2002-2018, Sarah Hartwell

The German Longhair and the German Angora share a tangled history, including a diversion via the Traditional (Original) Longhair, European Longhair and German Forest Cat, before finally becoming a single “German Longhair” breed.

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.

In the beginning there was the Angora that was imported into Europe. Through crossing with other longhairs this became the Persian, although the term “Angora” became a generic term meaning “longhair”. From the 1920s, the preferred conformation in England and France led to cats that we now call “old style” Persians i.e. they were “Persians with noses” as opposed to the modern brachycephalic (flat-faced) Persians. 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 (red smoke/cameo), silvers and both "tiger" (mackerel) and "marble" (classic) tabbies.

The “German Longhair” classification did not sit well with British cat fanciers. The organised cat fancy had started in England, so naturally these fanciers believed that they should be able to dictate what longhairs should look like. This was a response to Prof Schwangart; it appeared in “Cat Gossip” on 9th October 1929: “The proposed distinction between “German Long-hair” and Persians seems to me much of the nature of the elsewhere proposed distinction between Persians and Angoras, both of which are calculated to provide asylum For weedy lanky Longhairs.”

This was followed up in “Cat Gossip” on October 30 1929 in an article “Persian, Angora, and German L.H.” written by H.C. Brooke, who translated the German article from “Tier-Boerse” magazine: “Having in a previous article stated my conviction that the English system of classing all Long-hair simply as such, and dropping the old names of Angora, etc., is the most practical one for Fanciers, it is but fair, and I think not without interest, to quote some of the reasons adduced for the retention of the different names. At the same time, I repeat my opinion that these distinctions, though correct from the standpoint of the Naturalist, are best dropped from a Fancy point of view, considering that whatever the original sources of L.H., the manner in which they have since been mixed renders the simpler classification the most practical from the exhibition standpoint.

In a special number of the “Tier-Boerse” Professor Schwangart writes as follows: “As far back as the eighties the English Fancy decided of the several hitherto recognised varieties of L.H. only to admit the ‘Persian’ form; France followed their example last year. Breed qualifications were denied the ‘Angora,’ and doubtless rightly so. What are shown under this name are mostly badly bred Persians, or else the Blues are called Persians, the other coloured L.H. cats Angoras, and the characteristics of the Persian are misunderstood, this misunderstanding going so far that S.H. Blues have been described as ‘S.H. Persians.’ (I referred to this a while back in a review of a recent Continental Cat-book. Transl. Note.) Now the real Persian, with his puggy and extravagantly short, even if imposing and interesting face, and bulging forehead, represents a very one-sided breeders’ production, and in contradistinction to this stands the more originally shaped type-form of L.H., possessing certainly equally broad head and face, but with flatter forehead, and with the bridge of the nose straight or slightly arched, instead of punched in as in the Persian. This form, which is analogous to that of our S.H. tabbies, also to that of our European Wild Cat, ought, even were it less beautiful, to be fostered. As a matter of fact, it is very attractive from the aesthetic point of view. As the old title of ‘Angora’ did not depend on this difference in shape from the Persian, a new name appears to be indicated, and there seems no objection to that of ‘Deutsch-Langhaar’ - German Longhair — which name is not given in a boasting spirit, but simply as indicative of the place of origin, just as one speaks of an Irish Setter, etc. . . . It must be the task of German Longhair breeders to emphasize in breeding its difference from the Persian, just as the last-named should be strictly kept to its foreign type. Breeders of the many German strains which hesitate between the two forms, and whose litters, nay, even the different members of whose litters, may approach both of the two forms, would then have to definitely decide for one or the other [Translator’s Note: Rather fear this is in the nature of a pious wish rather than a practical statement.] Of course, there would be the danger that people, instead of doing this, would christen such mixtures, inferior Persians, by the name of ‘German L.H.’ [Translator’s Note: Exactly!]”

Description of “Deutsch Langhaar”:— Forehead gently sloping, not bulging or very rounded, running in a flat curve or with slight drop to the arch of the nose. Bridge of nose somewhat long, straight or very slightly arched. Broad, not pointed muzzle. This head is companion piece to that of the S.H. Tabby. Build rather less cobby, tail rather longer, and action freer than in the Persian."

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 single state-mandated society "Katzenverein des Deutschen Reiches" (Cat Club of the German Reich), which was the only breeding club at that time. It was grouped in the longhair class together with the Persian and Birman, and it followed Schwangart's standard. 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. After the Second World War, the DEKZV, the only cat breeding club in Germany up until 1969, returned to the “Angora” breed name. Until 1965, the German Longhair (which lost most of its breeding stock during the war) and Persian were bred under the same name and the old standard, which did not distinguish the breeds according to conformation.

Unlike the Persian, the German Longhair was not sponsored by a cat association, possibly due to hostility between the then board members and Schwangart. In 1965, the “Angora” breed name was dropped, leaving only the Persian. The German Longhair was simply forgotten. When the German Longhair got going again, there was debate about the breed name: German Angora or German Longhair? For a short while, the German Angora was bred as the European Longhair, and the German Longhair was the Traditional (Original) Longhair.

Dagmar Thies reported in 1979 that Mrs Renate 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 later on their descendents would bee useful in re-establishing the breed.

The German Angora was bred under that name since 2000, but was not recognised by any cat association and was trademarked instead. Breeders of the German Angora claimed there were no genuine German Longhair cats because they had become extinct. The history of modern German Longhair/Angora breeding began in 2000 with Dr. Med. Brigitte Leonhard’s white long-haired cat Shiva. According to Bettina Münter, Shiva was born on a farm in September 2000. The conditions were squalid, but Münter acquired 2 white kittens – an odd-eyed white female they called Shiva and a male called Romeo. Unfortunately, Romeo’s wandering tendencies meant he had to be neutered.

She was mated in 2001 with a self black Birman x Domestic cat called Bommel, and then in 2002 with a blue-bicolour Persian. This sowed the seeds of recreating the "German Angora" which Prof. Friedrich Schwangart called the "German Longhair" (Deutsche Langhaar). In 2003 Ms. Münter bought two British Shorthair studs, and the lilac tabby "Alfons of Golden Kennel" (Rossini) played a special role in the founding of the German Angora. In 2004 Rossini mated with Shiva and produced a blue silver torbie, Ashanti (later renamed “Isis”), which went to Britta Steckelbach and a shorthaired sister called Askara. Ms. Steckelbach mated Ashanti to British Longhair “Jo-Jo of Sandokan.” The two women decided to establish a breed, but after discussing this with a major association they decided that their ideas did not fit in with the established cat fancy so they founded the “German Angora Cat Club," (GACC) in 2005 with other interested breeders who wanted to create a natural cat breed. By 2005 there were a growing number of breeders interested in preserving or recreating the German Longhair under the German Angora name. They found foundation cats among free-ranging farm cats that were close to Schwangart's German Longhair standard. The German Angora studbook was opened in 2005. The founding cattery names were Bettina Münter’s ("vom Allerfeinsten“) and Britta Steckelbach’s ("of Mystic German Angoras"). (Although Ms. Munter claimed there was no place for them in the established cat fancy, Anneliese Hackmann, chairman of the German Edelkatze eV and the WCF, supported their vision from the outset.)

In 2006 GACC became affiliated with the WCF and breed development became more focussed. Unfortunately, there was disagreements about foundation animals and breeding plans. Ms Hackmann suggested that breeders dissatisfied with GACC could transfer to Deutsche Edelkatze eV. In response, Ms. Münter’s and Ms. Steckelbach trademarked the name “German Angora” to prevent mixed-breed longhairs being passed off as German Angoras. Only GACC breeders were permitted to use the name. The breeders that had joined Deutsche Edelkatze eV needed a new name for their breed. "German Longhair" is basically the English translation of "German Angora" as well as recalling Schwangart’s long-haired breed. They also rewrote pedigrees so that German Angora ancestors were retrospectively documented as German Longhairs. The German Longhairs gained formal recognition (a sore point with German Angora breeders) so the German Angora was renamed European Longhair in order to get recognition as the longhaired equivalent of the European Shorthair.

Until 2007, when German Longhairs were recognised, German Angora and German Longhair had been seen as synonyms for one breed. The German Longhair was bred to conform to the old image. Both breeds were described as very similar and both had been crossed to old-style Persians to improve the conformation and coat. the Board of Directors of the first German Angora Cat Club dismissed the idea that they were the same breed, resulting in a dispute that divided the breeders' group. In 2009 GACC (including founders Bettina Munter and Britta Steckelbach) sought recognition for the German Angora but this was rejected. Munter and Steckelbach tried to put obstacles in the way of the German Longhair breeders, but eventually lost in a legal battle.

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.

Through an article written by Dr. Leonhardt about the last breeder of the original German Longhair, the new German Longhair breeders made contact with Mrs. Renate Aschemeier. At the end of the 1960s she had been given several long-haired cats from old breeding lines and had been breeding them for decades. These cats were considered very typy representatives of the breed. Munter and Steckelbach had also made contact with Aschemeier and unsuccessfully tried to get breeding animals. Aschemeier, who was elderly, wanted someone to carry on her work and was persuaded of the sincerity of the German Longhair breeders. In 2009 she handed over 5 of her last breeding cats, but kept her beloved stud cat Bär (Bear). Unfortunately the 5 cats were no longer young and only the female Bömmel produced a litter, from which no kitten went into a breeding.

Mrs Aschemeier retired from breeding in 2010. She had always referred to her cats as German Longhairs, 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." Because the German Longhair had not been recognised when Aschemeier was an active breeder, her cats had not been registered in a cat association stud book. Therefore Bär had to be registered as a foundation cat and he produced several litters with German Longhairs. These were selectively bred, thus preserving his looks and some of the genetic make-up of the original breed).

Despite being basically identical to the German Longhair, the trademarked German Angora breed continued in parallel. GACC declared it to be the native German Forest Cat, or Marten Cat (another term for the European wild cat), which traced back to naturally occurring semi-longhaired cats found mainly in northern Germany. The origin of those semi-longhairs was said to probably be wildcat Felis silvestris caucasica, which was said to also probably be the ancestor of all the other forest cats: Norwegian forest Cat, Siberian and Maine Coon. This mythical ancestry appears to be based on some of Schwangart’s theories about stocky breeds having European Wildcat blood and slender breeds having mainly African wildcat blood.

In 2010 the German Longhair sought breed recognition and a number of cats were evaluated at a Deutsche Edelkatze show in Grefrath-Oedt. Unfortunately WCF rejected the application for recognition. The WCF gave recognition to the Traditional Longhair (TLH, renamed Original Longhair due to trademark issues by a paper registry that prefixed numerous breed names with “Traditional”) presented by South African breeders. This breed was an old-style Persian in the Silver and Golden series of colours. One WCF judge suggested that the Original Longhair could be seen as a collective name for primitive long-haired cats and suggested that the German Longhair should be considered part of that group. This was rejected by most German Longhair breeders because Prof. Schwangart’s vision was a cat distinct from the old Persian type. A few bred and exhibited their cats as TLHs, but many stuck with their German Longhair name.

The "Deutsch Langhaar" (DLH, German Longhair), with its distinctive and non-Persian type, was finally recognised by WCF at the general assembly in 2012 with a revised standard that still is nevertheless still based on Schwangart's description. Those few breeders who had tried to get recognition by the Traditional (Original) Longhair route could now breed German Longhairs. At the same general assembly, WCF also recognised TLHs in all other colours.

In 2012, the German Angora breeders again sought recognition for their cats, this time under the name European Longhair, and supported by the Internationaler Royal Cat Club (IRCC) and Herr Stein. The European Longhair was recognised and the standard was the same as the European Shorthair except for fur length. Not all German Angoras met that standard. To accommodate the change of breed name, the German Angora Cat Club changed its name to the German Allbreed Cat Club. In 2013, the IRCC and Katzenverein Leverkusen e.V. (KVL) agreed to treat the European Longhair and German Longhair equally due to their similar breeding objectives and common ancestry. The ancestral cats were fully recognised without being considered “Experimental.” Depending on the association, the descendants could be registered as either German Longhair or European Longhair. However, in 2014, Herr Stein revoked his European Longhair's own recognition, and by default the German Angoras became German Longhairs. The clubs associated with each breed finally agreed that the two breeds were equivalent. The German Allbreed Cat Club (GACC) seems to have been inactive since 2014 and by July 2015, barely any “German Angora” breeders remained.