LOST BREEDS - SUSUKI (AUSTRALIA)
The Susuki was developed in Australia in 1957, but failed to take off because the genetics of blue eyes was not properly understood. The experimental breed was exhibited during the 1960s. This photo of the Susuki cat breed appeared in Our Cats, December 1965.
One of the earliest mentions of Susukis appears to be this news item from The Age, Monday March 13, 1961 (Melbourne, Australia):
"Next to religion, politics and sex, the most contentious topic in the world is cats; and we usually take a deep breath, think twice and cross our fingers before mentioning them here, because people who are interested in cats are not always happy with what we say about them or the cats. But the Susukis are especially dear to us, and we have no reservations about them. For the story we wrote about them a year ago was that rare and shattering thing with us, a scoop. Mr Douglas Greening, of Box Hill North, has been devoting a great deal of time to the Susukis for three years and the latest news is that, under the description “experimental breed” – which, Mr Greening says, is far less offensive than “hybrids,” the word used to describe them until now – they wall be exhibited for the first time at the Croydon agricultural show on March 25.
The Susukis are the fruits (through three generations) of the marriage of Pluto of Arden, a seal point Siamese, and a white domestic alley cat, who had a touch of Persian in her ancestry. The fruits have taken two forms – both will look, in shape, like Siamese and have Siamese blue eyes, but one will be black all over and the other grey all over. They don’t look quite like that yet; they may be described as being half-way there, and Mr Greening thinks that another three generations may bring success."
The Age was not a specialist cat publication, and was the only place "blue eyes" was mentioned as an aim. Mrs Chandler, a noted figure in the Australian cat fancy, always referred to the Susukis as having "hazel" eyes.
Some Susukis, owned by Mrs Van der Spek (a cat breed judge) were exhibited in Tasmania in the mid 1960s. Susukis used the same mix as the more successful Havana Brown/Havana Lilac, but the breeders' original objective of a solid black cat with blue eyes was a genetic impossibility because the blue eye colour was inextricably linked to the colourpoint pattern of the foundation sire. The foundation sire, Pluto of Arden (a Seal-Point Siamese), may also have contributed to the demise of the Susuki due to his poor temperament. The founding mother may have been a blue-eyed white, but again, that eye colour is inextricably linked to fur colour. She also carried the recessive long-hair gene.
In 1964, Beryl Chandler reported that "Black F.S.H. (now called black Oriental) were shown in considerable numbers." and in 1965 she reported "they are now called Susukis."
According to Our Cats, January 1965 in the overseas news report: "There are [. . .] quite a number of experimentalists trying to breed something new – Lynx points in Queensland, Tabby points in Victoria. Also in Victoria there is a completely new type of black shorthair cat with hazel eyes called Susukis. These I found to be a mixture of Siamese and black domestic. We in New Zealand have seen the progeny of mismatings between Siamese and the ordinary British Shorthair cat. Some beautiful half-breeds have resulted, with the Siamese-type body, oriental blue eyes and a black shiny shorthair coat. But we had not thought of them as a new breed. In Victoria, Mr and Mrs Chandler, Mrs Moloney, Mrs Matheson and Mr Scott were all keen on producing Susukis, but with hazel eyes instead of blue. I am not sure how many generations they have produced – they are certainly not unattractive cats."
The May 1965 issue of Our Cats carried this article:
"Australian Susukis. I am wwriting to prevent any wrong impressions which may arise from the comments made by Mrs Davies in your January issue concerning our Susukis. Fanciers everywhere are likely to get the idea that the Susukis are the result of a mismating which some opportunist decided to name and give breed status. Such, believe me, is not the case. Eight years of careful, planned and selective breeding was undertaken to produce them. Mrs Davies says they are not unattractive. They are indeed attractive with their almost fluid sleekness and grace. She also got the Susuki breeders wrong – they should be Hiljoy Cattery (Mrs Van der Spek and Miss Holding), Suzeraine Cattery (Mrs Carmichael, Miss Thomas, Mrs Buck, myself and Mr Hartnell) and Rothesay Cattery (Mrs Matheson). Mr Greening, who bred the original stock, has retired. I would also like to make clearer Mrs Davies' statement that experimental cats are exhibited and judged. These cats are not included in proper classes with other cats. They are shown as experimental and the judge is advised as to the breed being bred for and the number of generations towards that (of the exhibit). … Beryl Chandler (Mrs), Camberwell, Victoria, Australia. [I hope that Mrs Chandler can arrange to let me have a picture or two of Australia’s interesting Susukis. – Editior]"
Mrs Chandler's photo is at the head of this page. Those hazel-eyed Susukis were the prototypes for the modern Black and Blue Oriental Shorthairs.
The Susuki breed progressed through at least 8 years of selective breeding, but it would prove impossible to overcome the hazel eyes. A blue-eyed breed in other solid colours would not be recognised until the Ojos Azules many years later; this breed has all but died out due to the deformities linked to the blue-eyed mutation.