Sarah Hartwell


In the beginning there was the Shorthair. And cat fanciers saw the shorthair and saw that it was good, but it could do with being sturdier of limb and body and brighter of eye colour and lo! the cat fanciers created a standard of points and thereafter the shorthair must meet that standard.

Also in that land there was a Shorthair that lacked a tail, either wholly or mostly, and the cat fanciers saw that this also was good and they named it for its homeland, the Isle of Man and prized most the type that lacked even the vestige of a tail.

And from overseas there came the longhairs; from Turkey and from Russia and, though none can be sure, mayhap from Persia. The cat fanciers coveted the long silky fur and so they matched these with their own native longhairs and this mix begat the Persian. And the Persian was unlike its ancestors, the Turkish Angora and Russian Longhair, in that it was stout and solid, thick of limb and round of face.

And for a while the cat fanciers were happy for their shothairs and longhairs and their tailless cats came in a number of colours that could be made brighter or deeper or clearer by choosing carefully those that were to beget the next generation.

From Abyssinia, or so it is claimed, there came a cat that was reddish in hue and without a stripe upon its body, but with lines only on face and chest. There were British Tick cats of this pattern unrecognised by the cat fancy and these were, for some time, bred with the newcomer and thus was the Abyssinian begotten of intermixed native and immigrant parentage.

Then from the West, out of Arkangel and Russia there came cats of silvery blue and the cat fanciers coveted these for their colour and form. And thus it was that Russian Blues came to join the British Shorthair and the Persian Longhair.

For a while, the Russian Blues were not considered sufficiently distinct from the British Blue nor from the French Chartreux and for a while all three were mixed and it was to the detriment of all.

From the East there came a cat of fearful aspect - long in limb and tail, blue of eye, fawn of body and deep brown of limb and tail and face. Out of Royal Siam it came and thus it came to be called the Siamese. Though other cats came with it - brown-haired and golden-eyed - these found not favour with the cat fanciers and they begat no offspring.

With the Shorthair, the Manx, the Persian, the Russian Blue, the Abyssinian and the Royal Siamese the cat fancy was, for a time, content.


During this period the cats of each type bred among themselves and gave rise to different colour strains. The shorthairs were found in brown tabby and silver tabby, in sable tabby and in orange tabby, in black, blue-grey and white and also in bi-colour and tortoiseshell. Likewise the Persians came in this array of colour. And of these cats, some had eyes of green while others had eyes of orange or blue.

Long did the cat fanciers ponder upon which eye colour matched best the fur colour and this they wrote into the standards so that cats whose colour was incorrect according to those laws were cast out from the breed. For it was the wish of the cat fanciers that each cat met the ideal writ in their standards and that both eye colour and fur colour be correct and that body type be correct also.

And cats of unrecognised type were born of those cats - blue tabby and lilac, bright red Abyssinian and chocolate-point Siamese - and these were considered of poor type and were cast out from the cat fancy, oftentimes being destroyed in their youth so that they left no heirs. Yet, to the perplexity of the cat fanciers, sports of unwanted colour still came forth among the offspring begotten by cats of correct colour and type.

Of those sports, some were more pleasing to the eye than were others. The Silver Tabbies begat Chinchilla Persians and Black Smokes and these were found good and they prospered.

Of those sports, others were less pleasing. The Black Smokes begat Blue Smokes and these were found pale and wanting and they did not prosper.

And the Chinchillas and Silver Tabbies begat also Shaded Silver and these were neither one thing nor the other, too tabby to be Chinchilla and too shaded to be Silver Tabby, and these were cast out also. And of the golden-furred Sable Tabbies, none knew what to make of them, and it was not yet their time.

And thus continued the cat fancy into the next age.


In a far land across a deep ocean the creed of the cat fancy spread. Those people too had Shorthairs and Persians, Abyssinians and Russians and Siamese and in addition they had blue cats that they called Maltese and longhaired cats that they called Maine Coon.

To that land there came a brown cat that was not Siamese, but which was found alongside Siamese in the temples of its native land. This small brown cat, long overlooked as poor-bred by the cat fancy, now found favour and thus was born the Burmese.

For many years there was interchange between the two lands and the cat fanciers prospered. In spite of this there were disputes among the cat fanciers and different factions arose and declared enmity against each other, all shared a love of cat races and yet they were divided from each other in that love.

Those cats that had once been cast out as poor-bred or sports then stepped forward and were accepted by the cat fanciers: Blue-point Siamese and Red Abyssinian, Blue Smoke and Blue-Silver Tabby.

And cat fanciers went out into the world and brought back with them cats from many lands; some they mixed with the breeds they already had and some they kept as separate and distinct and not to be crossed for fear of losing colour or type.

But along the way some fell by the wayside for want of interest or for lack of sufficient cats for the type to prosper.

And among those lost breeds there were the Mexican Hairless, the Chinese Lop-Eared Sumxu and the Australian. The Turkish Angora was also, for a long while, also lost because only its Persian Longhair descendents found favour among the fanciers, though later it was restored in its original form alongside the line it had helped found.


There followed a golden age for the cat fanciers during which time the favoured lineages flourished, both in pure form as originally decreed by the founders and in new forms for sports long shunned now came into their own so that colours proliferated as never before.

Longhaired sports of Shorthaired cats, long hidden and denied by cat fanciers, were now deemed good and no longer considered a sign of impurity.

Types were mixed together such that the pattern of one type was now to be found in a different type; colourpoints were given to the Persian and tabby coats and to the Siamese.

During the dark ages of war and strife, the cat fancieers contrived to maintain their breeds though lineages were lost, or almost so, and it was sometimes necessary to cross one type with another so as not to entirely lose a breed. And somehow the cat fanciers and their chosen types endured.

In due course, the cat fanciers themselves spread far and wide around the world, taking with them their founding breeds and taking up new breeds as they spread the word of the cat fancy.

Now from a diversity of lands came forth new types of cat. There came cats with curled fur and cats with bobbed tails, drooped ears, no hair or with short legs and yet other cats from their own native lands were discovered and found good by cat fanciers who transported them across the seas to those lands where the cat fancy flourished.

No longer content to seek out new natural breeds they took the small wild cats of the world and crossed them with their Shorthairs so that many new types arose with semblances of the form and pattern of the wild cats and the manner of the domestic breeds.

But there was, among the cat fanciers, a seed of discontent for there were those who would cross the hairless with the droop eared and bobtailed and short-legged so as to create freakish types with a multitude of traits far removed from the Shorthair, the Persian, the Manx, the Abyssinian, Russian and Siamese of the earliest times.

And this is where we are at for it remains with the cat fanciers to decide which mixtures are good and which are to be avoided for reasons of aesthetics or harm and they must also remain vigilant for new types that announce themselves of their own accord independent of the hand of cat fanciers.