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 in Colourpointed 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.
The American-bred Nebelung is a semi-longhaired version of the Russian Blue, developed through outcrossing two American domestic cats to Russian Blues. Siegfried (b. 1984) and Brunhilde (b. 1985) both resembled Russian Blues, but with semi-longhair coats. Their owner, Cora Cobb enlisted the aid of TICA geneticist Solveig Pfleuger who advised her to define the new breed as semi-longhaired Russian Blue cats. Because the breed standard is identical to that of the Russian Blue, except for the semi-long coat, outside of the USA the breed was founded using long-haired kittens of Russian Blue parentage (in part reflecting different rules on registering/trading outcrosses to non-pedigree cats).
Longhaired Russian cats other than the Siberian exist naturally in their own country and in 1993/4, the first Nebelung in the Netherlands arrived from Russia. This was a purebred Russian Blue stud cat called "Timofeus" who turned out to be semi-longhaired. Even though he is not part of Nebelung pedigrees, his existence confirmed that the recessive longhair trait was already present among Russian Blues. Eastern European countries started recreating the Nebelung from Russian Blue type cats carrying a gene for longhair (Russian Blue “type” because the Eastern European cats were not registered as Russian Blues in a Western cat registry). In later years, it turned out that semi-longhaired Russian Blues (variants) were not uncommon in Russia and some joined Nebelung breeding programmes in other countries. In 1995 Cora Cobb imported a Moscow-bred Russian Nebelung born to Russians Blue. This cat, Winterday Georgin of Nebelheim, came from a Moscow cattery that had bred several prize-winning longhaired Russian Blues over the years.
The American and European Nebelungs’ physical appearance mirrors the different appearances of American and English Russian Blues. In some European registries, it is treated as a long-haired Russian Blue, or Russian Semi-Longhair (just as the Russian Blue is a Blue Russian Shorthair). This allows long-haired variants of Russian Blue (shorthair) parentage to be registered as Nebelungs. The continued influx of Russian Blue blood keeps both breeds consistent in type. TICA recognises it as an entirely separate breed with Russian Blue as an allowable outcross. Under TICA rules, the outcross kittens are registered as Shorthair Nebelung variants carrying longhair; they are not used in Russian Blue breeding, only in Nebelung breeding (this allows TICA breeders to keep the longhair trait out of the Russian Blue gene pool). To date no Nebelungs have been bred to mirror the Russian Black and Russian White (or the rare Peach Russian).
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, see the pages on Rexes (from the Conformation Index) 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.