CAT-BREED DNA STUDIES - TRUE ORIGINS OR LEGITIMISING IMPOSTERS?
Feline DNA studies between 2007 and 2012 are used by some breeders to claim authenticity for their breeds. However, Kurushima et al (2012) admitted that "the cats assigned in this study are more likely specific to the cat fancy of the United States, and tests for other breed populations that are registry- or regional specific may need to be developed."
This article considers the data in the light of its Ameri-centrism and the claims of breeders outside the USA that the conclusions have been used to legitimise cat fancy breeds that have only tenuous links to their claimed country of origin.
Lyons (2005) used mitochondrial DNA due to its non-recombining nature and fast mutation rate. Using this, she studied recently diverged domestic cat breeds. 149 individuals from 17 breeds and 90 random bred cats from southern California (i.e. not worldwide) had been sequenced and 30 different haplotypes were identified.
The main drawback with mitochondrial DNA is that this is only passed on through the maternal line. The nuclear DNA could give a quite different conclusion as it also contains contributions from the males - this contributions would be considerable over many generations.
Lipinski et al (2008) defined the genetic relationship between random-bred cat populations and their supposed pedigree descendents using Short Tandem Repeat (STR) markers.
Kurushima et al (2011) applied autosomal Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) techniques to an extensive sample of random-bred street cats collected throughout the world.
Combining and analysing the data from both methods is considered to give the most accurate results, producing breed groupings, showing relatedness of some breeds (into meta-families) and showing relatedness of breeds to their supposed region of origin. The methods are being refined year on year, adding more detail. However the interpretation of data is limited by the focus on American-bred cats which may not be representative of the claimed ancestral breed (especially true in the case of American Burmese).
AN AMERI-CENTRIC VIEW OF WORLDWIDE BREEDS?
Lipinski et al (2008) studied CFA registered breeds and samples of random-bred cats around the world. Kurushima et al (2012) looked at the CFA's 41 recognised breeds and TICA's 57 recognised breeds plus the Australian Mist. Most of the breeds acknowledged by these two large US-based registries are considered by them to be typical breeds around the world; albeit "refined" for exhibition by selective breeding.
The breeds used in the 2008 study were 15 of the 16 CFA foundation ("natural") breeds (Abyssinian, American Shorthair, Birman, British Shorthair, American Burmese, Chartreux, Egyptian Mau, Korat, Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest, Persian, Russian Blue, Siamese, Turkish Angora, Turkish Van), 2 CFA breeds under development (Siberian and Sokoke) and 5 more recently developed CFA breeds (Exotic Shorthair, Havana Brown, Japanese Bobtail, Singapura and Sphynx).
Those 15 “natural breeds” are supposedly derived from regional variants that predate the modern cat fancy. The remaining CFA breeds had been developed since the mid 20th Century. Some of those so-called "natural breeds" are known to have been developed from a mix of cats imported into Britain in the 1800s. Nineteenth century books by Louis Wain and Frances Simpson indicate that some of the "natural" breeds were created by crossing cats from different regions.
Most cat breeds were developed within the past 150 years, mainly in the UK and the USA. The oldest CFA recognised breeds are the Persian, Russian Blue, Siamese and Angora. The oldest UK GCCF recognised breeds are the Persian, British Shorthair, Siamese, Abyssinian and Russian Blue.
The DNA samples used by Lipinski et al were mostly obtained from cat shows and from cat owners in the USA. Additional Korat, Turkish Angora, Turkish Van, and Siberian samples were acquired from Europe where the breeds have the same standards. The random-bred cats included feral cats, semi-feral cats and random-bred pets. Such studies can only really show the inter-relatedness of pedigree breeds - their ancestral roots have largely been lost through a century of cross-breeding and selective breeding.
An analysis of the spread of domestic cats and the relationship between pedigreed breeds was published in October 2007 (M.J. Lipinski, et al). The researchers used genetic markers to determine whether breeds came from their purported place of origin. The sample comprised genetic data from 1100 cats across 5 continents, including 22 pedigree breeds and 17 random-bred populations in Brazil, Hawaii, New York, Texas, Germany, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Vietnam, Henan (China) and Korea. There were no samples from Russia.
International submissions for Kurushima et al (2012) related to TICA recognised breeds, rather than the breed preserved in its (real or supposed) region of origin. This means the pedigree samples submitted were effectively pre-screened to support the American cat fancy's preconceptions! It also led to anomalies. For example, the cat known to the CFA as a "Turkish Angora", was found to be genetically quite different from the Turkish Angora conserved in its own country.
Kurushima et al concluded that "Cat registries have recognised that some breeds are "natural", such as the Korat and Turkish Van. These breeds are specific population isolates, and random-bred cats of similar origins can be used to augment their gene pools." In practice this is unlikely to occur because the cat fancy's interpretation of a breed, following generations of selective breeding, means that the naturally occurring ancestor is not representative of the show-bench variety.
BASED ON FALSE PREMISESIn essence, the DNA studies were based on a false premise: the breeds recognised in the USA by the CFA and TICA were accepted as the baseline and the randombred regional cats were assessed as deviating from those baselines. The results failed to admit how far the CFA and TICA breeds had deviated genetically from their purported regional ancestors.
The studies found that pedigree breeds formed distinct groups. The Southeast Asian breeds included Birman, American Burmese, Havana Brown, Korat, Siamese and Singapura. The remaining breeds were classed as Western breeds except for the Abyssinian and the Japanese Bobtail; these had genetic markers from both groups as a result of cross-breeding during breed development.
Unsurprisingly, American random-bred cats and the two American breeds (Maine Coon and American Shorthair) were related to the seven Western European breeds and European random-bred cats.
Several of the breeds were related to random-bred cats of the purported region of origin (Lipinski et al). The Southeast Asian breed grouping was strongly associated with the random-bred cats from Vietnam, China, Korea, and Singapore. The Siberian had strong associations with cats from Germany and Finland (samples from Russian cats were unavailable). The Turkish Vans grouped with regional random-bred cats from Turkey, Israel and Egypt.
Considering both SNPs and STRs, Persians have influenced several breeds: Exotic Shorthair, Scottish Fold, British Shorthair and Chartreux. Within the Asian grouping, Siamese have strongly influenced the Havana Brown, Korat and, have influenced the Birman and Singapura to a lesser extent. Russian Blue, Ocicat, Singapura, Australian Mist and Birman showed a strong influence from both Europe and Asia (Kurushima et al).
Many generations of cat fancy breeding practices have genetically polluted the earliest recognised "natural" breeds. This is documented in early breed histories where breeds were created from various foundation cats of poorly documented origin, were crossed, amalgamated, separated again (e.g. the British Blue and Russian Blue) and out-crossed when numbers fell too low.
Many cat breeds are named after anecdotal, not actual, origins. Many have been cross-bred with locally found "foundation cats" which physically resembled the imports. The result may be cats that resemble the imported breed, but which are genetically very different. This leads researchers who are not versed in cat fancy history to false expectations and "surprising results" (that aren't surprising to cat breed historians).
PERSIAN - A WESTERN EUROPEAN BREED
The modern Persian began with imported longhairs from a variety of locations that were bred with British Shorthairs. They have also been known as French or Italian cats. From historical writings, the longhair mutation either arose in three separate areas (Russia, Persia (Iran) and Turkey), or spread from Russia into Turkey, Persia and surrounding countries, or arose and was developed in Turkey and transported on land and sea trade routes to Europe, the Middle East and Far East. Whatever the case, the modern Persian breed was developed in England as an amalgamation of Turkish Angoras, Russian Longhairs and purported Persian (Iran) cats, plus British Shorthairs.
DNA microsatellite evidence found the Persian breed unexpectedly (to Lipinski's team) was not genetically associated with random-bred cat populations from the Near East, but was grouped with random bred cats of Western Europe/America. This is not surprising as the modern Persian was an early creation of the cat fancy.
Lipinski et al found the Persian and Exotic Shorthair formed an indistinguishable pairs, upholding cat fancy history that the Exotic Shorthair is a shorthaired variant of the Persian.
The Exotic Shorthair and Persian showed evidence of multiple lineages, reflecting the known early history of the Persian breed and the multiple lineages in the British Shorthair breed. This genetic diversity has been inherited by the derivative Exotic Shorthair.
The British Shorthair showed evidence of multiple lineages. It was developed from random-bred shorthairs in the 19th Century and, for part of that time, the Russian Blue and the French Chartreux were also bred with British Blue Shorthairs. Persians and British Shorthairs were also crossed early on, and the shorthaired offspring added to the British Shorthairs gene pool.
The Russian Blue was bred with other blue cats such as the Chartreux and British Blue Shorthairs in the 19th century and possibly with "Blue Siamese" (early Korats). Blue shorthairs, some with faint tabby markings, were also imported into England from the north of Norway. Historical accounts suggest that the colour possibly arose in Thailand and spread from there into Russia.
THE CFA'S NOT-SO-TURKISH ANGORAS
Lipinski's study found the Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van were distinct from each other, the Turkish Van being closer to Egyptian random-bred cats while the Turkish Angora was closer to random-bred cats from Tunisia and Turkey and to the Egyptian Mau. The researchers suggested that cats may have spread into different regions of Turkey from different directions: into the Lake Van region from Egypt via land trade routes and into the Ankara (Angora) region from Tunisia via sea routes. But how "Turkish" are the CFA's versions of these varieties? Not very, it would seem.
Kurushima et al, (2012) stated ''All cats were representatives of their breed as found within the USA, except for the Australian Mist Cats and a few Turkish Angora and Turkish Van samples from international submissions.'' This means that submissions from the true Turkish cats in their home region didn't match the American breeds. (The Australian Mist is not recognised in the USA.)
Two UC Davis Turkish Cat Studies of 2008 and 2012 only studied American cat fancy registered Angoras rather than the “true” Turkish Angora or Ankara Kedisi directly from Turkey, and especially from the Ankara Zoo. The American cats were tested based on cat fancy pedigrees and assumptions as to their ancestral origins in Turkey. Samples submitted from Turkey and the Ankara Zoo were allegedly ignored. Samples claimed to be from Turkey which showed a genetic relationship to American Angoras could not be independently verified. Independent DNA studies on documented Turkish Angoras from the Ankara Zoo, Ankara City, from other parts of Turkey, and from Cyprus did not correspond well with those of the “American Angora”.
It is erroneous to conclude that the cat fancy's finer boned Turkish Angora is most representative of cats of Turkey. Breeders in Turkey feel that the cat fancy’s version of their national breed is unrepresentative of the true Turkish cats, which are much sturdier. American “Turkish” Angoras may have only a minimal remnant of the original Ankara Zoo DNA and are only “purebred” on paper. There is sufficient data and controversy that I have provided more detail at the end of this article.
THE SIAMESE, HAVANA, KORAT, BURMESE AND SINGAPURA
Lipinski et al found that several breeds in this grouping formed indistinguishable pairs: Singapura and Burmese; Havana Brown and Siamese; Korat and Birman.
The Burmese/Singapura grouping supported other research that the Singapura was derived from American Burmese and Abyssinian cats exported to Singapore and the descendents re-imported to the USA (European Burmese cats identical to Singapuras in colour and similar in conformation have been bred in the Netherlands). In contrast, random-bred cats from Singapore were a mix of Southeast Asian and European cats, possibly as a result of maritime trade or British colonialism.
The Burmese was found to share origins with both Siamese and Korats; this matches cat fancy history of the breeds. The Burmese derived from a brown female (Wong Mau) intermediate in type between Siamese and Burmese (a type now recognised as the Tonkinese). There are also naturally occurring colourpoint Korats.
The Lipinski et al study upheld tradition that the Siamese is ancestral to other Colourpoints along with Orientals and Havana Browns; although recognised as different breeds by cat registries, these differed by as little as one gene variant e.g. for hair length, colour or pattern. The Havana brown is a colour variant of Siamese/Oriental cats, with some further selection for facial type. The colourpointed pattern arose in Asia and is naturally occurring in Thailand (Siam) and Malaysia, but the main recent spread was via the 19th century British cat fancy.
The Birman, a colourpoint, might have been expected to show closer kinship with the Siamese than with the Korat, especially considering the breeding together of Siamese and longhaired cats when the early Birman was in danger of extinction.
The Asian cats were found to be genetically isolated from other regions. In addition, individual populations of cats within Asia were found to be genetically separate from each other. This may support cat fancy tradition that certain types (Siamese, Korat) were selectively bred in Asia from an early time e.g. as temple cats or palace cats.
BIRMANS - FROM BURMA OR FRANCE?
The original pair of Birmans appears to have introduced into France in 1919 or 1920, but the male didn't survive. To re-establish the type, the female (and her daughter) was crossed to Siamese, Colourpoints and White Longhairs. This leads to conflicting claims of it originating from Burma or being created in France! French breeders had to re-create the Birman a second time after the Second World War severely depleted pedigreed cats in Europe. Only two purebred Birmans survived and they were bred with other longhairs out of necessity. In 1960, a pair of "Tibetan Temple kittens" i.e. Birmans reached North America. Crossing with other breeds introduced a wider range of point colours, not all of which are recognised by the CFA.
Considering both SNP and STR studies, the Siamese has influenced the Birman. The breed showed a strong influence from both Europe and Asia. In the light of its history, this mixed genetic heritage is unsurprising. All of the studies showed a strong relationship between the Birman and the Korat.
In the Lyons (2005) study using mitochondrial DNA, the [American] Abyssinian breed showed low diversity despite its reputed ancient origins and relatively large population. Outside of the USA, where a wider range of colours are recognised, it might show more diversity. Mitochondrial DNA clusters it with the British Shorthair and also with Russian Blues and Persians. STR and SNP studies clustered it with the European breeds.
Breed folklore claims that the first Abyssinian cat, Zula, was brought to England from Abyssinia in 1868. The Leiden Zoological Museum in Holland has a stuffed Abyssinian purchased dating to 1834-1836 and labelled as an Indian cat. HC Brooke described an Indian cat that had allegedly come from Bombay. Illustrations of the Indian cat show a sandy coloured ticked cat similar to an Abyssinian. An imported African Wildcat is known to have been used in early breed development.
The Abyssinian was crossed with the British "Bunny Cat" (British Tick) and Indian cats. Harrison Weir found the native British Ticks to be scarcely distinguished from the imported Abyssinian and mentioned it being crossed with the Persian, Russian and Angora. Some of the early Abyssinian champions are very evidently Ticked British Shorthairs. This would explain the clustering of the Abyssinian DNA samples.
SOKOKE, BENGAL AND OCICAT
Lipinski et al found the Sokoke, recently developed from cats found in the Sokoke forest region of Kenya, was closely related to random-bred cats from the Kenyan islands of Lamu and Pate group. Kurushima et al (2012) found it to be related to cats of the India/Arabian Sea region.
The Bengal, derived from a mix of Asian Leopard Cat, Margay, an Indian spotted domestic cat and other shorthaired breeds was assigned to Europe or to the Arabian Sea. This reflects the origins of the domestic cats used in breed development, rather than the well-established country of origin of the Bengal breed.
The Ocicat, derived from Siamese and Abyssinians, was assigned to South Asia or Europe. This mixed heritage is unsurprising as the Abyssinian was developed using British ticked tabby cats.
The Sphynx, which Lipinski et al described as a derivative of the Devon Rex breed, had surprisingly high genetic diversity. The Sphynx gene pool has been repeatedly expanded using random-bred spontaneous hairless mutations found across the USA, something possibly overlooked by the researchers, as well as being crossed with the Devon Rex.
Egyptian Maus, which folklore claims originated in Egypt and which resemble pharoanic Egyptian depictions of domestic cats, showed European influences. It appears these cats resemble ancient cats of Egypt rather than having originated from Egyptian cats (or that they have become very mongrelised by outcrossing). It was also closer to Turkey and Tunisia random-bred cats than to random-bred Egyptian cats. Mitochondrial DNA analysis in 2005 grouped it with Siamese, Russian Blue, Korat and Abyssinian cats. The later STR and SNP studies clustered it with American-bred Turkish Angoras and Vans.
The Egyptian Mau reached the USA in 1956 when three cats were imported from Italy. These had belonged to the Egyptian ambassador to Italy. The gene pool was expanded in later years with further imports from Italy and also from Cairo. Similar spotted cats can be seen in North Africa and the near East. It is generally accepted among breed historians that the small gene pool forced some unofficial out-crossing in the early days of the breed in the USA. In the 1980s, two Mau-type kittens were imported from New Delhi Zoo and added to the small Egyptian Mau gene pool. Around 20 additional foundations cats from Egypt that met the standard were also imported.
The Japanese Bobtail was supposedly introduced into Japan from China around the 6th century. The modern Japanese Bobtail was found to be more closely related to Western European/American cats than Southeast Asian cats. Bobtailed Japanese cats were imported into the USA in 1968 and were developed as the Japanese Bobtail breed through crossing and selective breeding. As a result, their gene pool was largely influenced by the European grouping of cats (which includes American cats) rather than by Asian cats.
It would have been interesting if the researchers had compared the Japanese Bobtail to the indigenous Russian Kuril and Karel bobtails which appear to have Western European, rather than Asian, type.
IMPARTIAL GENETICS OR CAT FANCY PROPAGANDA?
THE AMERICAN ANGORA VS TURKISH ANGORA
Some of the data supporting the genetics studies is heavily criticised by Turkish Angora and Turkish Van breeders in Turkey. I am using the more correct term Ankara kedisi instead of obfuscating it as the "Cyprus" category used by researchers.
Many specimens with very high readings of Ankara kedisi were omitted from the published papers and dismissed as "Cyprus group" despite being very pure and valuable original Turkish Angora bloodlines. Perhaps the researchers were pandering to North American cat fanciers in dismissing those genuine Turkish-born Angoras.
The unrooted phylogenetic tree presented by Lyons at the 2005 Tufts Conference appears to show that the Turkish Van and Turkish Angora are indeed related despite the Lipinski et al and Kurushima et al studies that say they are not. The tree is based on the cat fancy breeds, not on the conserved breed in Turkey. The tree also indicates the American Angoras are related to the Persian (from which it was re-created!), American Shorthair, Siamese and Russian Blue (likely to have been used in the re-creation of the type).
The accompanying the observation that all of the Turkish Angoras studied had the same, apparently unique, haplotype was claimed to agree "with the historical account of the breed as being a small, geographically isolated population." In actuality, the indigenous Turkish Vans and Angoras do not come from a small geographically isolated populations because Turkey is not a small isolated country. Angoras and Van-patterned cats are found naturally everywhere in Turkey, Cyprus and neighbouring regions.
At the time of the studies, there had not been any independent DNA studies carried out using documented Turkish Angoras from the Ankara Zoo, from other parts of Turkey, and from Cyprus However, the raw data of documented Turkish Angoras from the Ankara Zoo, Turkey and Cyprus in the 2012 Turkish Cat Genetics Study provided ample evidence of no correlation between these afore-mentioned cats and the American CFA/TICA Angoras except in a very minor way.
Seven (7) cats were classed as difficult to group as they shared major contributions from more than one group. More likely, these inconveniently (for American breeders) represent the DNA profile of the genuine Turkish Angora. These were samples 6478, 6729, 9575, 9626, 9638, 10139 and 13557.
9575 came from "Minos" from Ankara Zoo Angora (importer H. Harrison). At 74% Ankara kedisi, she is indisputably a Turkish Angora.
9576 is "Yeni Yildiz" At 73% Ankara kedisi, this is indisputably a Turkish Angora.
13557 is "Shingalana's Dakarai-Van". At 45% Ankara kedisi and 30% Turkish Van, this is more typical of mixed Turkish Import and cat fancy Turkish Van.
13552 "Kemal Kebab" was not mentioned. His signature 74% Ankara kedisi (same as "Minos") and he is identical in appearance.
Other native Turkish Angoras with very high readings of Ankara kedisi were conveniently omitted from the results and were only classified as the Cyprus group.
6478, 6729, 9626, 10139 were either from Ankara Zoo or were Turkish freeborn imports, but that important information was omitted, giving an incomplete picture.
In contrast, the researchers had no qualms about classifying 9585 as a Turkish Angora although it contained only 47% of their self-selected identification of an Angora!
In addition there are further samples now analysed. 9702 Tansu, from Marmaris; and 13558 Gohar, from a Marmaris and cat fancy Van mix (importer Joyce Ouderkerk, Holland). 9628, Mavish; 9629, Ozkan; 9630, Daniska; 9626 Lacka; all from Marmaris, Turkey (importer Anke Baks, Holland).
Kurushima et al assigned the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van to the Eastern Mediterranean cats. When SNP and STR results were compared through Bayesian assignment, the Turkish Angora could be assigned to Europe or to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The phylogenetic tree showed 4 separate lines of Turkish Van, identified as ancestral types A - D in the Turkish Van Genetics Study. The cats sampled were mainly European and American Vans, though type D included cats from Turkey: Minos (No 9575) and Yeni Yildiz (No 9576) who were both indisputable Ankara kedisi in the Turkish Angora study. Nos 9577 to 9584 were classified as different from Minos and Yeni Yildiz in the Turkish Van study, and identical to the Ankara cat in the 2012 Turkish Angora study, except for Hakan (No 9580) who was identified as an American Angora although but his kitten Fatima (No 14123) tested as Ankara kedisi. Nos 9580, 9581, and 9585, all from Cyprus, had signatures identified as various European/American breeds rather than Ankara kedisi, However American Vans were not reported as European and American breeds (i.e. the study was based on the false premise that the American cats, not the Turkish cats, were the true Vans). This also made it appear that Eastern Mediterranean Ankara kedisi shared the American Van's European/American breed signatures.
Since then, other DNA studies have been made on cats registered as Turkish Vans from Cyprus. All shared the same markers as the Ankara Zoo cat and some identified in the 2012 data as identical to the Ankara Zoo cat. The cat fancy "Turkish" Vans also showed little or no relationship to any of the cats from Turkey. Only one batch of supposedly Turkish random bred cats was used in several studies. The same samples were identified in 2 conflicting ways: (a) in the 2007 study, no connection was made between them and the American Turkish Angora; and (b) in the unpublished 2012 study the same samples were shown as coinciding with the American Angora. This raised doubts about their authenticity.
Lipinski's studies found that American-bred Turkish Vans were closer to Egyptian random-bred cats while the American-bred Turkish Angora was closer to random-bred cats from Tunisia and Turkey and also to the Egyptian Mau. It was suggested that cats spread into the Lake Van region from Egypt via land trade routes , while those in the Ankara (Angora) region came from Tunisia via sea routes. The problem is, the study accepted American pedigree cats as being representative of Turkish cats.
Kurushima et al found evidence of multiple lineages in the cat fancy Turkish Angoras indicating significant European heritage. However this was explained away as ''Significant genetic variation is present in many cat breeds and cannot be predicted entirely by effective population size (popularity amongst cat breeders) or breeding practices alone. The Turkish Angora, originating from Turkey, an area near the seat of cat domestication (Driscoll et al. 2007; Lipinski et al. 2008), had the highest effective number of alleles for both SNPs and STRs.''
Although there was the admission that ''The aforementioned breeds have unique histories that may explain the marker discrepancies with Bayesian assignment to random-bred populations. The Turkish Angora breed was reconstituted from the Persian (European) pedigree post-World Wars, and their genetic diversity has recently been supplemented via outcrossing to Turkish random-bred cats. The identified subpopulations within the breed may reflect the latest influx of random-bred cats''
In other words, the cat fancy "Turkish" Angora was bred to resemble the old-style Angoras of the 1800s and cannot claim Turkish ancestry. In truth, it should be termed "American Angora". New imports of genetically correct Turkish Angoras from Turkey and the Ankara Zoo meet a mixed reception on the show bench. When young they may do well at shows against American Angoras, but when adult, their larger, stockier, thicker-boned physique is penalised by a breed standard written for American Angoras. Breeders looking for suitable Angoras from Turkey therefore select cats that are not representative of the true Turkish Angora.
The study said that the "few Turkish Angoras and Turkish Vans from international submissions" were not representative of the breed as found within the USA. The researchers continued to view the American Angora as the basis and foundation of the breed. Since the true Turkish Angora did not originate in the USA, this statement could be interpreted as suggesting that the overseas submissions could be dismissed. The overseas submissions came from legitimate Turkish Angoras including one sample from the Ankara Zoo and several from other parts of Turkey.
While the American cat fancy (including TICA) claims that "The [American] Turkish Angora breed contains the most representative cats of Turkey", the genetics disagrees, as does the breed history outside of Turkey. Like the British "Angora" of old (Mandarin), the American Angora is an attempted recreation of the Turkish Angora type, rather than the genuine article.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the CFA/TICA "Turkish" Angora originated from Turkey. The later studies infer there are two Angoras one from Europe and one from the Eastern Mediterranean. The Eastern Mediterranean Angora grouping is the genuine Turkish Angora. However, researchers have combined them into a single entity, transferring the history of the true Turkish Angora to (legitimise?) the American Angora.
Breeders in Turkey feel that the cat fancy’s fine-boned version of their national breed is unrepresentative of the true Turkish cats, which are much sturdier. American “Turkish” Angoras may have only a minimal remnant of the original Ankara Zoo DNA and are only “purebred” on paper. They have criticised the UC Davis Turkish Cat Studies of 2008 and 2012 for only studying American pedigree Angoras and for assuming these originated from Turkey. Samples submitted from Turkish breeders and from the Ankara Zoo were allegedly ignored. Samples which claimed to be from Turkey and which show a genetic relationship to American Angoras could not be independently verified; in fact some vet clinics named in the study denied having provided samples for the study and other samples were allegedly submitted in the name of vet clinics that had been closed years previously.
A further point renders the UC Davis results suspect. Ankara Kedisi Dernegi offered to obtain more Ankara Zoo samples in order to help refine researchers' findings. This was allegedly refused by the researchers who claimed they could only accept samples submitted by Zoo officials although it was known that Zoo officials are not permitted to export DNA samples. This, therefore, eliminated genuine Turkish Angora DNA samples from the study, possibly preventing the cat fancy from an embarrassing revelation that the "Turkish" cats are only tenuously related (if at all) to authentic Turkish Angoras or Turkish Vans.
While DNA data cannot lie, the interpretation of that data is undermined by the continued promotion of "imposter cats" being used to represent a breed already recognised in its native land. Turkish breeders feel that it is time the "cat fancy Angoras" were recognised as imposters so that the true Turkish Angora can take its rightful place.
Lyons has responded to Ankara kedisi breeders by email and stated "your persistent doubting of my science does not impress me. I will no longer accept samples from you and other Turkish breeders. If I get samples from the zoo, it will be via the zoo directly." Since the zoo does not send samples, this means she is free to ignore the genuine Turkish Angora while trying to legitimise the cat fancy's mongrelised version. She also stated "The samples from the clinics [that claimed not to have sent samples] were provided by the Turkish collaborator - who is a co-author on the paper. Likely the clinic gave them to him and then they came to me. The study is many many years old now." This indicates that there were no new samples from the Turkish collaborator for the 2007 or 2012 studies, only the single batch from 2005. This batch has therefore been described as Turkish random-bred cats unrelated to the American Angora and a Tunisian-Egyptian Mau mix in the earlier studies, but also identified as Turkish random-bred cats closely related to American Angoras in the 2012 study! This gave rise to a rather ridiculous suggestion by Monica Lipinski that the Ankara Zoo authorities stocked the Ankara Zoo program with cats that had wandered to Turkey from Egypt and Tunisia. In other words, "let's rewrite the sample data to fit our preconceptions!"
TURKISH ANGORA AND CYPRUS APHRODITE GIANT
The World Cat Federation recently recognised the "Cyprus Aphrodite Giant" as a new breed. However the raw data from the 2012 Turkish Cat Genetics Study demonstrates that the Cyprus Aphrodite is actually a very pure Ankara kedisi i.e. it is identical to the true Turkish Van. This naturally aggrieved Van kedisi breeders in Turkey who feel that the true Turkish Angora risks being in limbo with its name appropriated by American Angoras and its genetic heritage appropriated by the Cyprus Aphrodite.
Turkish breeders have been asking the Pennsylvania University to undertake a new study using DNA samples from the Ankara Zoo and other locations in Turkey as the Turkish Angora control to compare to the Cyprus Aphrodites, the American Angora; the Ankara kedisi bred in Turkey; the cat fancy Turkish Van, and also to some genuine Maus from Egypt. However, would the University risk upsetting their domestic cat fancy by finding the Ankara Zoo cats to be representative of Turkish cats and admitting that the American Angoras are only distantly related to them? And that the "Cyprus" grouping of previous studies was erroneous as those cats are actually Ankara kedisi?
SELECTIVE RESULTS REPORTING IN THE PATENT APPLICATION
Patent application 61/487,987 filed on May 19, 2011 (by L A Lyons, UC Davis) “relates to determining the contribution of one or more feline populations to the genome of a feline using a predetermined set of genetic markers including single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), short tandem repeats (STRs) and DNA-based phenotypic markers.” (i.e. feline DNA profiling) Once again this starts with the false (and Americentric!) premise that the pedigree version of a breed recognised by the CFA and TICA are the “true version” of a breed. As already demonstrated, the pedigree American Angora is a highly mongrelised derivative of the Turkish cat. Data from genuine Ankara kedi appears to have been conveniently omitted from the patent application!
While the invention (using SNPs and STRs) may be sound, the application of this invention in pedigree cats, and the interpretation of the statistics, were unsound and failed to acknowledge the fact that the cat fancy pedigree versions have been cross-bred with other genetic populations during their development (e.g. pedigree Japanese Bobtails owe more to American cats than to Asian cats).
The patent application identifies the samples. These same samples are referred to in the 2012 Study (the patent was filed before the study was published). Samples 6477 – 6760 (pp 232-233) are from Turkey and were supplied by Haydar Ozpinar. Samples 10128 - 10157 (p 233) are from Cyprus and were supplied by the Malcolm Cat Protection Society. The study failed to include other samples from Cyprus and Turkey that were registered variously as Turkish Vans, Turkish, Angoras, and Aphrodites and belonged to random-bred cats representative of their geographical locations. There is a clear correlation between Turkish and Cyprian random-bred cats with just a few anomalies. The Turkish and Cyprian street cats both cluster in population 1, while European and American cats cluster separately in population 4.
The 2012 study, based on the same samples, differentiates between Cyprus and Turkish cats, linking the Turkish cats with American Angoras (which the Lyons/Tufts Phylogenetic tree shows as an American and W European mixed breed!). The claim that Turkish cats are related to American and European breeds appears to be contradicted by the SNP and STR values in the patent application. The SNP and STR values in the patent application undermine Lyons’ claims that “Cyprus cats are a distinct population within the Mediterranean", and that " A breed from Cyprus could be developed" - the new “Aphrodite” is a misnaming of the genuine Turkish Angora.
In Tables 15a and 15b, a footnote states that the Turkish Angora is assigned to varying origins depending on which marker(s) is analysed. This clearly indicates the cats tested were not pure Turkish cats, but were heavily mongrelised with West European cats. SNP analysis showed European ancestry while STR analysis showed Middle Eastern ancestry i.e. genetic content from 2 populations. UC Davis dismisses this on page 114 of the patent by stating “The Turkish Angora breed was reconstituted from the Persian (European) pedigree post World Wars and recently, has been increasing genetic diversity via the outcrossing of pedigreed Turkish Angora cats to the random bred cats of Turkey.” This is inaccurate and should read “The American Angora breed ….” as the genuine Turkish Angora remained alive and well in Turkey.
Let's shed more light on the samples used (or omitted!) in the patent application.
Sample 6732 Turkey, Van. 91.32% "Turkish Angora" showed 70% Population 1 (Middle Eastern) SNP STR. 2.4% Population 4 (USA/Western Europe). Markers of 6 other regions present, including 12.4% Population 5 (India) and 4% Population 6 (Iran).
Sample 6521 Istanbul Vet Clinic 91.08% "Turkish Angora" showed 72.40% Population 1 SNP STR, and only 6.5% Population 4.
Sample 6739 Turkey, Ankara mix, 89.98% "Turkish Angora", showed 62% SNP STR Population 1, and 30% Population 4.
Sample 6514 Istanbul Vet Clinic 89.28% "Turkish Angora" showed 51.6% Population 1 SNP STR. and 29.3% Population 4.
Sample 6486 Turkey Dogus Vet Clinic 88.36% "Turkish Angora", showed 89.6% Population 1 SRT STP, and 6% Population 4.
Sample 6494 Turkey, Yesilkoy Vet Clinic. 96.3% "Turkish Angora", showed 24% Population 1 and 68.8% Population 6 (Iran).
Sample 6496 Turkey Yesilkoy Vet Clinic 87.14% "Turkish Angora", showed 87.5% Population 1 SNP STR and only 0.40% Population 4 W European.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
J. D. Kurushima, M. J. Lipinski, B. Gandolfi, L. Froenicke, J. C. Grahn, R. A. Grahn and L. A. Lyons (2012) "Variation of cats under domestication: genetic assignment of domestic cats to breeds and worldwide random-bred populations" Animal Genetics, 2012 (cited as Kurushima et al, 2012)
Lipinski M.J., Amigues Y., Blasi M. et al. (2007) An international parentage and identification panel for the domestic cat (Felis catus). Animal Genetics 38, 371–7.
Lipinski M.J., Froenicke L., Baysac K.C. et al. (2008) The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide randombred populations. Genomics 91, 12–21.
Leslie A. Lyons "Genetic Relationships of Cat Breeds" at Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference 30/09/2005 - 01/10/2005, 2005, Sturbridge, MA, USA (cited as Lyons, 2005)
Leslie A. Lyons/ UC Davis "Genetic Identification of Domestic Cat Breeds and Populations" Patent application 61/487,987. Filed on May 19, 2011