AN ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF CATS – HOUSECATS, THEIR RACES AND VARIETIES (JEAN BUNGARTZ, 1896)
"Housecats, Their Races and Varieties" is a chapter from "An Illustrated Book of Cats" was written and illustrated by Jean Bungartz and published in Berlin in 1896 as “Die Hauskatze, ihre Rassen und Varietäten” in “Illustriertes Katzenbuch” (There is no published English translation of this book and I am provide the gist, but not the nuances, of the text)
Regarding the development of breeds, the domestic cat has been quite able to keep on being independent and has changed little. With all other household pets we find a number of races and varieties, but just a very few distinct races among domestic cat. Their footloose and fancy-free life style, desire for freedom, independence, and self-love did not permit breeding according to the current rules of breeding because pressing cats into these constraints is very hard and any transformations they go through can only be seen and identified in the color and structure of their hair. The way their body is built has stayed the same, and you can only observe real changes in specific body parts in the hanging-ear cat from China and the tailless cat from the British Isle of Man.
The physical characteristics of the domestic cat have been described in a previous section and it only remains to describe some of the established colours and the foreign races and varieties.
Firstly, the attractive colouring of the wild-coloured or grey-and-black tabby variety of the domestic cat from which all other colours were developed. This cat approximates the wild cat in its colour and can be confused with a particularly large and strong domestic cat except for the unfailing distinguishing factor of the longer, more pointed tail of the domestic cat.
The basic colour is yellow-grey, the yellow at the legs, the chest and more remarkably extending somewhat to the face; the body is marked with dark black-grey stripes and spots. Cats, which have large markings instead of the crosswise longitudinal strips are valued. The eyes are greenish-yellow, the nose, lips and often the soles of the feet are black or are marked with black. This variety is also usually wild and characterised by a greater instinct of self-preservation, They go wild more easily and will easily mate with wildcats; these will accept her if she leaves the human dwelling and roams wild outside. It is the general opinion that the tabby is the best mouse cat.
A variety close in popularity is the more bluish-grey hued cat which usually has white markings on the face, chest, feet and tail.
The black variety are pure in colour, without any hint of red nor white markings and have beautifully yellow eyes. It is considered the most beautiful and also the most rarely occurring type. Apart from size, it resembles a black Sunda panther. Usually the black colour has, in the sunlight or bright light, a brownish approach; and then the dark transverse markings are visible to they eye, though indistinctly, and they eyes are not the beautiful light yellow colour. Really black cats without the smallest white patch, are wonderful animals and are much sought after and fetch high prices (note: possibly their skins are much sought after).
The white variety is very common and is considered soft and not as resistant as the previous cat described. Although white cats with blue eyes, are quite graceful animals when their fur is clean, one rarely sees them in this condition in the cities. Usually the hair is thin and dull, but nevertheless careful grooming could do much good, in order to make it more substantial. Many white cats are either completely deaf or have poor hearing and are consequently inferior mousers. A pretty white kitten, well-cared for and kept clean, always stands out from others.
The Masked Cat is usually jet black; between the eyes is a white snip, the lips, cheeks, chest (sometimes as far as the throat) are also clean white. The belly and paws and sometimes the tail-tip are white also. The eyes of this variety are bright yellow with black rims. Regular and sharply defined white patches create the most beautiful Mask Cats which have many admirers.
The black-headed or Mohrenkopf (Moorish-headed) cat must be clean white, with contrasting colour on the head and tail. Consistent specimens of this variety are extremely rare and it can probably be regarded as one of the most peculiar colour patterns of the domestic cat. The colour of the head and tail can be either black, grey, blue or yellow with no white hairs except those regularly showing up on the head. A previously mentioned, cats with good and correct markings are highly valued.
Mouse or pale-grey, yellow and spotted varieties are found commonly and the colour gradations and designs are very variable, so that no firm standard can be set.
Purely mouse- or pale-grey and yellow without white markings are nevertheless still acceptable features, and even under the spotting it still produces quite pretty animals. The basic colour is white with irregular coloured markings and patches over the head and body. Those where the mask covers only one side of the head are almost ugly. This variety accounts for most of the mixed type domestic cats and the rainbow of colours and design is almost indescribable.
The three-coloured or Spanish cat. The designation "Spanish" does not mean that this variety is restricted to the Pyrenean peninsula and might be difficult to describe if you were pushed for an explanation. Although not characterised by outstanding beauty; it nevertheless gives a distinctive impression of regular design and a good markings. The basic colour is white, on which multicoloured patches of brown, yellow or grey are scattered over the body. One generally says that this pattern occurs only with the female cat, and that three-coloured tomcats would be very rare. Since the female sex predominates in this cat, this may not be surprising, all the more so as the three-coloured variety is not strictly limited is and can appear in each litter (i.e. mixed with other colours). These cats are nonetheless beautiful when the markings drawn on the face and body are regularly distributed. However, the markings are usually mixed and run into each other which makes it hard to determine the markings. Also, if the face is unpleasantly or unevenly marked and there is a large mark on one side, but not on the other, then this cat does not appear particularly attractive.
The Cyprus cat is yellow grey with black stripes and appears to have been carefully bred on the island of Cyprus. Michel Villamont wrote of the Cap della Gatte (cat cape) on Cyprus where a monastery was destroyed by the Turks and where there were cats that very effectively made war on the large numbers of snakes. Michel said of the snakes "they are long, black and white and around 6-8 inches thick on this island and are hunted and killed by the monastery cats. At noon the monastery bell calls these bold hunters to the meal, but as soon as they finish their food they resume anew their pursuit of their enemies."
In all probability the Cyprus cat was kept and bred in its original colouring and form. But not all yellow-grey, black cats are genuine Cyprus cats, unless their ancestors come from this island.
The Carthusian cat is a self-coloured blue variety with long fine hair, black lips and soles. The blue colour varies from bluish ash-grey to bluish. If the colour is pure and the hair is in good care, then the Carthusian is considered a most magnificent animal, but its character is somewhat phlegmatic, a characteristic it shares with other longhair cats: the Angora, the Persian and the Chinese cat.
Iceland or Kumani cat and similar designations are, are almost identical to the previous variety. The Iceland cat is characterised by beautiful bluish grey colouring of the skin; the Kumani cat, originating from the Caucasus, however have thick hair of white, black or rust-red color; lips and soles are flesh colour.
The Angora cat (Felis maniculata domesticus angorensis) is the most beautiful, most precious and best known of the foreign cats. This splendid, distinguished animal originates from high Asia, and Pallas seems to regard the Manul as the ancestor of this form although Fitzinger was divided in his opinion. Brehm, however, thinks it probable that it is just a breed whose characteristics are due to the climate of the mountain areas in which it developed. Thus Radde in the south Siberians apparently saw only beautiful grey or bluish gray Angoras. Chinchilla cats. In the small town of Tjumen, a little east of the east slope of the Urals, he travelled to the Russian settlements and found the cats to be like the usual house-cats.
Whether Angora is the actual homeland of this elegantly aristocratic cat, cannot be proven with certainty; one tends to that opinion because of the longhaired Angora goats and rabbits also found there. Anyhow, this cat may be regarded as a distinct race, since it passes on its characteristics reliably, and a well-maintained Angora cat resplendent in full coat is undisputedly the most attractive feature of all cats.
Outwardly it resembles the lion since a full mane hangs from its face, neck and chest. The hair of its back and sides is especially long, likewise that of the tail, which appears longer and bushier than it really is. The hair inside the ear is long and tufted and the paws also a little hairy. The hair is silky, shining, soft and wavy. The white and silver-coloured are the most popular, followed by blue, black, grey-touched and isabelline (cream). Other colours may indicate foreign blood. Crosses with usual cats do not show the full, rich, silky hair.
Angora cats seem to be conscious their beauty, and their great intelligence make them sensitive to flattery and they can gladly be admired. They possess a calm, nearly phlegmatic temperament, are slow-acting, but have pleasant manners. Its whole character is somewhat aristocratic and distinguished. Because the Angora loves to be closer to humans than to cats they are a popular salon animal which is dearly indulged during the day lazing in peace and comfort on soft cushions and is therefore always under human control. One praises it for attachment and intelligence and it nearly always seems that this is the case, as if she requests she be observed, as she follows her master or mistress purring in their footstep, to nestle and to fondle. She is truly a coddled lap child and precious possession.
If we gave our other cats the same care and loving treatment then we might assume all the usual house-cats would have trained themselves to become more companionable. Whoever owns, maintains and breeds Angora cats, must treat carefully the long rich hair as this requires careful management. If this does not happen, then the hair becomes felted (matted) in particular when the new coat is growing through; The Angora cat then loses its reputation and becomes a horrible, inextricable felt ball. It must be regularly combed with a blunt comb, since otherwise the hair peels off easily and causes pain. The cat attends to its own cleanliness, owing to its innate immaculateness; it grooms and licks its skin all day. The eyes can be wiped clean each morning with a soft cloth(?) and lukewarm water. Whoever has a real and beautiful Angora cat will be delighted by their noble beauty and distinctive behaviour. It demands much and gives little, and it presumes rarely … but this cannot it giving full satisfaction as it is indisputably a beauty among cats.
The Khorassan or Persian cat seems to be a modification of the Angora cat, their hair is somewhat more woollier and curlier, but nevertheless still especially long. The colour is dark bluish gray. In terms of beauty, she is quite close to the Angora cat, but is far rarer.
The Chinese or Hanging-Ear cat is most interesting, because it provides proof that by continual disuse of an organ, the organ atrophies. So with the Chinese cat the hearing and/or the ears have deteriorated. Michel says the Chinese, not only admire the cat in porcelain, but also value it for culinary reasons. The cats are regarded as special titbits and enjoyed particularly with chains (noodles?), with rice ".
This cat is bred particularly for the purpose of meat production, and is a preferred Chinese titbit; this is not unusual if one considers that the Chinese consume much the sight of which turns the stomachs of Europeans. The poor creature is locked up in small bamboo cages and much like a kind of geese fattened with plentiful portions. Extensive trade is carried on with other parts of Asia and the Chinese allow no tomcats to be exported so there is no interference in this lucrative source of income.
Due to the restrictive conditions that have deprived the cat of its actual use, its hearing decreased because it was no longer needed as for hunting its own food. With no need for watchfulness, it was useless to have sharp hearing to listen for hidden things so the hearing became blunt and in natural consequence the ear lost its upright nature, gradually become lower and becoming the hanging ear that is the characteristic feature of the Chinese cat.
At first impression this is a surprising and amusing look, but is impression is lost with closer examination. If one ignores the characteristic of the ears, one sees a beauty similar to the Angora cat: a long, close coat of hair, albeit less rich, covers the body. The hair is silky-soft and shining and the colour is usually a light yellow (isabelline) or a dirty white yellow, although some have the usual colouring of the common house-cat. In size it considerably exceeds house-cats and is stronger. The ears hang completely, as with our hunting dogs and are large in relation to cats.
Although the Chinese cat is found in considerable numbers in its homeland, it rarely arrives at European animal markets. Only one such cat has reached us in the flesh; we acquired this years ago when a sailor returning from China brought it into Hamburg. The accompanying illustration is based on this.
In character it is like the Angora cat and somewhat inactive. It also prefer to live by a warm fire, is a little sensitive to attention, hears badly and is at its most animated when it sees the milk or food. Apart from its unusual ears, it does not have any really attractive characteristics and is a strange representative of the house cat.
The Siamese, originating from Siam, is a rare as it is beautiful animal and is characterised by short, smooth-lying close hair and its peculiar colouring. The colour of the body is isabelline (light yellowish-white) and that of the face, ears, legs and tail is black brown. Cellar writes that these are particularly fast animals, which are kept in Asia in the palaces and fed on fish. This housecat might be one the most beautiful and most expensive after the longhair, because good specimens often fetch more than 200 Marks. Unfortunately it rarely arrives in Europe and is known only to a few.
The Manx or Stub-tail cat (Felis maniculata domestica ecaudatus) one comes from the Isle of Man. Cellar wrote in its cat book (supplement of the animal stock exchange) the following concerning the tailless cat: "the tailless cat in Cornwallis and on the Isle of Man (northwest coast of England) is a distinct race and has mostly only the suggestion of a tail. There are however part-tailed cats also, probably taking after the father. They come in different colors. They have rather long paws ". The Manx cat has the missing tail and powerful hindquarters; the hind legs are disproportionately long and therefore the cats stand higher at the back. This design allows it to safely jump enormous lengths from branch to branch; it is an excellent tree-cat and a danger to birds.
According to Brehm Martens, on the Sunda Isles and in Japan he saw cats with different tail gradations on several occasions, and Kessel told Weinland that there were, in particular on Sumatra, cats with short tails. The Manx cat occurs in different colouring. The cat of Cochinchina is to have only a short, curled tail and the Madagascar cat a turned, knotted tail.
The following cats may be so similar to the common housecat that they differ only by colouring. For example, the cat of Iceland is beautifully bluish gray, the Tobolsk cat from Siberia is red or fox-colored, those from the Cape of Good Hope are blue or red.
The Frankfurt zoological garden received a pair of cats from Central America, which were characterised by size, silky-woolly hair and dark ash-grey, black-tipped colour.
While we have much knowledge of the breeds and varieties of other domestic animals, those of the cat are only poorly reported and described. This is even more surprising because the cat was one of the oldest domestic animals and historically a favoured animal. We have tried to draw together that which is to be found in the Literature in this article, together with our own observations and studies. The illustrations are shown, as far as possible, in a true-to-life manner to give readers and friends of the cat a proper idea of the races and breeds.