LOST BREEDS - BLACK SIAMESE AND BLUE-EYED BLACK SIAMESE
We can explain away the golden-eyed "Black Siamese" as being the result of the "Tonkinese" mink genotype where some imported Siamese had one copy of the colourpointing gene and one copy of the Burmese-pointing gene. When bred together, these cats can produce a mix of colourpoints, minks and Burmese-pattern kittens. The first two would have been considered "Siamese" (the mink having "poor" eye colour) and the last would most likely have been described as solid-coloured in the 1920s. But how do we account for the claim that "in about every fifth generation there will be found a black kitten, and in every case it is a male"? Is it possible that there was a recessive melanism gene in the early gene pool? And would this account for the "blue-eyed black" Siamese? Blue-eyed Burmese have been reported in the 21st century, so there is more to be learnt about the colour genes in Thai cats. Here are the reports of this possible lost variety.
MRS CRAN ON BLUE-EYED BLACK CATS. - Cat Gossip, 16 May 1928
I was interested to see the reference in the issue of “Cat Gossip,” May 9th, to a blue-eyed black as of “very great scientific interest and very rare.” They have been common knowledge in my home for the last seven years. In 1921 a Siamese queen got away and mated herself to some stray cat, and gave us two of these blue-eyed blacks.
She was a blue-pointed queen, with a tail that was all kink and no tail — like a powder puff it was, when she got angry and fluffed it out. A bunch of blue fur on her cream quarters! Very odd and attractive. Her kits were pure Siamese type, build, body-shape, coat-texture, habits, and voice; but dead black in colour, with deep violet-blue eyes. They were so lovely that I spoke of them to several breeders, and suggested breeding them. But I was myself at that time too troubled and hard up to undertake any new thing at all: and the kittens ultimately went to good homes after being neutered, when I left that put of the country. We called them at home the “witch cats." The out-cross made for magnificent constitution, I noticed.
The blue eyes (one squinted a little!) were marvellous in the pointed black faces; the Siamese gait, the sleek glossy coats like a man’s top- hat, the slenderness and great strength were all very noticeable. They both had long tails. I was very sorry to lose sight of them; and my daughter and I have never forgotten them. I have seen another bred from a Siamese queen in Kent, in my own village, from my own strain; again an unknown mate. This was a lovely male, and I tried hard to secure it. But it belonged to a farmer, and was so fine a ratter that he would not sell, and it was lost, probably in a trap, or shot — which happens here only too often. The mother was a very dark seal-pointed queen, with deep blue eyes, and her mother was also tail-less. A curious coincidence! I have had a black three-quarter Siamese since then, a present from kind Mrs. Hindley—a wonderful fellow, whom I loved very much. His sire was. I think, red or orange; for his coat showed a distinct red tone in a very strong light, and his eyes were orange.
I think we could breed this most attractive blue-eyed black S.H. variety from Siamese queens which show a tendency to “break” from show points — such as the blue-pointed ones and the unduly kinked — (Miss Bateman's queen, Lady June Noisette, breeds breaks into blue). These, mated to short-haired blacks, might give us what we want; I know nothing of the results of Siamese sires and black queens.
BLACK SIAMESE. MRS. BASNETT BREEDS AN UNUSUAL KITTEN - Cat Gossip October 16 1929In the article on "The Siamese Temple Cat,” which is printed at the beginning of the Siamese Cat Register, Mr. H. D. Bassett writes: “My experience, extending over seven years, has proved one very extraordinary thing. In about every fifth generation there will be found a black kitten, and in every case it is a male. I have never known this to fail. Coal black from top to tip, with eyes of a deep golden colour, not yellow, but more of the orange colour. His get are normal, and I believe that this is the reason that the colour remains with the breed in the Temples. (I have seen a great many specimens of the Siamese Temple Cats which have been raised in confinement, and they have all shown decided white tendencies). Only one (black) have I been able to raise, and unfortunately he was killed after fathering two litters of kittens. I have seen two, however, in the Temples, and they were of extraordinary size.”
In the same article Mr. Bassett also says: “That the Temple Cat does enter into their religious ceremonies I am quite convinced, and this is especially the case with the black ones. These I have seen on two occasions with incense burning in front of them and with offerings of food placed before their domiciles. ... I once made an aged bonze an offer for a huge black specimen which was contentedly reposing on a cushion in a very richly ornamented cage, and was very severely shunned by himself and his fellows, besides being an object of suspicion all the time that I remained in the Temple.”
This account of the Black Siamese makes Mrs. Basnett's experience particularly interesting, for she writes that she has just bred a black for the second time in ten years, this kitten having imported blood on both sides. We publish her letter in full, as she gives illuminating details of the breeding in both cases: “It is over ten years ago when Yolanda, at six years, was mated to Mrs. Robinson’s Bigabois, the result being six kittens, one white as usual and a female, the others, all males, being black. Unaware that Black Siamese could be correct, I destroyed four; the remaining black reached maturity, possessing real golden eyes. Unfortunately the Devonshire village blacksmith for some reason (that part of Devon being noted for its superstitious cranks) decided that another world was a more suitable place for such a cat, and waiting his opportunity shot it. I mated Yolanda again to Bigabois, but no more black ones appeared, either from his siring or other studs. Yolanda came from the Royal Palace, Siam, before the war, and died when 13 and a half years old.
I have her grand-daughter, Goona, now four years old, who has always mated with Boi Bois until last time, when I thought a change would be interesting, and Vichnou was her mate instead, and I have four kittens as a result, three white, and the fourth, a bigger kit, black, the same as Yolanda's. Vichnou’s dam was brought from Siam by the Belgian Consul, so my black boy has imported blood on both sides. I am wondering if there are any other owners or breeders in England who have had any of these precious black Siamese. If all goes well I hope to exhibit the kitten with his mother at Croydon in November. Yolanda and Goona excel in pale body colour and density of points, and have deepest blue eyes, Yolanda winning at nine years a championship at the N.C.C. Show. Mr. Bassett says nothing about the results of his Black Siamese Cat’s siring; it would be interesting to know if the kittens were the usual, or not in colouring." – C.B.
If any other Siamese fanciers have bred black kittens, we should be glad if they would let us have similar details of the breeding, so that their experience may be compared to Mrs. Basnett's.
NOTE: In the American “Cats” magazine in November 1972, Angela Sayer wrote the following “ A great confusion existed in the early days of the cat fancy between the self brown that is genetically a self-colored Chocolate-point Siamese, and the brown Burmese/Siamese hybrids or ‘Tonkinese.’ [. . .] If the two types were indiscriminately mated together, as they doubtless were, by breeders with little or no genetic knowledge, the results would have been most disappointing for them, with predominately Siamese and Black kittens turning up and virtually no self browns at all. These breeders would then have felt that the "brown” cat was, after all, only a sport, and would then have abandoned their breeding programs and concentrated on easier breeds such as Siamese.” This would explain Mrs. Basnett's comment that in "about every fifth generation" black kittens occurred.
BLACK SIAMESE - Cat Gossip (Letters) October 23 1929
As to the Black Siamese: After all, is there anything wonderful if these do occur? The idea of their turning up just in any particular generation I think we may safely put on one side. Colour variations appear far more in domestic animals, and even, curiously enough, in animals not domesticated, but what are called parasites, i.e. living in human dwellings. Black cats appearing in breeds usually of other colour are merely examples of melanism. Melanism may appear suddenly as a complete mutation, as in the case of the Black Siamese, or it may appear partially in the case of animals partly darker coloured. At the other end of the scale, Albinism behaves in precisely the same manner. In the leopard we find complete and sudden melanism, as in the Black Leopard, or partial melanism, exhibited by leopards, a large area of whose skin, usually the upper half, is very dark, all the spots run together. A tabby with its dorsal stripes all blurred is melanistic; so is a black sheep; so are the wild black rabbits one not infrequently encounters when out ferreting. – H.C. Brooke. [He had retired from being the editor at this point.]
In Thailand, where the natural varieties of Thai cat are being preserved, there are some Sable (Brown) Burmese cats with blue eyes. Colour tests indicate that the blue-eyed sable Burmese cats are genetically black. The natural Burmese cats have eyes that range from copper (the colour preferred by the western cat fancy) to light green.