The gene for longhair in cats is recessive i.e. a needs 2 copies of the gene in order to have longhair. A cat with one copy of the gene is shorthaired, but can pass the longhaired trait on to its offspring - the carried gene will only come to light if the cat is bred to another carrier of the gene or to a longhaired cat.
Remains of early cats can't tell us about fur length, but cats depicted in early Egyptian art are shorthairs and the parent species of the modern domestic cat, the African Wild Cat, is shorthaired. The shorthair coat ranges from plush and dense as in British Shorthairs and sleek and close-lying as in the Oriental breeds, with a variety of intermediate coat types depending on actual fur length and whether or not there is a woolly undercoat. There are a number of theories as to how the longhaired domestic cat arose.
In the 1800s, Pallas suggested that Angora and Persian cats were descended not from Felis silvestris but from Pallas’s cat (Felis manul) which he discovered and named. This suggestion was quoted by Darwin in 1868 who wrote, "The large Angora or Persian cat is the most distinct in structure and habits of all the domestic breeds; and is believed by Pallas, but on no distinct evidence, to be descended from the Felis manul of middle Asia.". There is anecdotal evidence that Pallas cats can interbreed with domestic cats to produce offspring, but to introduce the gene, the hybrid offspring would have to be fertile and be bred back to domestic cats. In 1907, Pocock described the various English domestic cats for Royal Zoological Society and strongly refuted the Pallas cat theory since the skull of Pallas’s cat differed from that of the Angora or Persian of Pocock's time. Modern genetic studies have also shown that the Pallas cat did not contriubte to the gener pool of the modern domestic cat.
There are claims that the Persian is descended from the Sand cat (F margarita) based on that fact that both have long hair covering the paws which forms a pad over the soles. Measurements of the length of the hair on the body and feet of both Persians and Sand cats does not uphold this claim. In addition, the long hair on the feet of modern Persians is due to their long coat; in the Sand cat it is a feature since the cats are otherwise shorthaired. Again, there is no genetic evidence of Sand Cats contributing to the domestic cat gene pool (although hybrids have been bred more recently.
Single Origin or Multiple Mutations?
A more plausible explanation is a gene mutation in a group of cats with the foreign conformation. Inbreeding would have allowed the trait to become fixed. This mutation may have originated in Asia Minor and in a book published in 1876, long-haired cats were referred to as Asiatic cats.
From historical writings, the longhair mutation either arose in three separate areas (Russia, Persia (Iran) and Turkey), or that the longhair mutation originally occurred in Russia and that Russian Longhairs (Siberian, Russian Angora) spread from Russia into Turkey (becoming Angoras), Persia (becoming Persians) and surrounding countries and south east Asia (introducing the gene into native cats to create Longhair Japanese Bobtails) by land and sea trade routes, retaining many of their cold-climate adaptations: a heavier body, dense undercoat and coarser hair. If so, all longhairs are derived from the Siberian cat. Yet another view is that long hair arose and was developed in Turkey and transported on land and sea trade routes to Europe, the Middle East and Far East. Much of this is based on the supposed origins of the modern Persian breed which was derived from Turkish Angoras, Russian Longhairs and purported Persian cats. Long fur in domestic cats appears to be an adaptation to cold as the paws do not have long fur underneath; in desert species of wildcat long hair is found on the paws and protects against hot surfaces.
It is possible that the longhair mutation has occurred not once, but many times and that it is still occurs. Some genes are mutational hot-spots e.g. identical mutations for curly hair and for bobbed tails have occurred (and still do) independently in differently locations. Parallel evolution means that similar cold environments could lead unrelated cat populations to evolve similar traits through natural selection in a relatively short period of time. Long hair mutations are seen in other cat species e.g. the cheetah has produced semi-longhair "woolly cheetah" variants in the past.
Longhairs range from "woolly" usually due to the undercoat) to fine and silky and the length itself varies from the flowing coat of the modern Persian to the semi-long coat of Turkish breeds. Semi-longhaired variants in normally short-haired breeds are generally blamed on recessive genes, but could be due to more recent mutations.
The first longhairs recognised by the western cat fancies were Angoras and Persians whose histories are intertwined. The Persian group is defined as all varieties developed from cats imported from Turkey, Persia (now Iran), Afghanistan and Russia at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald "Cats" (1958) mentioned the belief, held by some, that a female Black Persian was imported direct from the Shah of Persia himself.
EARLY LONGHAIRED CATS: ANGORAS AND PERSIANS
Longhaired cats were first seen in Europe in the 1500s, first in Italy (1521) and then in France. They were named after the Turkish city of Angora (Ankhara). The first documented ancestors of the Persian were imported from Persia into Italy in 1620 by Pietro della Valle, and from Turkey into France by Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc at around the same time. From France they soon reached Britain. The longhaired cats from Persia were interbred with Turkish Angoras. A tabby Angora cat is depicted in Buffon’s "Natural History" (1756). Its head length and conformation are generally similar to the Turkish Angora except that its ears are set lower on the head.
The first longhairs in Britain were variously described as Angoras or as French cats (the latter generally being white). They were also known as Chinese (some longhairs were imported from China where they were known as four-ear cats due to the furnishings of the ear), Russian (the Russian Longhair or Russian Angora was known) and Indian. It was the existence of longhairs in China which led some to speculate that the longhair trait entered the domestic cat population through hybridisation with the Pallas cat. It is suggested that longhairs reached China from Iran (Persia), as a gift of the king of Persia.
The eighteenth-century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon quoted the 16th/17th Century Italian traveller Pietro della Valle: ‘In Europe there is a species of cats which properly belong to the province of Chorazan the USSR and Afghanistan. Their beauty consists in the colour of their hair, which is grey, and uniformly the same over the whole body, except that it is darker on the back and head, and clearer on the breast and belly, where it approaches to whiteness. Besides, the hair is fine, shining, soft as silk, and so long, that, though not frizzled, it forms ringlets in some parts, and particularly under the throat. The most beautiful part of the body is the tail, which is very long, and covered with hair five or six inches in length. They extend and turn it upon their back, like the squirrel, the point resembling a plume of feathers. They are very tame; and the Portuguese have brought them from Persia into India.’ From this description it appears, that the Persian cats resemble, in colour, those we call Chartreux cats, and that, except in colour, have a perfect resemblance to the cat of Angora.
Buffon had not seen these "Persian" cats himself, but he was familiar with the Angora in France and he apparently believed there was no difference between an Angora and a Persian except in colour (the cat was possibly a black smoke or blue smoke Angora). He named them "Catus Angorensis".
An apparently now extinct longhaired cat from China was known as the Sumxu, a fold-eared cat which was reported from the area around Peking, China. It was a longhaired cat with white fur and pendulous ears. It was described (mostly with regard to its folded ears) several times in the 1700s, with the final report being in 1938; though evidently extinct it indicates the presence of longhairs in China.
In the late 18th century, longhair cats with coarser, denser coats, and a stockier build were imported into Britain from Persia, Afghanistan and Russia. Cats imported from Turkey were mostly whites with a short, soft, silky top coat and little undercoat (and no woolliness in the undercoat). Those from Russia, Afghanistan and Persia were mostly black or blue and less foreign in type. The Angora has a ruff, breeches and a plumy tail, but unlike the later Persian, its coat followed the lines of its body due to the absence of woolly "padding" beneath. The Russian Angoras had green rather than blue, eyes.
A letter from M Lottin de la Val, President of the Imperial Acclimatation Society, to the President of the French Zoological Society in 1856 stated, "When you recently did me the honour of calling on me, you imparted the recently held view that the so called 'Angora' cat does not exist or could not exist except in the vicinity of ancient Ancyra. I hasten to dispel this illusion. I myself came upon specimens of that lovely feline species in the great Armenian plateau, at Erzerum, where the climate is greatly different from that of Angora. The species is very numerous at Mourch in Kurdistan, where it is the dominant variety. I also found it at Billis and in the pashalik of Bayazit.. The finest specimens, however, which I saw belonged to the Archbishop of Van, a town in the east of Kurdistan, on the frontier of Azerbaidjan. He had three of them, one pearl grey, one orange-hued with black and white flecks, and a third, which was completely white. Their fur was magnificent, though there was thought to be nothing to be surprised at in them, as such cats are common in Kurdistan. I also saw some at the residence of Khan Mahmoud, Prince of Hekiars, at Alpeit. I can not recall having seen any in Persia, though, had I thought that scientists might have been interested, I would have taken care to seek them out, busy as I was. But what will surprise you most of all is that despite the high temperatures prevailing, one should find Angora cats at Baghdad, though certainly these are not so fine as those to be found on the northern slopes of the medique and Taurus mountains, though whether the difference is due to the hot atmosphere or the hostility of the people of Baghdad, I cannot say. You will no doubt settle that point better than I could, all I can say is that the people of Baghdad are in constant warfare with their cats, maintaining, not without good reason, in my opinion, that they bring the plague, because of their fur coats and their habits."
While these longhairs might not have been appreciated in their native land, their charms were not lost on British cat fanciers. In "Our Cats" in 1889, Harrison Weir wrote of the various longhaired cats: "There are several varieties - the Russian, the Angora, the Persian, and Indian. Forty or fifty years ago they used to be called French cats, as they were mostly imported from Paris - more particularly the white, which were then very much in fashion."
It was not until the mid-l9th century that cat enthusiasts distinguished between Turkish Angoras and other long-coated cats coming from Persia and Russia. According to the “Illustrated Natural History” by the Rev JG Wood (1853, 1874): There are many varieties of the Domestic Cat, of which the most conspicuous are the MANX CAT and the ANGOLA. [...] the Angola Cat being gorgeous in its superb clothing of long silky hair and bushy tail [...] A fine Angola Cat is as handsome an animal as can be imagined, and seems quite conscious of its own magnificence. It is a very dignified animal, and moves about with a grave solemnity that bears a great resemblance to the stately march of a full-plumed peacock conscious of admiring spectators. It is one of the largest of domestic Cats, and in its own superb manner will consume a considerable amount of food. Wood, a naturalist rather than a cat-fancier, evidently meant the Angora.
In 1868, an English writer described the Angora as "a beautiful variety with silvery hair of fine texture generally longest on the neck but also on the tail". In the early days of the cat fancy, longhaired breeds competed against each other; the Persian was preferred over the Turkish Angora and the Russian Longhair (Russian Angora), so much so that any resemblance to the Angora was later frowned upon by cat fanciers.
In 1870, the Honourable Lady Cust produced a book called "The Cat" (in which she perceptively wrote "In the present day, a love for cats appears chiefly permitted to 'elderly spinsters,' and is often even ridiculed") in which she described the longhair thus: "Of the wild cat, there is supposed to be only one species, which extends with trifling variety of colour over all parts of the world, the difference from the tame variety being more in the internal than in the external structures, its intestines being the shortest and smalles of all the quadrupeds. […] Hiertro dello Valli evidently means the Angora kind when he says 'There is in Persia a cat (particularly in the province of Choragan) of the figure and form of our ordinary ones, but infinitely more beautiful in the lustre and colour of its skin. It is of a grey blue, without mixture, and as soft and shining as silk. The tail is of great length and covered with hair six inches long, which the animal throws on its back like a squirrel.'"
Jean Bungartz described the Angora (Felis maniculata domesticus angorensis) in his 1896 book "Die Hauskatze, ihre Rassen und Varietäten" (Housecats, Their Races and Varieties) in " Illustriertes Katzenbuch" (An Illustrated Book of Cats) as the most beautiful and best known of the foreign cats and originating from high Asia. He summed up the debate over whether the longhair meant it was related to Pallas's Manul or was a housecat adapted to a cold, mountainous climate. He added that there were bluish-grey Angoras in the south Siberians. Bungartz wrote that it could not be proven whether it really came from Angora or just got that reputation because of Angora goats and rabbits from that region. He noted that white and silver (chinchilla?) were most popular, followed by blue, black, "grey-touched" (shaded silver?) and isabelline (cream) while other colour occurred through addition of other blood. He noted that crosses between Angoras and usual housecats lacked the full, rich, silky hair. It was a favourite, and very indulged, salon-cat in Bungartz's time and he described it as calm, aristocratic, attached to humans and a coddled lap-child! He also noted the need to groom its hair to prevent matting ("a horrible, inextricable felt ball") and the need to wipe the eyes clean.
In a footnote to his lengthy notes on the Angora, Bungartz added a short statement about the Persian: "The Khorassan or Persian cat seems to be a modification of the Angora cat, their hair is somewhat more woollier and curlier, but nevertheless still especially long. The colour is dark bluish gray. In terms of beauty, she is quite close to the Angora cat, but is far rarer. "
By 1903 the Persian had replaced the Angora and by the 20th century the Turkish Angora was virtually unknown outside of Turkey. In Turkey, they were seen in many colours e.g. sarman (red tabby), teku (silver tabby), Ankara kedi/Van kedi (odd-eyed white), brown tabby, selfs (solids), torties and tortie-and-white although some cat fanciers still claim that the white Angora is the only pure native Turkish Angora. There is a true-breeding colour variant found near Lake Van originally known in Britain as the Turkish Cat (or Turkish Swimming Cat) and later as the Turkish Van. In Turkey the name "Van kedi" (Van cat) refers to the highly prized odd-eyed white. Turkish Vans are auburn (red) and white with the colour restricted to around the ears and on the tail. They are also known to swim in shallow pools and streams.
In their study comparing the genetics of several breeds (Lipinski MJ, et al., The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations, Genomics (2007), the American Turkish Angora breed and the American Turkish Van breed were found to be distinct from each other. The American Turkish Van was related to Egyptian random-bred cats while the American Turkish Angora was closer to random-bred cats from Tunisia and Turkey. Lipinski 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. Cat fancy history also refers to "Russian Angoras" suggesting a historical link between Russian and Turkish longhaired cats. Studies of Turkish Angoras maintained as a pure breed at the Ankara Zoo found that the American "Turkish Angora" is not closely related to the authentic Turkish cats. The American version was bred from Persians and other cats to "resemble" the Angora and is physically and genetically different from true Turkish cats.
Angoras were extinct in Britain until after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, Turkish cats were taken to North America, Sweden and Britain, but only the Van cats were bred and recognised in Britain. In the US, white Turkish Angoras were recognised in the early 1970s and other colours in 1978. They are now recognised in a full range of colours including black, blue, tabbies, tortie-and-white and smoke colours. Turkish Angoras have silky coats and gentle dispositions.
Meanwhile, in Britain the name "Angora" was given to an impostor! In 1977, a breed confusingly known as the Angora was recognised in Britain. Although similar to the Turkish Angora, it is bred in a wider range of colours (including chocolate and lilac, which come from Siamese ancestry), its voice is similar to that of the Siamese and it is more fecund than the Turkish Angora. The British Angora is a Foreign Longhair bred to recreate or resemble the Turkish breed rather than reintroduce genuine Turkish cats. It is related to the Oriental and Balinese. Elsewhere in Europe it is known as the Javanese or Mandarin; in the USA it is a Foreign Longhair. The British Angora is more foreign in type with a longer, narrower head and larger ears than the Turkish Angora.
This situation was rectified in 2002 when Britain's GCCF came into line with other registries and called the British variety Oriental Longhairs, thus removing confusion with the original Turkish Angora cats.
The possibility of importing Turkish Angoras was apparently considered, but bureaucracy prevailed since the British GCCF would apparently not accept the documentary evidence (verification of breed) supplied by the Ankhara Zoo. If true, then the British cat fancy places more importance of paperwork than on actual physical felines; a serious drawback where naturally occurring varieties are concerned! Importation of either Turkish or American lines of Turkish Angora would mean 6 months quarantine.
Breeders of the British Angora have attempted to recreate the characteristics of the original Turkish cats. Those working with Turkish Angoras/Vans have worked to preserve characteristics of those naturally occurring breeds and the Turkish Angora has prior claim to the Angora name. Luckily the genuine Turkish Angora has since returned to Britain.
The most obvious differences between the Turkish Angora, British Angora and Persian are the coat, head shape and general conformation. The British Angora is an oriental cat - long-bodied with a longer, wedgier head and larger ears. The Turkish Angora is less foreign in build, with a wider, shorter head and smaller ears. The Persian has a wide head, flat face, small-ears and extremely cobby build. In addition, the Persian has longer fur with a woolly undercoat and a tendency to tangle or knot. The Angora coat is silkier without the woolly undercoat; the full Angora coat is seen in the winter - in summer, they moult and may look like shorthairs with fluffy tails.
In an article in the Colourpoint, Rex-coated and AOV Club's Journal (reported in 1981 by cat breeder Phyllis Lauder), Robin Sims made the point that though the terms "Persian" and "Angora" were often used interchangeably, the cats concerned were not the same and that the flowing coats of the cats imported into Europe from Iran were not governed by the same gene as that concerned with the cats imported from Ankara. Sims made it clear that the Turkish Van were Angoras, and held the opinion that it was unfortunate that in the early 1900s the Angora was used to improve the coats of the Persians.
In 1868 Charles Ross described the Persian as "a variety with hair very long and very silky, perhaps more than the Cat of Angora; it is however differently coloured." The cats most likely to win prizes at early cat shows were those which combined the Angora's longer fur with the Persian's shorter faces. The Turkish blue-eyed white cats were crossed with shorter-nosed blacks, blues and fawns (creams). The whites became shorter-faced, but the distinctive blue eyes were often replaced by orange eyes or odd eyes. Another reason for cross-breeding might have been to tackle the problem of deafness in blue-eyed white Angoras.
In the 19th century, Harrison Weir described Persians in white, black, blue, grey, red and "any other" self colour; tabbies were recognised in brown, blue (black markings on blue background, possibly black-silver tabbies), silver and light grey-and-white (probably blue-silver tabbies). In 1872 Weir described smoke Persians, "a beauty was shown at Brighton, which was white with black tips to the hair, the white being scarcely visible unless the hair was parted". The following year these were numerous enough to have their own classes. The British National Cat Show of 1879 included a Persian with a coat of "strangely graduated grey" (possibly chinchilla or shaded silver). Chocolates, lilacs and tortoiseshells were not described. Creams, then called fawns, or derisively as "spoiled oranges", were first recorded in 1890 and were darker in colour than they are today. The first Smoke Persian Champion (1893) was Mrs H. V. James's Backwell Jogram and it is worth noting that he is completely different to the modern Smoke Persians and (judging from photos) bears a striking resemblance of type to the modern Siberian Longhair.
In her 1903 "The Book of the Cat", Frances Simpson did not distinguish between the Persian and Angora and did not mention the Russian Longhair. She wrote in "In classing all long-haired cats as Persians I may be wrong, but the distinctions, apparently with hardly any difference, between Angoras and Persians are of so fine a nature that I must be pardoned if I ignore the class of cat commonly called Angora, which seems gradually to have disappeared from our midst. Certainly there is no special classification given for Angoras, and in response to many inquiries from animal fanciers I have never been able to obtain any definite information as to the difference between a Persian and an Angora cat. Mr Harrison Weir, in his book on cats, states that the Angora differs somewhat from the Persian in that the head is rather smaller and ears larger, fur more silky with a tendency to woolliness."
She considered the Persian to be less reliable in temperament than the English short-hairs, but considered them more intelligent and also keen hunters. However, they were less healthy than short-hairs and the longest haired kittens were the most difficult to rear. She attributed these health problems to in-breeding. Persians were disadvantaged by the fact that cat shows were held in the summer months (many were held in marquees), at a time when long-haired cats were moulting and tended to look moth-eaten and unkempt. This, she felt, held them back - not that the numbers shown upheld this opinion, long-hairs outnumbered English short-hairs by about four to one!
According to John Jennings "Domestic or Fancy Cats", published a little earlier than Simpson's work, "Of the many varieties or breeds of the cat with which we are now familiar, it must be remembered that, however crossed, selected, re-crossed, domesticated, or what not, we have but two breeds on which the super-structure of what is known today as the 'classification of varieties' has been reared - viz, the long-hair or Eastern cat, and the short-hair or European." Jennings found little difference in the skull length between those long-hairs and short-hairs; indicating that the Victorian long-hairs had not yet become the snub-nosed cats familiar to 21st Century cat lovers.
When Weir drew up his "points of excellence" for judging cats in 1889 he defined differences between the Angora and the Persian. Pocock later stated (1907) that Persians had a marked shortening and widening of the face i.e. it had diverged from the Angora. In addition, the Angora had sleeker fur, lacking a woolly undercoat. By 1903, Simpson had effectively dismissed the Angora cat in favour of the Persian type. Only in very recent times has the true Turkish Angora come back from being thus relegated in Britain.
By 1901 the colours were black, white, blue, orange (red selfs, red tabbies), cream or fawn, sable, smoke, tabby, spotted, chinchilla, tortoiseshell, bicolour and tricolour (tortie-and-white). True spotted Persians were described as being rare or non-existent; almost all had some tabby lines and rings. In fact the long flowing coat of the Persian does not lend itself well to spotted or mackerel tabby patterns. The sables were described in a 1903 book as "a kind of brown tabby ... These cats have not the regular tabby markings, but the two colours are blended one with another, the lighter sable tone predominating" which suggests shaded goldens. The orange (red self) was always popular and by 1915 there were classes for red self or shaded and for red tabbies. Blue-creams were recognised in 1929.
Persians arrived in North America from Europe towards the end of the 19th century and by the turn of the century they were eclipsing the native Maine Coon. Frances Simpson was an early champion of Persians and devoted considerable space in her 1903 book "The Book Of The Cat" to Persians "distinguished by unusually long coats, round heads, tiny ears, and wonderful toe tufts" (she also included the Maine Cat in her book as we shall see later on).
Simpson wrote "A gentleman who has lived for ten years in Assam says that he never saw in that part of India any long-haired cats except blue-eyed whites" although these seemed mainly to belong to English colonials, rather than being native cats. At around the same time, Mrs. Clinton Locke, president of the Beresford Cat Club, wrote in a letter to "Our Cats" "The first white Persian I ever owned was brought to me many years ago from Persia by a distinguished traveller, and its eyes were amber".
The White Persian was especially popular: "There is always a keen demand for white kittens, either as pretty pets or, if with correct-coloured eyes, for breeding purposes, and, doubtless, when more encouragement is given to this beautiful variety, there will be an increase of fanciers of the white cat, whose praises have been sung in fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and by novelists who have a weakness for describing interiors with a beautiful white Persian cat reclining on the hearthrug."
"Whereas formerly blue eyes were considered quite a rarity, now it is seldom we see any yellow-eyed white cats exhibited at our principal shows [...] It is easy to tell whether the baby blue eyes are likely to retain their colour or turn yellow. If at about three weeks or a month old the blue becomes tinted with green, then surely but sadly may we make up our minds that these kittens have not a distinguished career before them, for they will see and be seen with yellow eyes." A well-known authority on cats, wrote in a letter to one of the cat papers, "A few years ago white cats with green or yellow eyes frequently were prize-winners, and a blue-eyed white was looked upon as a rarity. Now blue eyes have it all their own way." Occasionally green-eyed White Persians turned up, hinting at Russian Angora ancestry.
Imported longhairs (probably then of Angora type) were considered better quality than British-bred cats: "the most perfect type of a white Persian is assuredly to be found amongst the imported cats; there is a certain beauty of form and silkiness of fur which is not possessed by the specimens bred in this country [...] These imported cats are often of a rather savage disposition, and, although they can be sweet-tempered enough with human beings, they are extremely fiery with their fellows."
In 1906 a Canadian writer described the conformation of one Persian thus: "His head is magnificent, and he is short on the leg, has plenty of bone" and the best Persians were reckoned to come from Britain. In the 1960s, Fernand Mery wrote that the development of longhairs into extremely cobby cats was due to either the British climate or was a British preoccupation since the British had done the same thing with the Chow dog breed.
Persians were also favourite photographic subjects as Sydney W France's noted (with some dismay) in his book "Siamese Cats" (1949) though he was good enough to list the various colours of Persian: "Take a look at any cat magazine, or at any cat photographs you may see in the papers or periodicals. Mostly of the long-haired cats, are they not? Chinchillas, Blue Persians, Biscuit, Smoke, White Persians." The "Biscuit" colour sounds to be cream or fawn. Grace Cox-Ife, author of "Questions Answered About Cats" (1947) lists the official Persian colours as Black, White (blue-eyed, orange-eyed), Blue, Red Self, Cream, Smoke, Silver Tabby, Brown Tabby, Red Tabby, Chinchilla, Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell-and-White and Blue-Cream.
In a study comparing the genetics of several breeds (Lipinski MJ, et al., The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations, Genomics (2007), the Persian breed was more closely related to random bred cats of Western Europe/America than to random-bred cats from the Near East. Their study also found the Persian to be derived from multiple lineages. This accords with breed histories describing it as derived from Turkish, Russian and British longhaired cats. Although Lipinski's team were surprised by the result, it did not come as a surprise to those versed in Persian breed history!
The modern Persian has evolved to have longer hair, a denser undercoat, a wider, flatter face, shorter muzzle, smaller wide-set ears, shorter body and tail and large round eyes. The lighter-bodied type of the early Angoras was lost and the modern Persian bears little or no resemblance to the original imports. However, the early ancestors of the Persian are once more being recognised in the form of the Turkish Angora and the Siberian.
In Britain, the cats became known as Longhairs, though most still call them Persians or Persian Longhairs to distinguish them from other long-haired breeds. In the USA, Persian is the official breed name although some American associations do not recognise the chocolate or lilac solid (self) colours introduced via Himalayan (Colourpoint Longhair) breeding programmes; these are known as Kashmirs. In some American registries, non-colourpointed cats of Himalayan origin are called the Himalayan Reflections or Self Himalayan. Thankfully some have seen fit to sort out the muddle so that Persians and Himalayans can be interbred and some offspring are known as Colourpoint Carriers (CPCs). The history of the Himalayan is in Colourpointed and Masked Cats.
A 1950s colourpoint longhair and the 1990s equivalent
The British system had its own perversities - each variety of Longhair being regarded as a separate breed, not as a colour variation of a single breed. The Chinchilla is therefore seen as a different breed to the Blue Longhair! Conformation does differ across the Longhair "breeds" and some of the Chinchillas remained less ultra-typed than the selfs. Chinchillas were reckoned to be several years behind other Persians in terms of extreme-typing.
During the mid 1970s and early 1980s, American Persians changed dramatically. The pre-1980s look had heavy brows, flat-topped heads rather than the domed heads. The "sweet, open-expression" was lost as fanciers pursued the extreme head type (ultra-type). These were dubbed "pigs" or as having a "piggy expression." The nose became narrow and ultra-high; the breaks above the eyes were moving upwards into the foreheads; the eyes were tiny and the jaws often maloccluded to produce a frowning mouth. It is suggested that Peke-Face reds Persians were bred to other colour Persians to produce the piggy look and the teardrop-shaped eye of modern ultras is attriubted to the Peke-face cats. The new look was deemed an exciting development and open-ended standards favoured these cats on the showbench. During the 1990s, both open-face and Persian pigs were advertised, but the trend is now back to the healthier open-face cats.
True Peke-face Persians (solid red and red tabby) generally conformed to the red Persian standard, but only 98 had been registered with the CFA beteen 1958 and 1993 (the 3 registered between 2000 and 2002 may not have been genuine Peke-face Persians). They had higher ears and a different skull structure that produced a very round head with a strong chin and very wide-set eyes. The nose was depressed and indented between the eyes. The muzzle was wrinkled and there was a horizontal break located between the usual nose break and the top dome of the head. This second break created half-moon boning above the eyes and an additional horizontal indentation in the center of the forehead. The Standard for the Peke-Face called for a brow ridge, dimple, and a double dome. The term peke-face is often incorrectly used to describe extreme-type Persians.
While American breeders were the first to breed the Persian to extremes, practically eliminating the cat's muzzle, British breeders are now following suit with ultra-typed Persians which find favour on the showbench but less favour with the general public who prefer the older, less extreme facial conformation. Personally I find the ultra-typed Persian ugly and they are more prone to breathing problems and tear duct problems than those of more moderate type. In the USA, the older type is now preserved as a traditional style Persian (bizarrely the breeder does not like the actual breed name used in reviews in case it erodes, rather than promotes, the breed). For a short while, American breeders developed the Peke-Face Persian. This arose as a mutation in red/red-tabby Persians and suffered from breathing problems, tear duct problems, high palate (making suckling difficult) and sometimes the head was too massive for kittens to be born naturally (Caesarian section needed). These have now vanished, but the ultra-types are becoming almost as extreme.
In 1872, Dr Gordon Stables, in his review of cat shows, had noted that "urbanity of countenance" should not be overlooked when judging Red Tabbies; the modern equivalent would be "a pleasing expression". In 1981, Phyllis Lauder noted that the Peke-faced Persian (bred only in the USA) was a solid red or red tabby longhair (there being no Peke-faced Exotic Shorthair equivalent) with a very different expression to that of a regular Persian. Like Pekinese dogs, they had prominent eyes, sometimes described as "owl-eyed". It was debatable whether these cats (or indeed the modern ultra-types) could be said to have a pleasing expression.
The Persian is still evolving. The Mink Longhair (Mink Persian) is a Persian Longhair in the Tonkinese (mink) colour series. Similar cats have been experimentally in different countries under a variety of names and since about the 1960s. They are attractive cats, but have yet to attract a serious following or achieve formal recognition. Other names used for this variety include Burmalayan, Himbur, Iranese, Layanese, Silkanese, Tibetane/Tibetaan and Tonkalayan (some resemble Persians, other resemble Tonkinese). Mink Persians would seem a logical and attractive development. The Napolean Cat Longhair is a short-legged Persian bred through outcrossing Persians to Munchkins in the 2000s.
To add confusion to the Persian story, there is also the Exotic Longhair. Longhaired individuals are sometimes born to Exotic Shorthair parents due to the recessive nature of the gene for longhair. In many registries, they are not accepted in the Persian class due to their non-Persian parentage. In addition they may have a relatively poor coat compared to Persians born of Persian parents. However, they are accepted as Exotic Longhairs by some registries in the USA/ The original proposed name was Tiffany, due to the original conception that the Exotic Longhair was to be allowed in silver colurs only.
Harrison Weir, founding father of the cat fancy and organiser of the first formal cat show (also writer of the first standards for pedigree cats), wrote about the Russian Longhairs in "Our Cats" in 1889. The cat he described differs from the modern Siberian cat, for example it was woollier, although cats of the old Russian Longhair type apparently still exist among domestic longhairs in parts of Russia.
The Russian Longhair male described by Weir differed from the Angora and the Persian in many respects, being "larger in body with shorter legs. The mane or frill was very large, long, and dense, and more of a woolly texture, with coarse hairs among it; the colour was of dark tabby, though the markings were not a decided black, nor clear and distinct; the ground colour was wanting in that depth and richness possessed by the Persian, having a somewhat dull appearance. The eyes were large and prominent, of a bright orange, slightly tinted with green, the ears large by comparison, with small tufts, full of long, woolly hair, the limbs stout and short, the tail being very dissimilar, as it was short, very woolly, and thickly covered with hair the same length from the base to the tip, and much resembled in form that of the English wild cat."
According to Weir, its motion was less agile than other cats and it did not care for warmth, preferring to be outdoors in the coldest weather. Another peculiarity was that it seemed uninterested in hunting birds. Its habits were not like those of its companion shorthaired cats. It attached itself to no person, but was inseparable from a shorthaired, silver-gray tabby female. This pair produced a single black-and-white kitten. The kitten inherited the woolly coat, had somewhat of a mane and a short bushy tail. It also seemed uninterested in birds, but would attack rats!
"I have seen several Russian cats, yet never but on this occasion had the opportunity of comparing their habits and mode of life with those of the other varieties; neither have I seen any but those of a tabby colour, and they mostly of a dark brown. I am fully aware that many cross-bred cats are sold as Russian, Angora, and Persian, either between these or the shorthaired, and some of these, of course, retain in large degree the distinctive peculiarities of each breed." However to the practised eye, it was possible to distinguish whether the cat was Angora, Persian of Russian. Unfortunately, these were all judged together in a longhaired class and not as distinct breeds; something which ultimately led to the loss of the Angora and Russian types.
I have seen some 'first-cross cats' that have possessed all, or nearly all, the points requisite for that of the Angora, Persian, or Russian, while others so bred have been very deficient, perhaps showing the Angora cross only by the tail and a slight and small frill. At the same time it must be noted, that, although from time to time some excellent specimens may be so bred, it is by no means desirable to buy and use such for stock purposes, for they will in all probability 'throw back' - that is, after several generations, although allied with thoroughbred, they will possibly have a little family of quite 'short-hairs'. I have known this with rabbits, who, after breeding short-haired varieties for some time, suddenly reverted to a litter of 'longhairs'; but have not carried out the experiment with cats."
Weir noted that he had never seen tabbies among the shorthaired Russian cats, but the Russian Longhairs were all brown tabbies except for two black Russian Longhairs, which he supposed were the offspring of tabby or grey parents. He did not recall having seen any white Russian Longhairs and wrote "I should feel particularly obliged to any of my readers who could supply me with further information on this subject".
In 1926, Dr Jumaud's book "Les Races des Chats" (The Breeds of Cats), which was based largely on the works of Professor Cornevin of Lyons, described the Carthusian cat (felis catus carthusianorum) and Tobolsk cat. The Carthusian was apparently the "Maltese cat" known the the Americans, though Jumaud's description referred to a large head with large, full eyes, short nose and small, erect ears. Its coat, he said, was half long and woolly and the colour was grey with bluish reflections. However, there was another variety of Russian cat known as the Tobolsk variety: "This variety, described by Gmelin, exists in Siberia, and is sometimes called the Tobolsk cat. It is larger than our common cat, and somewhat resembles the Carthusian in shape. The head is large, with big eyes, short nose, and small erect ears. Coat: as is fitting for an animal of a cold country, the Tobolsk cat has long fur, longer than that of the Chartreuse cat. Its texture is woolly, and in colour, uniformly reddish."
In 1927, Mrs Amy Lawrence wrote "In the Natural History Museum [South Kensington, London] there is an enormous cat which is said to be a 'Russo-Persian' cat. It has an immense coat, and is similar in every way to a Persian long-hair, except that it is larger than any specimen I have ever seen. An old uncle of mine possessed what HE called a Russian cat, also a long-hair with immense coat and very large." However the only "Russian" cats Mrs Lawrence had seen at cat shows was the small short-haired Russian Blue that looked like a blue Siamese cat! Her uncle's huge Russian cat had been a tabby.She wondered "Do Blue Russians really come from Russia, and if so, then where do those immense long-hairs come from, and why were they called Russians even by Museum authorities?"
NATURAL LONGHAIRS: MAINE COON, NORWEGIAN FOREST CAT, SIBERIAN, GERMAN LONGHAIR
In hotter climes, a short sleek coat is an advantage e.g. Siamese, Burmese. In harsh conditions, longhair cats fare better - they are insulated against the cold and their outer coat may have water repellent qualities. "Refrigerator Cats" were a strain allegedly developed in 19th Century Pittsburgh to control vermin in refrigeration plants, but actually the product of a newspaper story. Natural selection supposedly produced a race of "Eskimo cats" which were at home in the cold, having heavily furred coats, thick tails like Persians and tufted, lynx-like ears. Although the idea of natural selection favouring thick fur for a harsh climate is sound, a little investigation shows that no such race of cats existed.
The American Maine Coon arose through natural selection in conditions which favoured robust, longhaired cats. Accounts suggest that some of the cats taken to America were longhairs e.g. Turkish Angoras i.e. the longhair gene was imported into America. These would have interbred with the various other cats taken there and over many generations the harsh winters would have selected in favour of longer, thicker, more protective coats.
In Europe, the same natural selection process gave rise to the Norwegian Forest Cat, the Siberian and the Rugkatt. To the casual observer these resemble the Maine Coon, but the conformation and fur type differ. A "Russian Angora" cat has been described as similar to the Turkish Angora, but with green eyes i.e. naturally occurring semi-longhaired version of Russian Shorthairs (the group comprising Russian Blues, Whites, Blacks etc).
Lipinski et al found the Norwegian Forest Cat, Persian, and Siberian each showed subdivisions within each breed, indicating multiple lineages. This is not surprising in the Norwegian and Siberian as these come from a broad base of random-bred cats that have relatively recently been recognised as a breed.
The Maine Coon, or Maine Cat, is one of the oldest natural breeds of North America, and is regarded as originating from the state of Maine. Is has also been known as American Longhair, American Shag, American Forest Cat, American Snughead and Maine Trick Cat.
There are various explanations of its origin. One is that it is a racoon/cat hybrid. Another is that Marie Antoinette sent her Angora cats to safety in the USA and that these cats interbred with the shorthaired domestics. Another is that New England sailors took home Angoras from Turkey in the late 17th century. Due to its tufted ears and large size (though not as large as some media reports would have us believe), others believe that the cats descend from North American bobcats or bobcat/domestic cat hybrids or, even more implausibly, as a hybrid between domestic cats and lynx. The misconception that it is a lynx hybrid is unfortunately still perpetuated by some credulous cryptozoologists.
Most likely, it derives from a mix of longhaired and shorthaired cats taken to New England by colonists and as ships' ratters. The rugged longhaired cats of Scotland, Norway and Russia are good candidates for some of its ancestry with the addition of Persians and Angoras. In the late 18th century Maine was a major ship-building, sailing and trading state. Trading ships would have carried a variety of animals including European cats, both as pets and as ships’ ratters and mousers. The Maine Coon would have evolved from these.
Maine Coons were well-established by the early 1800s and had evolved into a hardy, handsome breed of domestic cats and excellent hunters. They had a rugged coat and build and were tough enough to withstand the harsh winters. They were also large - both tall and long-bodied. The long, flowing fur is relatively heavy and shaggy, shorter on the shoulders and longer on the belly and tail. Maine Coons also have a well-developed ruff, broad muscular chest, strongly boned legs and relatively long, square-muzzled head with slightly concave profile.
They were first recorded in cat literature in 1861 and became popular competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A Maine Coon won the 1895 Madison Square Gardens show. It was described in "The Book of the Cat" in 1903. And by 1906 there were 28 registered Maine Coons, but interest was waning. The Maine Coon's popularity as show cats declined when Persians arrived and though they remained popular as pets, they were largely ignored by cat fanciers and breeders until the early 1950s. In 1967 they were recognised as a breed (1976 by the CFA).
The first Maine Coon in Europe was a pregnant female taken to Austria from Canada in 1953 or 1954 and her progeny were known in Germany as American Forest Cats. They reached Britain in 1984 and are now popular in Britain, Europe and Australia.
The are found in almost all patterns and colours; the only ones not permitted are those indicating hybridisation with colourpointed cats i.e. chocolate, lavender or Siamese-pattern. Brown tabby is the most popular colour. Polydactyly was found in early Maine Coons but was discouraged. In the late 1990s, some breeders became interested in reinstating the trait.
The early Maine Coons were documented by Frances Simpson who was an early champion of longhaired cats. In "The Book Of The Cat" (1903) she included a chapter about Maine Cats from American breeder F. R. Pierce. In childhood (1861) Pierce had owned a longhaired black-and-white, "Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines" and, like Simpson, was evidently a longhair enthusiast. Pierce did not know Jenks' ancestry, but assumed that longhairs entered Maine (a major ship-building and seafaring region) much in the same way, and at about the same time, that they reached England. The major difference was that the Maine cats were largely left to their own devices while the British cats were being selectively bred.
In 1869, Pierce saw a pair of blue-eyed white Persian kittens that landed from a foreign vessel which had put into a seaport town for repairs. These had been acquired by a sailmaker making repairs to the ship from the cook who owned a Persian female which had produced kittens. The two cats were both kept for 2 or 3 in the hope of getting a good male for neutering (as a pet); all the female kittens being destroyed! When the desired male arrived, the original pair were sent to a relative in the country. However, during those 3 years they had evidently met up with local cats since longhaired blue-eyed white kittens began to appear in unexpected places. Lack of selective breeding meant the strain generally vanished, only to reappear later on. Pierce owned ones such cat, Dot, said to be as good a specimen of Persian as the one that came from the original kittens eleven years previously.
One Mrs Thomas, also of Maine, wrote that her cat was descended from a blue-eyed white brought to Rockport, Maine on a ship from France. That line of whites, while in the same locality, was quite distinct and unrelated to Pierce's white longhairs. Pierce wrote on a little island well off the coast and inhabited by only three families, there were pure white blue-eyed Persian cats, but was apparently unable to obtain one of these cats.
Another early champion longhair was Richelieu, owned by Mr. Robinson, of Bangor, Maine in 1884. Richlieu was described as a silver or bluish tabby, very lightly marked, but rather a coarse-grained variety - "a drug store cat" (moggy). At that time Maine, near the coast, had many fine specimens of the longhaired cats, particularly brown tabbies. The Maine cats were not considered valuable at the time. From the coastal towns and cities, the longhaired cats spread inland. Around 1895/6 the "cat fad" struck the Middle West and cats from Maine were being acquired by enthusiasts inland of Maine, with considerable sums being paid even for poorer quality or mongrel kittens.
Many of the prize-winning Maine cats of the mid-to-late 1890s were described as being of Persian type. At the turn of the 20th century, smokes, silvers and chinchillas were uncommon. The most common colours were whites, blacks, blues, oranges and creams, plus tabbies. A line of creams was founded by a fine cream apparently brought from an unspecified Mediterranean port by one Captain Condon in the 1880s. The Maine cat was distributed along the coast, and for about 60 miles inland, but were not then common in the less populous northern portion of that State.
Norwegian Forest Cat
Although in some ways it resembles the Maine Coon, the Norwegian Forest Cat (Norsk Skaukatt or Skogkatt) is a Scandinavian breed which evolved in the cold northern climate of Norway. Generations of living in the cold and wet gave rise to a cat with a heavy, weather-resistant coat and full ruff. The woolly undercoat provides warmth while a medium-long, glossy outer coat resists rain and snow. It differs from the Maine Coon in several respects - including back legs slightly longer than the front. It is an excellent climber.
Longhaired cats are mentioned in Norse mythology and in books of Norwegian fairy tales written 1837 and 1852 which describe it as having a long, bushy tail. Due to its resemblance to the Maine Coon and Scottish Wildcat some have suggested the Vikings took cats to Scotland (where they interbred with wild cats) and to North America on Viking longships. This theory is unlikely. Domestic cats did not arrive in America until European colonists arrived; there is no archaeological evidence of domestic cats in supposed early Viking sites in America and reports of native cats almost certainly referred to the racoon. The Scottish Wildcat has an intractable temperament and cannot be reliably domesticated, hybrid offspring inherit this wildness.
Other theories suggest it derived from Angora cats which arrived at Norwegian ports as ships’ cats and interbred with native Norwegian shorthairs, or that Crusaders took British shorthair domestic cats and longhaired cats to Norway. There is a misconception, fostered by credulous cryptozoologists, that it is a cross between domesticated longhairs and Scottish Wildcats. Norwegian longhairs would have to swim a long way to meet up with Scottish Wildcats! TIt is not a hybrid with European Wildcats nor with European Lynxes. Crosses between domestic cats and European Wildcats are closer in type to the wildcats - wild in temperament and shorthaired. Most likely, it evolved naturally as an adaptation to harsh wintry conditions.
Breeding of the pedigree Norwegian Forest Cat from semi-wild outdoor cats and farm cats began as early as the 1930s, with the cats being exhibited in Oslo before the Second World War. In 1963 it was shown under the name Skogkatt. The breed was revived in the early 1970s; in 1972 it was formally recognised in its home country, serious breeding began in 1973.
Many of the foundation cats came from near the Swedish border. Swedish breeders declared that the breed belonged to Sweden as much as to Norway. But the Norwegians disputed this and it was agreed that foundation cats must come "straight from the Norwegian forests". While single Skogkatts might cross the Swedish/Danish border while hunting in the woods no entire (unneutered) registered cats were allowed out of Norway until the breed was recognised. It was eventually allowed to be exported and was recognised in Europe in 1977 and became popular in the USA during 1985 and Britain in 1987.
Siberian and other Russian Longhairs
In the 19th Century, Russian Longhairs were described as distinct from the distinct from the Persian or Turkish Angora; and these are described earlier in this article as they contributed to the Persian type. The Russian cats had a larger body with shorter legs, a woolly coat with coarse hairs among it, a large mane and short thickly furred tail. In Victorian times, it was extensively crossed with the Persian and the Angora and was lost as a distinct type. It continued to breed naturally in Russia as the Siberian cat. The Russian Angora is described as similar to the Turkish Angora, but with green eyes instead of blue, orange or odd eyes.
The first Siberian cats (Russian Longhairs) were imported into the USA in 1990 by Elizabeth Terrell of Louisiana, in exchange for Himalayan cats sent to establish that breed in Russia. Before 1990, it was almost unknown outside of Russia. The first colourpoint Siberians (Neva Masquerades) were imported into the USA in 1997 and registries are have recently accepted it following early controversy. The history of the Neva Masquerade is inColourpointed and Masked Cats.
Cats would have entered Russia from Europe, by land and sea, from Persia (Iran) by overland trade routes and from the Far East on board trading ships. The existence of bobtailed Russian breeds demonstrates that cats from south east Asia reached Russia one way or another. The cats of Russia and Siberia are little changed from mediaeval times, perhaps earlier.
It is suggested that the longhair mutation occurred in Russia and spread from there to Turkey (Angoras) and Persia (Persians) or even that all long-haired breeds ultimately have their origins in Russian cats. The similarities between the Siberian and the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon suggests a common origin and some researchers suggest that the Siberian is the ancestor of both the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon. Equally, it could be parallel evolution where similar environments have led to unrelated cat populations evolving similar traits through natural selection.
The Karel Bobtail (Karelian, Karellian) and the Kuril (Kurilian, Curilsk) are both shorthaired/semi-longhaired Russian breeds with bobtails. The American-bred Nebelung is longhaired version of the Russian Blue, developed through outcrossing Russian Blues to other cats. Longhaired Russian cats other than the Siberian exist naturally in their own country. In 1993/4, the first Nebelung in the Netherlands arrived from Russia. A purebred Russian Blue stud cat called "Timofeus" turned out to be semi-longhaired. Although not found in modern Nebelung pedigrees, Timofeus confirmed that the recessive longhair gene was present among Russian Blues. In the following years, it turned out that semi-longhaired Russian Blues were not uncommon in Russia and some have become part of Nebelung breeding programmes in other countries.
The German Longhair has waited a long time for international recognition although a breed standard and scale of points has existed since 1929. All that was missing until a few years ago was a registered breed that corresponded to this standard. Following the 2nd World War, which interrupted cat breeding in Germany, the only native German longhaired cat breed was considered extinct.
Longhaired cats in Germany were generically called Angoras and bred for colour, not conformation. Biologist and zoologist Professor Dr Friedrich Schwangart (1874-1958) criticized them as generally not meeting the "Hochzuchtperser" ("high-bred Persian") standard seen in British Persians, hence he created separate standards for the Persian and the German Longhairs in 1929, describing the differences between the two types. From that point, breeders of "Angoras" had to decide whether to breed British-style Persians or more natural-looking German Longhairs. Schwangart hoped the German Longhair, with its silkier "wash and wear" hair would take its place as a more natural counterpart to the Persian that had been bred in Great Britain for decades. The German Longhair was first exhibited and acknowledged nationally at the Exhibition of the Federation for Cat Breeding and Protection in 1930 in Berlin. In the following years it was frequently seen at cat shows and in 1932, German Longhair "Fox of the Rhine Castle", owned by Dr Heine in Leipzig, became a Federal winner.
With the standards laid down in 1929, the longhaired cat types fell into 2 categories in the "Classification, Pedigrees and Systems of House Cats" and these were not to be interbred in order to maintain their distinct types (in Britain, early Persians, Angoras and the native British Longhairs had been interbred to create a single Persian Longhair). There was more information in Schwangart's 1932 publication "Formation and Breeding of House Cats (Results and Problems)" which noted further longhair breeds being the German Longhair founded by Schwangart himself and, in the previous 2 years, the Burma breed that appeared in Paris (i.e. the Khmer/Birman). By the day's standards, both Persians and German Longhairs had a compact conformation, short sturdy legs, a broad head with relatively short, broad muzzle and moderately small ears (akin to the European Wildcat). Both had rather short, beautifully carried tails, level back and long fur (with age differences, seasonal coat and pregnancy to be taken into consideration). And in both cases a "half-Angora" type with svelte body or narrow, pointed face were undesirable.
However, the Persian was described as thicker-set with a rounded head and a prominent forehead that fell abruptly to a broad, short muzzle giving an "angry" expression (i.e. a shorter face). The Persian's fur was denser and woollier with a well-developed ruff and the cats were bred with cobbiness and size in mind. In contrast to the Persian, the German Longhair had a more moderate head: a less prominent, tapered forehead that curved gently up from a longer nose with a more gentle slope. The conformation was less compact, the movement more fluid and the tail longer than the Persian. In essence, German Longhair did not permit the short face and prominent forehead of the Persian and in profile the face resembled the Tabby Shorthair. The German Longhair was found in the same colours and patterns as the Persian: single/self colours (black, blue, cream, red and white), bicolours, tortoisehsells (with or without white), "masks" (colourpoints), smokes, Chinchilla (tipped), peach (goldens?), silvers and both "tiger" (mackerel) and "marble" (classic) tabbies.
In "The Formation and Breeding of House Cats (Results and Problems)" (1932) Schwangart suggested the head and face of the German Longhair showed the influence of the large Nordic form of F silvestris (European Wildcat) resulting in a native Longhair that was distinct from the Persian or Angora. The tiger pattern completed the image of a German Longhair that might trace its ancestry, in part, to a wild cat. It was already known that domestic cats and wildcats could interbreed and some still believed that local races of domestic cat had arisen independently from local wildcat species. In a last work "Overview and Description of Domestic Cat Breeds" (1954) Schwangart described the German Longhair in detail, noting the existence of intermediate forms between Persian and German Longhair which were found in some of the colours, and the need to eliminate the intermediates in order to restore the 2 breeds as distinct form each other. It's clear that the Persian had been bred together, perhaps due to the difficulties of maintaining breeds during wartime, perhaps to improve the traits of one or other breed or perhaps through ignorance that they had originally been separate breeds.
He elaborated on the breed standard, though by then he may have felt it a losing battle due to the increasing popularity of the Persian. In the solid-colour German Longhairs, amber/yellow was the preferred eye-colour, except in solid white cats where amber, blue or odd-eyes were permitted. Deafness was a disqualifying fault in white cats which were to be tested using a whistle out of the cat's sight. He also mentioned the potential for degenerative problems, such as deafness, related to "albinism" (blue-eyed white was mistaken for albinism) so some indication that the cat wasn't albino, such as a dark membrane, was desirable. The bicolour and tricolour cats were to be more colour than white. The "masked" cats were allowed to be less symmetrically marked than bi- or tri-colours. This group included the "black and yellow" tortoiseshell and the "Spanish" (tortoiseshell and white). The tortoiseshells ideally were to have large patches of colour, but Schwangart admitted that this was rare. In parti-colour cats, the eye colour was to reflect the predominating fur colour. The eye colours of the Chinchilla (black-tipped), peach colours (goldens?), smokes and silvery ones related to their coat colour (i.e. paralleling shorthairs and Persians).
In May 1935 the German Longhair was officially allowed to be bred under the auspices of the "Katzenverein des Deutschen Reiches" (Cat Club of the German Reich), which was the only breeding club at this time. It was grouped in the longhair class together with the Persian and Birman. In October 1939 it was recognised by the Confédération Internationale Féline (CIF) as "Borealis" or "Boreali" ("Northern"). The CIF. was the predecessor of the Fédération Internationale Feline (FIFe) and had been founded by the Societa Felina Italiana, the Cat Club of Paris and the Fédération Suisse. The Second World War interrupted the breeding programme and the German Longhair stagnated for several years before apparently dying out. Dagmar Thies reported in 1979 that Mrs R Aschemeier had managed to locate German Longhairs from original bloodlines and had bred them at Blasheimer mill since 1968. These cats were considered very typy representatives of the breed and their descendents were useful in re-establishing the breed. By 2005 there were a growing number of breeders interested in preserving or recreating the German Longhair. They found foundation cats among free-ranging farm cats that were close to Schwangart's German Longhair standard. The foundation cats 5 of the remaining German Longhairs descended from Mrs Aschemeier's cats from 1968 (and thus preserving some of the genetic make-up of the original breed).
A provisional German Longhair standard was registered with the World Cat Federation in 2008 and based on the 1929 and 1954 standards. It is the only longhaired cat developed on German ground and is the longhaired "sister" of the European Shorthair breed which it resembles in general conformation. it does not have the wide muzzle of the Maine Coon or the straight nose line of the Norwegian Forest Cat. The modern standard calls for a medium-size cat with a long, rectangular, robust and supple figure. It differs from the European Shorthair/Celtic Shorthair in having a deeper chest and medium-length bushy tail that tapers to a round tip. The sturdy legs are short to medium-long with large firm paws. The head is rounded, but is longer than it is broad with medium-long and sloping nose with slight stop (a pronounced stop is a fault). Strong chin and cheeks, the latter suggesting the Nordic race of European Wildcat (F silvestris silvestris). Ears are small to medium size, upright and broad at the base with a rounded point. Eyes are round to oval, large and slightly diagonally set; the colour relates to the fur colour/pattern (or to predominant colour in parti-colour cats).
The coat is medium long at the shoulders and shorter on the head. It is longer on the flanks, back and belly and is particularly long at the ruff, hind legs (britches) and tail. However the fur is easy-maintenance, shining and not as woolly as the Persian. All colours are accepted except chocolate, cinnamon and their dilutes lilac and fawn (in both solids and in patterned cats). The colours/patterns otherwise include self/solid, bicolour, tortoiseshell, tortie-and-white, "masked", tipped, cream, red, smokes, shaded, silvers and both mackerel and classic tabbies. The personality is human-oriented.
At the end of April 2012, it was formally recognized as the "Deutsch Langhaar" (German Longhair) by the World Cat Federation (WCF) at the general assembly with a revised standard that still is nevertheless still based on Schwangart's description. The recognition comes into effect at the start of 2013.
A second longhaired German cat is the German Angora bred from semi-longhair housecats and originally bred by Mrs Aschemeier who retired from breeding in 2010 (Aschemeier always referred to her cats as German Longhair, not as Angoras, stating "Being experienced in keeping studbooks for hunting dogs from now on I kept records on the progeny of my German Longhairs, so I could provide them with pedigrees at any time"). The German Angora, bred since 2000 (breed club founded 2005), is not recognised by any cat association and is trademarked instead. Breeders of the German Angora claim there are no genuine German Longhair cats because they became extinct. They describe the German Angora as a naturally occurring longhair in the same way that the "Forest Cat" breeds are natural longhairs. Until 2007, when German Longhairs were recognised, German Angora and German Longhair were synonyms for one breed; the longhairs that began in 1929. In 2007 the Board of Directors of the first German Angora Cat Club dismissed this idea, resulting in a dispute that divided the breeders' group. The German Angora became trademarked and may only be bred in the 1st German Angora Cat Club. It has not sought international recognition. Meanwhile, the German Longhair is bred to conform to the old image. Both breeds are described as very similar and both have been crossed to old-style Persians to improve the conformation and coat.
THE IRCA LONGHAIRS - RAGDOLLS, HONEYBEARS AND CHERUBIM CATS (RAGAMUFFINS)
Baker's Cherubim Cats included Ragdolls, Miracle Ragdolls, Honey Bears, Doll Babies, Baby Dolls, Shu Schoos, Catenoids and Little Americans among the fanciful names. The origins included fanciful claims of secret government laboratories, infusions of skunk genes, human genes and/or alien DNA while a Catenoid would supposedly produce Ragdolls regardless of what you mated it to. Baker seemed increasingly unstable; she distributed photos of herself amidst a hundred dead kittens that she claimed were killed by rival breeders who broke into her home. Disturbed cat fanciers were certain she had killed them as part of a publicity bid and tried to figure how to get other cats safely away from her (I recall the pleas for information circulating on mailing lists at the time). Perhaps mercifully for the cats, Baker died in 1997. Her IRCA organisation limped along for a few years, but many breeders quit or defected to conventional registries (which had cat shows) and the IRCA trademark on Ragdolls lapsed in 2005.
Former IRCA Ragdolls, Honey Bears (IRCA's version of the Persian) and Miracle Ragdolls, not being accepted by other registries, were merged and renamed RagaMuffins and registered under that name. Although bred with the Ragdoll to begin with, the modern RagaMuffin has a shorter nose with an obvious nose dip, and the eyes are walnut-shaped rather than oval. RagaMuffin breeders have worked to produce a rounded, more heavily boned cat by outcrossing to Persians/Himalayans and have used domestic longhairs to give the breed a sound genetic footing. The plushy coat is shorter and thicker than the Ragdoll's medium-long, silky coat. Some registries only recognise non-pointed RagaMuffins (feeling pointed varieties are to similar to Ragdolls), others also recognise the pointed varieties.Honey Bears had been bred from a pair of Persian cats and could be regidtered as Persians with the CFA. Ann Baker claimed skunk genes were infused into the female and her kittens then resembled young skunks, being born silver before turning black with stripes along the head, back or underside (which to the rest of the cat world sounds like shaded silvers developing their colour). The cats supposedly has tails flatted on the sides (actually an illusion caused by long fur!) that they held over their backs like skunks. Baker claimed the Honey Bear looked like a Persian, but did not have a cat skeleton. Essentially the cats were Persians and were even marketed as non-matting Persian lookalikes, but Baker's breeding philosophies and increasingly wild claims, led to them becoming unregistrable as Persians with conventional registries. For all practical purposes, Honey Bears were Persians, albeit less extreme in type than those seen on the showbench. A few breeders persevered with them, but otherwise they were absorbed into the RagaMuffin.
Miracle Ragdolls ("highly upgraded Ragdolls") were mentioned in some of Baker's IRCA advertisements and were also merged into RagaMuffins after her death. Her press releases became increasingly vitriolic towards the breakaway Ragdoll breeders and their "half-bred" or "overbred" copies of her cats. Catenoids and Little Americans also appeared in IRCA adverts close to the end of Baker's life. Most of the other "breeds" seemed to be products of a fertile imagination rather than distinct types of cat.
Semi-longhair means intermediate between the thick, flowing coat of the Persian/Longhair group and the short fur of the various Shorthair breeds. By modern standards the parent of modern Persian longhairs, the Turkish Angora is a semi-longhair. Semi-Longhair cats have coats slightly shorter than the Persian, often lacking the undercoat of the Persian. They range in type from the Oriental (e.g. Balinese) to more robust types (Norwegian Forest Cat, Siberian) though all are more moderate in type than the modern Persian.
According to Phyllis Lauder, writing in "The British, European and American Shorthair Cat" (1981), longhaired cats had long existed among the non-pedigree population in the West - before Angoras and Persians had been imported from the East - though they lacked the tremendous length of the imported and carefully bred pedigree cats. The prized "fluffy cat" found in the native population was referred to by fanciers as an "intermediate" and it was the considered opinion of breeders that the exhibition longhairs were derived through crossing "intermediates" with imported Persians and Angoras. Australian geneticist Mary Batten believed that the fluffy moggy got his pretty coat from either the indigenous Scottish wildcat or from cats imported from the Middle East by the Romans (it is more likely to have come from later Viking imports). She wrote "Almost certainly the factor which has produced the 'fluffy' coat is common to both sources". In fact the Scottish Wildcat is not an ancestor of the modern domestic cat. Fluffy cats had been present in the west for far too long to owe their existence to relatively recent imports. Mrs Batten added that, in 1967, a Tabby-point male bred by her was mated to a Chinchilla Longhair, and produced kittens whose fur was of intermediate length, rather than the expected shorthairs.
Lauder noted that while pet classes were dominated by shorthaired cats, the majority of the "longhairs" in pet classes were "intermediates". By this she meant that they had "Persian-type" fur as opposed to short, but the fur bore no resemblance to the tremendous pelage of the exhibition quality longhair. She again noted that it was an unsolved question whether the show longhairs were originally bred from cats imported from Ankara or Iran (Persia), or whether they were the result of selective breeding from the native "intermediates" that exhibited a mutation for fur longer than that of the predominant shorthairs. Lauder wrote "probably simply a variation - with a coat of different length occurring in a predominantly short-haired population. These 'intermediates' were much prized by their owners in the early days of the century; people would say with pride 'He's got a fluffy coat!" Lauder added that though there had been surveys into cat colour distribution, the provenance of the "fluffy" cats did not seem to have been researched. According to Mary Batten: "It is known that there are polygenes which influence shorthair coat-length. These may also be present in longhair lines [...] It is arguable as to whether the 'fluffy' cat received its coat-length from the Persian or Iranian aristocrats or from the blending of cats brought from these areas by Romans, and the indigenous Scottish wild cat. However, almost certainly the factor which has produced the 'fluffy' coat is common to both sources. It is not an allele of either longhair or shorthair, but is a separate gene or polygenic series".
As well as those domestic longhairs, "intermediates" or "Semi-longhairs" arose in a number of breeds either by spontaneous mutation or due to recessive genes introduced generations previously. At first breeders sold the longhaired "sports" as pets, or worse they destroyed the kittens so that other breeders did not suspect any impurity in breeding lines. However, longhairs continued to occur in these breeds and many have achieved recognition in their own right. In other breeds, the longhair trait has been deliberately introduced. A British Longhair known as the Lowlander is now being bred (albeit not in Britain) which is less cobby and less extreme than Persian Longhairs.
Some have been bred to retain their natural characteristics (e.g. Birman, Turkish Angora) while others are longhaired variants of shorthair breeds e.g. Cymric (longhaired Manx), Scottish Fold Longhair, Longhair Japanese Bobtail etc etc. Some are bred by crossing different breeds: Tibetane/Tibetaan (longhair Tonkinese), Nebelung (from Russian Blues and domestic longhairs).
In some recently established shorthair breeds, recessive longhair genes are now coming to light. The Bengal Longhair arose due to recessive genes from foundation Abyssinian cats. It has a fluffier coat than the Bengal and a plumy tail and distinct ruff. Although frowned upon by Bengal breeders, some breeders are working with this as a distinct variety. For the same reason, longhaired Ocicats appear in Ocicat litters. The Australian Mist Longhair has also arisen due to recessive longhair genes, again probably from Abyssinian foundation cats. A Singapura Longhair has occurred, but the only known example was neutered. It was identical to the Singapura in all respects apart from the semi-longhair coat which may have been due to recessive genes or to a spontaneous mutation.
There are many others, with new breeds appearing. Only a few are described in any detail.
British Longhair, Longhair Scottish Folds and Scottish Longhair
Longhair Scottish Folds are known as Coupari (after their place of origin, Coupar Angus) in the UK and Highland Fold in the USA (although Coupar Angus is not in the Highlands). It arose through matings with British Shorthairs that carried a recessive longhair gene ("fluffies" are sometimes born to British Shorthairs). It produces both prick-eared and fold-eared variants. Prick-eared Scottish Folds gave rise to the Scottish Shorthair in Queensland, Australia. It has longer tail and legs, and different coat texture to the British Shorthair. It also gave rise to the Scottish Longhair.
The British Longhair (Britanica, Lowlander) is a cat with the British Shorthair's conformation but a semi-long coat and arose from the recessive longhair gene carried by some British Shorthairs and which sometimes gives rise to "fluffies".
Descriptions and histories of the Balinese, Birman and Ragdoll are inColourpointed and Masked Cats.
Identical in conformation to the Birman, but in different colours, is the Tibetan, derived from Birman/Persian crosses when introducing new colours into the Birman. It was recognised in Britain in 1986 and should not be confused with the Dutch Tibetane (Tibetaan), a longhaired Tonkinese cat bred in the late 1990s.
Various mink-patterned longhairs and semi-longhairs have been bred during the past few decades from Balinese/Burmese, Himalayan/Burmese, Tonkinese/Persian or Tonkinese/Himalayan crosses . Some resemble Persians, others resemble Tonkinese. The names used included Burmalayan, Himbur, Iranese, Layanese, Silkanese, Tibetane/Tibetaan and Tonkalayan. Although attractive, there has been insufficient interest in perpetuating these.
Turkish and Greek Semi-Longhairs
Apart from the Turkish Angora, there are other longhairs originating from Turkey and neighbouring Greece.
The Turkish Van has existed near Lake Van in Turkey for centuries. In 1955 it was discovered by two British photographers who were given two kittens and acquired three more later on. Recognition was problematical at first since Turkey did not have a cat fancy and there were no pedigree records for this naturally occurring breed. While American cat fancies have mechanisms for accepting foundation cats and developing naturally occurring varieties the British GCCF appeared unable to cope with the physical reality of a cat unless it was accompanied by a four generation pedigree! The Turkish embassy provided documents stating that the cats represented a natural Turkish breed, but this was not acceptable (even today it is a wonder that new cat breeds ever get recognised in Britain). After being bred by enthusiasts for the required number of generations, the "Turkish" was recognised in Britain in 1969 and is now known as the Turkish Van. A politically correct name for this cat is the Kurdish Van.
The Van Kedi is an all-white Turkish Van originating from eastern Turkey and should not be confused with the Turkish Angora. "Van Kedi" is Turkish for "Van cat". In Turkey the self white Van Kedi is prized and the auburn/white variety is held in less regard. The most sought after is odd eyed white although blue eyed cats are also considered special while amber eyed whites are the least sought after. In Britain most matings are between an all-white cat and an auburn/white to produce a mix of all-white and auburn/white offspring (plus occasional cream/white offspring) with a mix of all three eye colours. Outside of Turkey, the Van Kedi may be recognised as a colour variant of Turkish Van rather than distinct breed.
It is worth mentioning the Anatolian (Turkish Shorthair, Anadolu Kedisi) which is a naturally occurring cat similar in type to the Turkish Van with which it is allowed to breed. The Anatolian is found in all natural colours, with and without Van markings. In the past, many Anatolian cats were exported and registered as Vans or Angoras although Dutch and German breeders are striving for purebred Anatolians. The mistaken identity of Turkish Van suggests that they produce semi-longhaired variants.
The Aegean Cat is derived from naturally occurring cats of the Greek Cycladic Islands. It is being developed by members of the fledgling Greek Cat Fancy and is currently the only native Greek breed. Selective breeding started in the early 1990s using native semi-longhaired. These are of a light European/Continental type i.e. neither cobby, nor oriental. The semi-longhaired is than that of Turkish Angoras. All colours are found, with bi-colours (colour-and-white) predominating.
Tiffany (Chantilly), Tiffanie and Asian Longhairs
The Asian Longhair (Tiffany, Longhair Burmese) is a longhair variety of Burmese type and colour and was recognised in 1986. The British breeding programme for Asian Shorthairs such as the Burmilla had the side effect of bringing together the genes for long hair (from Chinchilla Persians) and Burmese coat colour. This ultimately gave rise to longhaired Burmese cats and to longhaired Burmese-type cats in non-Burmese colours. At first the variety was known as the Tiffany, but the Asian Longhair group encompasses a wider variety of colours, paralleling that of Asian Shorthairs.
The similarly named American Tiffany (Tiffany/Chantilly) is not related to the British Tiffanie. It was developed in North America (late 1970s, early 1980s) from non-pedigree cats. It has a silky, semi-longhaired coat in chocolate colour and superficially resembling the Burmese, but is unrelated. At first they were thought to be longhair Burmese so the name Tiffany was chosen in line with the British cats. However Burmese kittens are born with lighter coats and dark paw pads while Chantilly kittens are born dark with pink paw pads. At first they were known as Foreign Longhairs, later as Mahoganies, then Tiffany (in line with British Tiffanie) and later Chantilly or Tiffany/Chantilly to reflect its non-Burmese origin. Its exact history is not known, but it may have been a by-product of the breeding program which gave rise to the British Angora Foreign Longhair). They are recognised only in chocolate and lavender colours.
The Australian Tiffanie derives from the Burmilla breeding program in Australia. Burmillas are Chinchilla /Burmese crosses. Subsequent Burmilla-to-Burmilla matings may produce longhair kittens due to a recessive gene. These are known as the Australian Tiffanie.
Oriental-Type and Abyssinian-Type Semi-Longhairs
The British Angora is known elsewhere as Javanese (reflecting its links to the Balinese), Oriental Longhair and Mandarin. It may also have been the ancestor of the American Tiffany/Chantilly. It was developed from Abyssinian/Siamese crossings in 1973 which produced a chocolate brown longhair with white roots to his fur although he was not genetically a smoke. In 1974 it was remarked that he resembled the old Angora cats. The breeding programme progressed slowly until it was recognised in 1983. In 1984 it was decided that the Turkish Angora and the British "Angora" were 2 distinct breeds. The British "Angora" was improved to have true Oriental type and in 1989 the Cat Association decided that "Angora" was confusing since it was basically a longhaired Oriental. The name Javanese was chosen since this name was already used in Europe for Oriental Longhairs. It does, however. Clash with the American Javanese which refers to red, tortie and tabby Balinese cats.
A British breeder who had read reports on cat gene surveys in the late 1970s was inspired to recreate the coat patterns found in some cats of the Seychelles. The breeding programme began in 1984 using two tortie-and-white Persians and Siamese and Oriental cats. A breed society was formed in 1989, but these cats remain rare. They are essentially Oriental Longhairs with a pattern known to geneticists as the Seychelles pattern and to cat-lovers as the Van pattern: white body, coloured tail and splashes of colour on the head. Some have small splashes of colour elsewhere on the body.
The York Chocolate is an American breed developed in the 1980s/90s from domestic, non-pedigree cats. It is distinguished by its semi-longhair soft, silky hair and chocolate colouring. It has a long lean body reflecting some Siamese ancestry, but is a large cat. In addition to solid chocolate, it comes in chocolate and white bicolour, lavender (dilute of chocolate) and lavender and white bicolour. It is rare in its home country, in part because it is not considered distinctive enough.
The Somali is a longhaired Abyssinian; the name reflects its link to that breed. Longhaired "sports" sometimes occurred in Abyssinian litters and one was exported to the USA as early as 1952. A longhaired Abyssinian was exhibited in Australia as far back as 1965. It was not until 1967 that they were bred in the USA in a deliberate manner. In Britain, the longhaired variants were generally hushed up until a breeder went public at a cat show in 1971. Always blinkered in its outlook, the British cat fancy made a great effort to eradicate the rogue longhair gene by clamping down on pedigrees in which it had shown up. Somalis from the USA were imported into continental Europe in 1977 although longhaired Abyssinians had cropped up in litters prior to that. They were already being bred and shown in Australia and New Zealand. Finally in 1982 (when the Somali has achieved respectability overseas), the British cat fancy woke up to the attractiveness of the Somali and cats from the USA were imported.
The Suqutranese was first shown in Britain in March 1990 and is a sparkling white cat with Somali conformation, but nothing has been heard of this variety since.
In America, the Snow Cat (Alaskan Snow Cat) is similar to the silver series of Somali recognised in the UK. It derives from crossed between Silver Persians and Somalis and is intended to have heavier boning, thicker fur and a rounder head than the Somali. The silver Somali series of Abyssinian and Somali are both rare in the USA which is very liberal when it comes to new conformations, but very conservative when it comes to extending the colour range of existing breeds. It seems that American cat fancies would rather recognise an entirely new breed than allow new colours into an existing one!
To avoid unnecessary duplication, seeHairless Cats and Curly Coated Cats for information on longhaired cats which have curly hair. Some are due to recessive genes for longhair in existing Rex breeds, others are due to the Rex mutation spontaneously occurring in a longhaired breed. These include the Angora German Rex, Bohemia Rex (Rexed Persian), LaPerm Longhair, Longhair Devon Rex, Rexed Himalayan, Rexed Maine Coon. Combined with Persian-type longhair and undercoat, the Rex mutation can be unruly and unattractive - a Persian with a "bad hair day". With semi-longhair or longhairs without a woolly undercoat, the fur is soft, ringletted or wavy. In many cases, the curling of the hair makes it appear shorter and denser than it really is.