RECENTLY LOST BREEDS - ALASKAN SNOW CAT TO SUQUTRANESE CAT

In the last decade there has been a trend to experimentally mix-and-match traits; this is especially common in creating derivatives of the Munchkin, a practice that became prevalent enough that cat registries warned against the trend of creating a munchkinised version of every recognised breed.. I haven't included those here as many were created purely for the pet market and did not progress beyond the first-cross stage (a sort of "Proof of concept" litter), nor have I included those that were duplicates of other experimental breeds.

ALASKAN SNOW CAT

The Alaskan Snow Cat was another experimental breed derived from the Somali; this time crossed to silver Persians. It was created in the 1990s by several breeders throughout the United States, and breeding was concentrated around Minnesota and Florida. The breeders were working towards creating a breed standard and gaining recognition of the breed. They aimed to produce a cat with the grace and beauty of the Somali, but with a heavier body and head through outcrossing to Persians.

The desired colours included a very pale or white underbelly, while the body colour was brown, rust (Somali red) or black (Somali ruddy), and most had residual dark banding on the legs and tail. The most desirable colour of the Alaskan Snow cat was a silver-grey with darker grey banding and a white underbelly and throat ruff - a colour familiar to European breeders of Somalis, but not then accepted in American Somalis, as "silver series". In terms of colour, breeders were reinventing the wheel. In terms of conformation, they heading along the same path as the Burmilla/Asian group of cats.

The Alaskan Snow Cat, due to its Persian ancestor, was bred to be stronger and more stable than the Somali. It was intended to be a good family pet; hardier than the Somali and more able to roughhouse with dogs and small children. Their cobbiness and weight meant they were less agile or acrobatic than the Somali. While they couldn't jump as nimbly or as high as A Somali, they were good climbers and liked high vantage points such as the tops of cupboards or bookshelves (and even curtains that could support their weight). From the Persian they got a laid back temperament, but they disliked loud or sudden noises. They were people-oriented and enjoyed the company of other family pets as well as the company of their own breed.

However, it was difficult to standardise the look and colour of the breed and it probably lost out to the silver series Somalis and the Burmilla/Asian cats whose traits were similar and which were already established breeds outside of North America.

Reason for loss: most likely too similar to existing breeds

AUSTRALIAN CURL

Some breeds are lost through misfortune at a very early stage, and such was the case of the Australian Curl. The Australian Curl was a breed that never was made it past the first hurdle. In the July 1996, National Cat Magazine (Australia) wrote that a Queensland cat breeder, Margaret Hayes, had begun an experimental breeding programme for a curled-ear cat that she had discovered at her vet’s office. “Waltzing Matilda,” (Tilly) was believed to be the first Australian Curl due to her curled ears and her foreign body type, which resembled that of the American Curl.

Tilly spent a month recuperating from a badly crushed rear leg before she could be mated to a cat of suitable body type. Before proceeding, Mrs. Hayes needed approval from the Queensland Feline Association (QFA). Tilly was bred to a cream and white domestic shorthair male and produced four healthy kittens in October 1996.

Initially, the kittens’ ears curled back on their heads, but this was worrying because American Curl kittens are born straight-eared and the ears begin to curl between 5 and 10 days old. Tilly’s kittens were doing the exact opposite. When the kittens were five days old, Tilly developed a temperature of 102 Fahrenheit. Margarent Hayes hand-reared the kittens, but by 10 days old their ears stiffened and straightened. It was evident that their ears would not re-cur. Unlike their mother, the kittens lacked the curved ear cartilage that produced the back-swept curl. Due to her serious illness, Tilly was spayed and her mate was neutered. The kittens were not bred to further investigate the trait, and were also desexed and placed in pet homes.

Reason for loss: trait was not passed on; female was not mated again, kittens were not bred from.

BENGALEEN

The Bengaleen, bred in Florida, came from the same cattery as the alleged Bobcat-hybrid Luchsie during the 1970s. This was when the cat we now know as the Bengal appeared on the scene and one of these clippings shows both breeds being advertised alongside each other. Several different breeders independently started Asian Leopard Cat hybrid breeding lines around the same time and this seems to be one of them. Sumero cattery soon dropped the Bengaleen name and continued breeding under the Bengal name.

Bengaleen breed from the 1970s

Reason for loss: became part of the Bengal breed.

HAWAIIAN HAIRLESS / KOHANA KAT

In 2002, a completely hairless variety called the Hawaiian Hairless (or Kohana Kat) bbegan to be bred. These cats were claimed to be the only completely hairless cats, lacking hair follicles and having a skin texture like rubber. The original Hawaiian Hairless cats originated from a feral litter in Hawaii, and were allegedly due to a gene which masked out the dominant gene for full-coatedness. Unlike the other hairless breeds where the mutation affects the function of the hair follicles, this mutation allegedly caused the absence of hair follicles.

There were other, unconfirmed, reports that the cats were the result of mating a Donskoy Sphynx to a Canadian Sphynx and the interaction of the two different hairlessness genes. In 2010 it was confirmed by DNA analysis that the Kohana Kat had the same hairlessness mutation as the Sphynx, with the other effects being the result of other genes in its genetic make-up; it was not a new mutation.

By the time the mutation was investigated, the Kohana Kat had practically died out due to reproductive problems and other health issues that may have been due to inbreeding. Around the same time the gene was identified, a British woman attempted to smuggle two Kohana Kats into the UK for establishing the breed in that country. The cats were intercepted and quarantined.

Reason for loss: poor fertility and health issues; existing hairless breeds were healthier.

LUCHSIE

This breed was advertised consistently through the 1970s, the last adverts appearing during 1979 claiming the breed had reached the fifth generation. They claimed to be derived from a Bobcat cross (no Bobcat crosses have ever stood up to DNA testing) and had the lynxpoint (tabby point) pattern.

Luchsie lynxpoint alleged bobcat hybrid breed from the 1970s

Reason for loss: not known, possibly insufficient interest.

MACHBAGRAL AND VIVVERAL

These were separate hybrids between domestic cats and the Asian Fishing cat (F viverrina), a spotted wildcat species.

The Machbagral (Bagral) was bred in the USA/Canada) using the Fishing cat and a black domestic cat that carried the spotted gene. The aim was to create a domestic cat with the appearance of a small black panther with a shadowy spotted pattern. The breed stalled due to poor fertility in the F1 hybrids. The F1 hybrids resembled the Fishing Cat and were large, very rounded and had thick, dense fur. They had a silvery to charcoal-blackish background colour with black spotting and markings similar to the wild parent. They were friendly, house-trainable and had voracious appetites. They were also intelligent, active and inherited the wild parent's attraction to water.

The second of the Fishing cat hybrids was the Viverral, which began in 1995 and would not be considered genetically stable until 2001 when fifth generation Viverrals were born. This suggests it progressed beyond the F1 generation. Fishing Cats were bred to early generation Bengals. The progeny resembled the Fishing Cat, but with a more domestic temperament. They were large, muscular and solid. The breed standard required an agile and very muscular cat with a spotted coat, a wide nose, prominent whisker pads and large round eyes in a smallish head. The face was slightly convex profile and short rounded ears with wide bases. The tail was thick, low-set and medium in length. The coat was short and plush with a randomly spotted pattern of black, brown or tan spots. Unlike the Machbagral, the Viverral had a dramatic contrast between the base color of the coat and the spots. The underbelly was pale cream or white and also spotted and there were white spectacles around the eyes. However this breeding programme also seemed to stall and nothing more was heard for a decade, so it is presumed to have become extinct.

Undeterred by the failure of the above two breeding programmes, a third hybrid known as Jambi began independently, but with similar aims to the Viverral.

MISSOURI REX

The Missouri Rex was a curly-haired cat tht appeared in the early 1990s. It was shorthaired cat with smooth wavy fur, a semi-cobby body, large low set ears and "loopy" non-brittle whiskers. The rex mutation was established to be a recessive gene and when it was test-bred to both Devon and Cornish Rexes, only straight-haired kittens resulted. This showed that the Missouri Rex was a different mutation to both of those. By the late 1990s there were only three Missouri Rex in existence due to financial mismanagement of the breed which led to most of the cats being destroyed.

Reason for loss: mismanagement of breeding programme.

OJOS AZULES

The name is Spanish for "blue eyes" and the Ojos Azules had cornflower-blue eyes regardless of fur colour. They often had white patches on the body, especially on the feet plus a white tail-tip, all of which were linked to the blue-eyed trait..

The breed began in New Mexico in 1984 with a blue-eyed tortoiseshell feral kitten named “Cornflower” by her discoverer. When Cornflower was bred to unrelated males, her kittens inherited her blue eyes. By 1992, there were only 10 registered Ojos Azules and though the breed is still registered with TICA, the genetic issues associated with the blue-eyed trait halted breeding efforts. The gene, when two copies were inherited, was found to cause gross deformities in kittens and it proved impossible to separate the blue-eyed trait from the side-effects. This made the breed unviable. TICA stopped recognising the breed in 2000.

Blue eyes shows up periodically and spontaneously in cats, probably due to various mutations. A grey-and-white cat with sapphire blue eyes turned up in Windellama, New South Wales, Australia; a country that has never imported any Ojos Azules cats. Since 2015, blue-eyed cats, known as Russian Ojos Azules or Topaz, are being developed in Russia. These are unrelated to the American breed and no defects or health issues have been found. Their eyes are also more variable in shade and some cats have odd eyes (blue/green, blue/brown).

The defining trait of the breed was the deep blue eye colour. It was medium sized, with a “pretty” triangular face. The coat was short, soft and silky, with a semi-longhaired variant also permitted. Solid white or Siamese patterns were not permitted as these had blue-eyes caused by other genes. Only small amounts of white were permitted on the coat.

Reason for loss: mutation is associated with deformities and lethal side effects; it may be revived if new mutations are found that lack these side-effects.

ORIENTAL PASTEL

A breed group known in the 1970s, but not today (at least not by the same name) were the Oriental Pastels. These were being developed in the UK and were an entirely new series of Foreign Shorthairs which were being bred from existing Foreign Selfs and Foreign Spotteds. The pastel effect was produced by the introduction of silver genes to give the coat a shot-silk effect. By 1973, a lot of work had gone into the Oriental Pastels, but they had yet to appear at exhibition. The shades produced were called Oriental Silver, Dapple Silver, Oriental Blue, Dapple Blue, Oriental Lavender, Dapple Lavender, Oriental Apricot and Oriental Ivory. These seem to have become Oriental Tabbies/Spotteds which include the silver series.

Reason for loss: only the names have been lost, these are now silver series cats in the Foreign / Oriental breed group.

PALOMINO

This cat was described as being the colour of a brown grocery bag. It was occasionally discussed online until the early 1990s, but with no clear idea as to what it was. There are no details regarding conformation or fur length. It is most likely an attempt to recognise an existing breed in cinnamon or fawn colours which emerged in the 1960s. A similar situation arose with chocolate and lilac (lavender) Persians being temporarily recognised as "Kashmir" because those colours were introduced from Siamese/Oriental cats.

Reason for loss: possibly this was cinnamon or fawn colour; these are now accepted in a number of shorthair and longhair breeds.

POODLE CAT (PUDELKATZE)

The Poodle Cat (Pudelkatze) was developed by Rosemarie Wolf,a German Scottish Fold breeder, in 1987 (a date of 1994 is also given) in Starnberg, Germany from crossing Devon Rexes to Scottish Folds. It was a large, healthy cat with folded ears and a curly coat resembling lambswool. It was chunkier than the Devon Rex and had a denser coat. German legislation prohibiting the breeding of cats with defects, such as the skeletal defect associated with Scottish Folds, curtailed the breeding program in Germany, but there is interest in Poodle Cats elsewhere in Europe.

There were indications that the next stage of development would be to use Manx cats to introduce the tailless trait, but most breeders were firmly against mixing together two genes that produced skeletal effects.

Reason for loss: concerns over combining traits with known side-effects; German legislation against certain physical abnormalities in cats.

REXED MAINE COON (MAINE WAVES)

Rexed Maine Coons appeared in pedigree litters in a number of breeding lines in the UK during the 1980s, causing huge controversy in the very conservative and inflexible British cat fancy and Maine Coon Cat Club. It had fine, frizzy, crinkled fur. Many of the rex-coated Maine Coons were immediately neutered by breeders despite the interest shown by others and by the public.

More Rexed Maine Coons were born from test-mating suspected carriers to other Devon and Cornish Rexes in a “Rex elimination Programme” aimed at eliminating the gene. Those test matings were inconclusive, but indicated that it was either a recessive or incomplete dominant gene and was not a result of recent outcrossing to established Rex breeds. In spite of those results, there were accusations of undeclared crossing with Cornish Rexes! It was more likely a mutation that occurred undetected and was spread through the gene pool by inbreeding or line-breeding.

The British Maine Coon Cat Club declared the Rex gene to be deleterious to health, solely on the basis of one or two early deaths in Rexed Maine Coons although all others remained healthy. In the 1990s, it was decided to neuter male carriers without test matings, and to and restrict female carriers. Due to the use of undetected carriers, this the recessive "taint" may one day resurface.

The cats were undoubtedly attractive, inheriting the Maine Coon’s temperament as well as the wavy coat. Unfortunately they fell foul of the GCCF’s strict policies on registration. Under UK cat fancy rules, they could not be a New Breed because they were 100% pedigree Maine Coons and could therefore only ever be recognised as a Maine Coon New Variety. Under TICA rules, they would likely have been accepted as a new breed derived from an existing breed and maintained separately from the regular Maine Coon, thus maintaining the integrity of the parent breed. TICA had no presence in Britain at the time.

Even more ludicrously and draconianly, the Maine Coon club demanded that breeders should declare in writing that the term "Maine Wave" should not be used in any publication in any context (surely this was an attempt to silence free speech?). Breeders that spoke up for the variety, or referred to them, found themselves suspended. Maine Waves were shown on the Continent and they even won certificates. They were very attractive cats and, regardless of cat club politics, bureaucracy and short-sightedness, they deserved recognition. Perhaps the mutation will resurface in a country with a more progressive attitude towards mutations in established breeds.

All may not be lost for the variety; in 2002, Ellen Levin of Tribeca Maine Coons (New York) had two rexed Maine Coons turn up in a single litter.

Reason for loss: cat fancy politics and bureaucracy.

SINGHALESE

The Singhalese was developed in the USA and Canada in the late 1960s using Siamese cats crossed with red/red-tabby Angoras. The aim was to create a semi-longhaired Siamese-type cat. Its fur was shorter and fluffier than the Balinese and its tail was much fluffier. These were red-series equivalents of Balinese and were bred in red-point and tortie-point. US registries only recognised the similar Balinese in seal, blue, lilac and chocolate points. Its temperament was calmer and closer to the Angora than to the more highly strung Siamese.

The Singhalese was allowed to be bred to either Balinese or to Himalayan and the progeny could be registered as Singhalese, however it was judged to the Balinese breed standard with allowances made for its shorter, fluffier coat and fuller tail. It seems to have been too close in type to the Balinese to be a viable proposition; especially when flame-point Balinese appeared.

Reason for loss: red series Balinese appeared; Singhalese was not sufficiently different from Balinese to survive in parallel.

SUQUTRANESE

Caroline Garrard and Charles and Betty Barrett were holidaying on the island of Suqutra (a.k.a. Socotra) off the coast of Somalia where they noticed a pure white cat with the conformation and temperament of a Somali. Its white fur had well-defined bands of silvery white clearly visible on the individual hairs. Ms Garrard had a pedigree usual silver Somali male (Clyde) and two white shorthair females. She bred an odd-eyed "White Somali" kitten (Fanny) in 1988 from white queen Fifi Farouche and Clyde. First generation kittens were a mixture of Somali colours and pure whites, mostly semi-longhairs of Somali type. In 1989, Fanny was mated back to her father, producing five White Somali kittens. Fanny’s second litter, also in 1989, comprised four White Somalis and one usual silver semi-longhair. Ms Garrard and the Barretts set up a breeding programme to seek recognition for white semi-longhairs of Somali type. They named the breed "Suqutranese" since "White Somali" was unacceptable to registries. Fanny and three of her offspring (2 females and one male) were shown at the CA of Great Britain show in March 1990.

The Suqutranese standard is nearly identical to that of the Somali except the coat must be completely white with silver-white ticking and the nose-leather and paw-pads to be pink. The breeders were hopeful that approval for the breed would be granted by the Cat Association of Great Britain. However, in August 1995 the Somali Cat Breed Advisory Committee took offence at advertisement in various publications for "so-called White Somalis" and issued a statement that Somalis are cats with ticked coats i.e. each hair has several alternating bands of two colours. Any cat with a coat of only one colour is not a Somali and should not be described or sold as such (it was actually descr8ibed as "Somali-type" describing its conformation. Since the Suqutranese has a silvery ticked coat and has its own breed name (White Somali being a descriptive term only), this seemed to be a breed society concerned about purity of coloured Somalis. Since then, nothing has been heard of the Suqutranese which is a great pity. A number of Somali breeders overseas have shown interest in re-creating the Suqutranese and it would make a glamourous new addition to the showbench. It would also not be too difficult to reproduce the results (under a less political cat registry) by using a silver Somali male on suitable white females.

Reason for loss: cat fancy politics.

VIENNA WOODS

This was an attempt at recognising chocolate silver in American Shorthair cats. When the colour was not accepted in that breed, a new breed-name was proposed as a solution. When the new colour was accepted in American Shorthairs, there was no need for a separate breed and the Vienna Woods name was dropped.

Reason for loss: chocolate silver is now allowed in American Shorthairs.

MESSYBEAST : BREEDING ETHICS AND PURPORTED BREED ORIGINS

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