. It forms longer wavy curls on the back. Even the whiskers are curly. The tail is one of the most striking features of the breed. The long "corkscrew" hair makes the tail expand the width of the cat when it is carried in the upright position.


Hair of Tennessee Rex

Tennessee Rex and Radical Satin hair-shaft photos courtesy F Whittenburg

A spontaneous new rex mutation is rare enough and very desirable, but the Tennessee Rex held an additional surprise. It has an extremely rare "satin" or "glitter" mutation. Currently the only breed exhibiting the "glitter" gene is the Bengal where it resembles gold dust sprinkled on the fur. A different gene, called "satin", is seen in rodents but has never been confirmed in cats. Dr Solveig Pflueger (Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston) and Dr Leslie Lyons (University of California, Davis) are studying hair samples to see which mutation it is. The satin sheen stands out when compared to a normal haired cat. When the fur is viewed closely in direct sunlight, there are tiny little prisms in the fur that refract the light to produce the colours of the rainbow. At first, these were thought to be "air pockets" in the hair shaft that that refract light rather than simply reflecting it. Closer examination of the satin on the original Tennessee Rex males showed a reflective coating material similar to oyster shell on the hairshaft. Only the straight-coated offspring showed some "air-pockets", but not the rex-coated cats. If this rainbow effect mutation were to occur in a white T-Rex it would produce "oyster shell" or "pearl" colour that would be unique to the breed (previously the only breed to have a colour like this was the now extinct Suqutranese; a white semi-longhair with translucent bands on the hairs). Either mutation, "satin" or "glitter" would become part of the Tennessee Rex breed standard. In combination with the curly fur, the effect is unique. In addition to their fur type, the T-Rexes are non-aggressive, playful and puppy-like in their affectionate behaviour. They are very human-oriented.


Australian Rex photo courtesy Caitlin

In 2005, a Rex-coated line of cats was reported in Australia. The line began in 1998, when a pet cat had kittens, including a curly tortoishell with fur not dissimilar to a Cornish Rex. However, there were no Cornish Rexes in the area (although the gene may have been carried by a cat with Cornish Rex in its ancestry) or it may have been a spontaneous mutation. The curly kitten, Roxy, matured, but remained one third smaller than the average cat. Roxy has produced several litters, each including 1 or 2 kittens with curly fur and sometimes having kittens that mature into smaller sized cats. One of her sons, Timmy a black-and-white tuxedo pattern cat, is about half the size of a regular cat at 18 months old and has a tail longer than his own body. His younger brother, Tommy, also has curly fur and some Oriental facial features. Timmy has been neutered, Roxy became too ill to breed and the curly-coated daughters have disappeared, leaving only Tommy able to father more litters. Unfortunately, cats and cat-breeding are not widely liked in Australia which may result in Tommy also being neutered (this is compulsory in some areas) and the anomaly dying out.

In 2007, Vasilis Lekkas from Athens (who is deeply involved in the recently formed Greek network for the preservation of domestic livestock including cats) reported two instances of Rex type coats; one in the island of Skopelos and the other in suburban Athens.

In 2008, the Kernow was suggested as a truly Cornish cat combining two mutations indigenous to Cornwall. Tailless cats occurred in Pendarvis, Cornwall in 1837 and the variety was known as the Cornwall Cat until 1909 when tailless cats all became known as the Manx. The Cornish Rex occurred in Bodmin, Cornwall in 1950. The Kernow would combine both of these "Cornish" traits and would essentially be a tailless British-style Cornish Rex in both shorthair and longhair versions. The Oriental conformation of the American Cornish Rex and the Siamese/Burmese colours or patterns are not allowed. Blue-eyed or odd-eyed whites/bicolours are not allowed because of deafness. Kernow is the Cornish word for Cornwall.

The Helki (2009) developed from feral cats by Aubrey Anderson has a "semi-rex" coat that has a mix of wavy and straight guard hairs that can look unkempt. Helki, means "touch" in Miwok Indian (Northern California) and reflects the silky, fleecy texture of the coat. Early breedings to domestic cats show 50% semi-rexed kittens indicating a dominant gene mutation. Non-rexed kittens can display a mohawk (upright ridge of fur) along the spine when happy. As well as the texture, the fur has a high degree of rufousing, making some colours hard to distinguish. The colour can change during the cat's life; a cream kitten may turn blue and end up reddish-brown while a blue may turn black. The wavy, brittle whiskers are moulted in the first year and replaced by long drooping whiskers and there is a Laperm-like moult of wavy fur as the kittens grow. The breed was mainly developed from feral/semi-feral cats around South Sacramento (Northern California) and the mutation appears to have originated there with LaPerm-type cats also present among local feral colonies, however the Helki is smaller than the LaPerm. The local feline population includes descendents of various Asian cats that arrived with immigrants several decades previously.

There is one other possible historical Rex. In the 1800s, the term "Cypress Cat" or "Cyprus" cat was used in East Anglia (Norfolk/Suffolk area of Britain). This was reported by Frances Simpson in 1903 as being the local name for tabby cats. Cyprus/Cypress was defined in the mid 1700s as being a fine curled stuff, similar to hair or fur and reddish or reddish-yellow in colour although "Cypress Cat" was not restricted to orange tabby cats. Though it is far too long ago to know, it is possible that this term might originally have been applied to a curly-textured cat. Certainly "broken-coated" (rough coated) cats were reported in Simpson's book.

Finally there is a mistaken identity "Rex". The Colorado Rex appeared on a survey of Rex cats. There is no record of this feline mutation.

REX FUR

In brief, a cat has three main types of fur: long guard hairs, shorter awn (bristle) hairs and woolly down hairs. The guard and awn hairs form the top-coat and the down hairs form the undercoat. In addition, specialised hairs form the whiskers. In general, in Cornish, German and Oregon Rexes, the guard hairs appear to be absent or, if present, are reduced to the appearance of awn hairs. Meanwhile, in the Devon and Selkirk Rexes, all three types of hair are present, but in modified form. Their hair also tends to be brittle and this is most noticeable in the missing or broken whiskers. Wirehair cats also have all three types of hair, but all are rough, crooked and unruly. As more and more rexoid cats are reported, a wider variety of fur modifications are being described. One of the more unusual modifications was a cat reported in 2003 that had long whiskery guard hairs, but lacked down and awn hairs, and was otherwise bald.

DNA analysis in 2010 also found that Sphynx and Devon Rex are different mutations of the same gene. The relationship between these mutations from most dominant to most recessive is: Normal Hair >> Sphynx >> Devon Rex

Paul McSorley's Minskin Pixie Puss showing the "fur-pointed" trait. The extremities are furred, while the cat's body is hairless.

Photo reproduced by permission of Paul McSorley

FUTURE REX CATS?

Potentially, any of the Rex breeds could be crossed with any other breed of cat to produce Rexes with bobtails, no tails, extra toes, different ear shapes, Abyssinian Rexes, Hemingway Rexes, Rex-Bobs or any other combination of physical traits. Whether these are desirable is another matter entirely and many experimental cross-breedings are not pursued as breeds.

Meanwhile, curly-coated cats continue to appear in unexpected places - some as a result of mis-matings many generations ago and others as entirely new mutations. Some are the result of existing Rex mutations combining with other genes which modify their effect on the fur. Some of these curly coated cats will be picked up by breeders while others go unnoticed. A few prove to have mutations identical to established Rex breeds. Only time will tell which of these goes on to achieve the same sort of popularity as the pioneering Cornish and Devon Rex breeds. Modern genetic methods may allow "new" rex mutations to be matched to/differentiated from existing mutations, avoiding the necessity of test-mating.

In 2006, TICA proposed to clamp down on certain breeding trends, possibly preventing new rexed breeds that might be created by crossing existing breeds together. Their Genetics Committee report stated: "The Committee proposes that TICA does not accept any proposed breeds for Registration Only status that do not exhibit novel mutations. The current mutations would be reserved for currently recognized breeds exclusively. This would end the seemingly endless applications for "munchkinized" new breeds, and then deter the inevitable introduction of "rexed", "Bob-tailed" and Poly-ed" everything else."

 

REX OCCURRENCES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

Si-Rexes are not included as these are simply colourpointed forms of Cornish and Devon Rexes, not separate breeds. With many of the later rexes, the origin of the rex gene could have come from uncontrolled breeding of existing rexes kept as pets.

  • 1930s: Karakul Cat. Not developed.
  • 1930s: Prussian Rex. Not developed.
  • 1944: Ohio Rex. Not developed.
  • 1950s: Buckfast Blue (Buckfast Rex). Local variety, feral forerunner of Devon Rex
  • 1946 & 1951: German Rex
  • 1950: Cornish Rex
  • 1950: Italian Rex. Not developed.
  • 1959: Oregon Rex. Not developed.
  • 1959: California Rex.
  • 1960: Devon Rex
  • 1969 & 1985: Dutch Rex. Extinct; may have originated from American owned Wirehair
  • 1972: Victoria Rex. Not developed.
  • 1979: Sieburg Rex. Not developed.
  • 1986: LaPerm
  • 1987: Selkirk Rex
  • 1988: Maine Waves/Rexed Maine Coon. Not developed
  • 1990s: Dakota Rex
  • 1990s: Missouri Rex
  • 1991: Urals Rex
  • 1994: Bohemian Rex/Czech Curly Cat. Longhair Rex of Persian type
  • 1994: Poodle Cat. Scottish Fold x Devon Rex
  • 1998: Skookum (previously LaMerm). LaPerm x Munchkin
  • 1998 & 2003:Tasman Manx. rex-coated Manx (arose in Manx, not from crossbreeding)
  • 1998: Australian Rex. Not developed
  • 2001: Iowa Rex
  • 2001: Ruffle. Not developed.
  • 2003: Brooklyn Wooley
  • 2003: Prairie Rex. All had been neutered
  • 2003: Hoosier Rex. All had been neutered
  • 2004: Tennessee Rexes (T-Rex)
  • 2007: Greek Rexes (2 occurrences observed - Skopelos & Athens)
  • 2009: Helki (California). Semi-rexed coat.

MESSYBEAST : COLOURS, CONFORMATION & FUR TYPES