LONGHAIRS OF THE 19TH CENTURY - SILVERS, CHINCHILLAS, SILVER TABBIES AND SMOKES
Silver or Chinchilla Persians (Frances Simpson)
Perhaps no breed or variety of cat has been so much thought about, and fought about, in the fancy as silver or chinchilla Persian. If blues are a new variety, then silvers are of still more recent origin. Years ago this cat did not exits - that is to say, we should not recognise the silver Persian of today as the silver of bygone times, for the simple reason that the only class of silver in the fancy formerly was the silver tabby. In those days there were self-coloured cats and tabby, or marked cats, and broken-coloured [bicolour] cats. Previous to the introduction of a Chinchilla class at the Crystal palace in 1894, the class for silver tabbies included blue tabbies "with or without white," and it is curious to read in the old catalogues of the Crystal Palace shows the titles given to the various cats by the owners, some describing their cats as "chinchilla tabby," "light grey tabby," "silver grey," "silver chinchilla," "blue or silver striped." We may infer that these cats were either blue tabbies or silver tabbies, or something betwixt and between. I distinctly remember the large number of cats in these enlightened days we should find it difficult indeed to classify. It is often said "What's in a name?" But still, in trying to describe a particular breed of cat, it is well to endeavour to find a term which expresses as nearly as possible both the colour and the appearance of the animal. There has been a great deal of discussion as to the correct name by which these delicately tinted Persians should be called.
The National Cat Club began by classifying them for the Crystal Palace show in 1894 as Chinchillas, and they have kept to this although it is really a most misleading title, as the cats are quite unlike the fur which we know as chinchilla, this being dark at the roots and lighter towards the tips. Now, cats of this variety ought to be just the reverse.
It is difficult to give a correct idea of the real colour and appearance of these cats. The fur at the roots is a peculiar light silver, not white, as one might expect, until some pure white is placed beside it, and this shades to a slightly darker tone - a sort of bluish lavender - to the tips of the coat. The Cat Club introduced the term "self silver," but this is suggestive of one colour only, without any shadings whatsoever. Another class, called "shaded silvers," was added; but then again, tabby markings are not shadings. Formerly blues used to be called "self blues," but this is entirely done away with, and now we never think of using this term, and speaking of them as blues we understand there should be the one and only colour.
Surely, then, the simplest term and the most descriptive of these beautiful cats is "silver," pure and simple, for whether dark or light they are all silvers, and so we should have blues and blue tabbies, orange and orange tabbies, silver and silver tabbies.
Then comes the question of what is the nearest perfection in this variety of cat, which has come upon us of late years, evolved from the silver tabby and the blue. The ideal silver, to use the words of a well-known breeder of these cats, should be the palest conceivable edition of a smoke cat, with fur almost white at the roots and palish silver grey at the tips, and as free from markings as a smoke. I do not go the length of declaring that silvers cannot be too light, for I think that it is the delicate tips of silvery blue that lend such a charm and give such distinction to this variety. Without these delicate tippings a silver cat would look inartistic and insipid. There has been of late quite a rage amongst silver breeders to produce a totally unmarked specimen; but fanciers would do better to endeavour to obtain a light shaded silver free from tabby markings with the broad head and massive limbs, which at present are qualities not often met with in this variety.
I will give a description of the type of cat generally bred and exhibited as a silver. I read the following account in one of our daily papers, evidently written by a non-admirer of these lovely cats: "The chinchillas are very fashionable and very difficult to breed in perfection. They took their name from a supposed likeness the fur bears to that of the chinchilla. But the chinchilla cat, as at present in request, bears no resemblance to the little rodent. Most of the exhibits are of a dirty white, tinged with lavender, with a quantity of marks and stripes on the face, body, and paws." Now this is not a pleasing picture, and one that would be considered libellous by a silver breeder. It is, however, true that at present our silvers are too full of tabby markings and in many cases the undercoat is not silvery white, but light grey or pale blue. There are many silver cats with dark spine lines and shaded sides, but they are heavily barred on the head and legs, and the tail is frequently almost black. It is a case of tabby blood which needs breeding out of the silvers and which, no doubt, will be obliterated in time, so that two distinct types of silvers will only exist - the delicately tipped or shaded silvers, and the richly marked and barred silver tabbies. Just as in the case of the blue Persians it took a long while to eradicate the tabby markings which showed the existence of tabby blood, so amongst the silvers the bar and stripes need to be carefully bred out, and we shall hope, in the good time coming, to have not self silvers, but a very near approach to this - namely, a perfectly unmarked but yet not wholly unshaded silver cat.
There is a greater delicacy amongst silver cats, and more difficulty in rearing the kittens, than in any other breed, and this may be accounted for by the immense amount of inbreeding that was carried on indiscriminately at the beginning of the rage for silver cats; also the desire to obtain lightness of colour caused breeders to lose sight of the grave disadvantages of loss of bone and stamina. Therefore at our shows we seldom find massive limbs or broad heads or full cheeks. There is a tendency to hare-like proportions, and the faces have a pinched and snipey appearance, and noses are too long. However, great improvement is taking place.
The question as to the correct colour of eyes for a chinchilla or silver cat is still a vexed question […] to my mind the bright emerald green eye is the ideal for a silver cat. I have seen very fine amber eyes which could not fail to attract admiration; but if these are admitted, then all sorts of eyes not amber but wishy-washy yellow, will be the inevitable result. So many silver cats have eyes that may be described as neither one thing nor the other. […] There is one rather peculiar feature in the eyes of some silver cats. This is the dark rim which outlines the eye. This rim decidedly enhances the beauty of the eye, and makes it look larger than it really is, and also throws up the colour. Light, almost white, ear-tufts and toe-tufts are adjuncts with go to make up a perfect silver cat.
Few Persian cats suffer so severely during the process of shedding their coats as silvers, and they present a most ragged appearance at this period of their existence. The lovely fluffy light silver undercoat almost disappears, and the top markings stand out very distinctly, so that a cat that in full feather would be considered a light, unmarked specimen will appear streaked and dark after the coat has been shed. As regards the silver kittens, it is a curious fact that these, when born, are often almost black - or at any rate, generally very dark in colour, resembling smokes. It is seldom that a silver kitten is light at birth, but gradually the markings and shadings will lessen, and perhaps just the one mite that was looked upon as a bad black will blossom forth into the palest silver. In this respect, silver kits are most speculative, but in another they are cruelly disappointing, for a kitten at three months old may be a veritable thing of beauty, and ere it has reached the age of eight months, bars and stripes will have, so to speak, set in severely, and our unmarked specimen of a silver kit develops into a poorly marked tabby cat. I may say that if the kittens are going to be really pale silvers they will in the majority of cases have very pale faces and paws, with little or no marking, whilst the body will be fairly even dark grey - perhaps almost black. In a week or two a change takes place, as the undercoat begins to grow, and it will be noticed that the kittens become more even in colour, the contrast between their light face and dark backs will not be nearly so accentuated, and by the time they are nine or ten weeks old they will look almost unmarked. The reason for this is that the dark fur they are born with is really only the extreme tips of the hair, and as their coats grow in length this shading becomes more dispersed.
Simpson noted that the Silver Society, founded in 1900, voted on a three way division of the silver class into chinchillas, shaded silvers and silver tabbies. This was approved. The standard for chinchilla called for "as pale and unmarked silver as possible" while that for shaded silver was "pale clear silver, shaded on face, legs, and back, but having as few tabby markings as possible." In both cases, any brown or cream tinge was considered a great drawback, and they eyes could be either green or orange. Simpson noted that between 1900 and 1902, the desire on the part of breeders was for green eyes only. Simpson goes on to quote "Zaida", writing in "Fur and Feather": "Eye colouring threatens to become a matter of fashion. Some eight years ago we received from a first-rate fancier and exhibitor a letter respecting a chinchilla cat, which later became a great prize-winner. ' It is useless,' wrote this lady, 'to think of exhibiting her on account of her green eyes.' What a change of opinion has marked the flight of eight years."
It will be observed that, as regards the description of chinchillas and shaded silvers, there is a distinction and yet no very great difference, and herein lay the difficulty of retaining these two classes at our shows. The lightest silvers were deemed eligible for the chinchilla class, and then came the question for exhibitor and judge to draw the line between the two so-called varieties, and to decide what degree of paleness constituted a chinchilla and what amount of dark markings would relegate the specimen into the shaded silver class. The cat world became agitated, exhibitors were puzzled, and judges exasperated. There were letters to the cat papers on the "silver muddle." Show secretaries were worried with inquiries. I recollect a would-be exhibitor writing to me, and asking whether his puss should be in the chinchilla or shaded silver class; but even with her lengthy description and the sample before me. I dared not venture an opinion, and I used generally to reply to such letters by saying I did not know in which lass to enter my own silver cat, and so I was going to keep him at home.
One correspondent, appealing through the columns of the papers, wrote: "Everyone knows a black or white or brown tabby, but how can we exhibitors discern between the number of shadings on our silver cats as to which class they belong to? Do kindly air my grievance, and oblige."
It was quite pathetic to see the faces of disappointed exhibitors at the Westminster show of 1901, when several beautiful creatures who had travelled many a weary mile were rewarded with a "Wrong Class" ticket only. They were either too light or too dark for the class in which their owners had entered them […] At one show I recollect a cat was accounted by the judge a chinchilla and a shaded silver, and he came off very well with special prizes for both varieties.
It was no wonder, therefore, that a reaction set in, and exhibitors and judges alike felt something must be done, and that, at any rate for a time, it would be better to have only the two classes for silvers and silver tabbies, and that specials might be given to encourage the lightest cats. The abolition of the threefold classification was therefore taken into consideration when the Silver Society was broken up by the departure of Mrs Champion to America, and the Silver and Smoke Persian Cat Society came into existence. [In March 1902, the voted in favour of dropping the threefold classification for the present]
To quote Mr C A House: "Let us have chinchillas free from markings by all means, but let us keep our shadings, our silver colour, remembering that pure silver is of a bluish tinge, and is not the whitey-brown article some would have us accept as the ideal in chinchilla cats […] I have always maintained that the threefold classification in silvers was a mistake."
During the last few years a very large number of silver cats have been placed at stud, but we may regard three cats as the founders of the breed or as pillars of the silver strain - namely, "Silver Lambkin" , "Lord Southampton," and "Lord Argent." To these worthy ancestors a very large proportion of the silvers of today can trace their lineage.
Too indiscriminate and injudicious in-breeding may be largely attributed the great delicacy amongst silver cats. There is no doubt that the number of fatalities among silver kittens compares unfavourably with others. […] As regards the mating of silvers, a broad line to lay down is to avoid tabby markings. It is for this reason that smokes have been wisely selected by most breeders as the best cross for a silver. It is more than probable that in many cases some nondescript sort of kittens will be the result. These sort of light smokes are exceedingly pretty cats and make fascinating pets, but they are useless for breeding purposes or exhibiting. I have known of some handsome specimens that have wandered from class to class, only to be disqualified in each and either, and it was a case of, "When judges disagree, who shall decide?"
Elsewhere Simpson noted that, to prevent disqualifications, some show secretaries went round the classes and re-classified those cats found to be in the wrong class. Apparently some shaded silvers did not meet the Shaded Silver standard either, having fur which was grey to the roots (possibly self lavenders or light smokes) and "it is difficult to say in what class they could be placed, unless a new class was created, to be called 'clouded or oxydised silver.' If we go on to these subdivisions we shall not know where to stop. […] perhaps the easiest way out of this difficulty is to give the shaded silver prizes to the darkest cats."
Several experiments have been tried of crossing a white Persian with a silver in order to get pale coloured kittens, but this appears seldom to succeed unless the whites have silver blood in them. Some breeders have tried blues with silvers, but there is the danger of introducing the grey blue undercoat which gives such a smudgy appearance to a silver and is suggestive of a badly coloured smoke. It does not at all follow that the mating of two light silvers will produce light coloured and unmarked kittens, yet this cross and the smoke are the safest.
Simpson included an account from a foremost breeder, Mrs Balding, which noted how Harrison Weir had awarded a prize to a chinchilla, called "Sylvie", then unrecognised and an outcast because there was no class for it: "When judging at the Crystal Palace in 1886 [Weir] awarded her first prize medal, and special for the best long-haired cat, getting over the difficulty of her silvery unmarked coat by calling her a very light blue tabby, though the puzzle was to find the tabby. Another chinchilla of the early 'eighties [1880s] was Miss Florence Moore's 'Queenie,' who would, had chinchilla classes been provided at that time, have been loaded with championships and honours. In colour she was as light as any of our present-day celebrities, and might easily, from her freedom from markings, have earned the dubious compliment of the uninitiated so highly prized by owners of chinchillas of being mistaken for a grubby white."
Mrs Balding continued: "'Chinnie,' the mother of chinchillas, is familiar in name to every breeder of this lovely variety, and the following letter, of the early 'eighties, relating to her birth and buying, will perhaps prove interesting to the up-to-date fancier.
'October 14th, 1882. To Mrs Vallance. Madam - The kitten I have to sell is quite pure bred. The mother I bought for £1 1s when quite a kitten from prize parents. The father is one we bred partly from Mrs Radford's breed and partly from a splendid tom cat that was found living wild at Babbicombe, and that we had in our possession for some months, but unfortunately he is lost again now - I am afraid, permanently. I think this kitten promises to be very like the mother. She is very handsome and has good points - brush, ear tips, and so on - but I consider her rather small. But the kitten may be finer, as the father is a large cat. Miss Grant's are related to ours on the father's side, but Mrs Radford's very distantly, if at all.
I do not think these Angora kittens are delicate. We have never failed in rearing them. The more new milk they have, and the better feeding, the finer cats they are likely to make. We do not have much trouble in keeping ours at home, as we live some distance from the village. We always give ours their principal meal at 6 p.m. and keep them shut up in a hay-loft until next morning. If you have a box where the kitten lives, with sifted sand or cinders in it, kept in a corner, you will find that the best way to ensure habits of cleanliness, If I hear nothing from you to the contrary I will send the kitten on Wednesday morning, 19th, by the early train from Derby station; and if you are not satisfied with the kitten I am willing for it to be returned within a day or two, if the return journey is paid and I am let know beforehand when to expect it. Grace Hurt.'
[Chinnie's] charming little mate "Fluffy I," a very pure silver with undecided tabby markings, also showed the quality of coat and cherub face for which their descendants have been unsurpassed. He was bred in 1883 by Miss Acland from imported cats […] His career ended in 1886 when he disappeared. Tradition whispers he was destroyed in the village. In April 1885, 'Chinnie' produced a litter by 'Fluffy I,' two members of which - 'Vezzoso' and 'Beauty' - have earned undying fame in the Annals of chinchilla history. 'Vezzoso,' a marvel of lavender loveliness, in his one brief year of existence won first in the open class and silver medal for best in show Albert Palace, 1885 […] In fatal 1886 'Vezzoso,' who belied his exquisite appearance by being very undomesticated, like his maternal grandfather the wild cat of Babbicombe, roamed to return no more. 'Lost in the woods' is his epitaph.
An even more tragic fate befell 'Fluffy II,' the 1886 son of 'Fluffy I' and 'Chinnie,' who after winning first Crystal palace […] and siring the two before-mentioned kittens of the year, died in 1887 from the effects of an accident in which he was internally injured. Thus within little more than a year, Mrs Vallance lost three of the most promising cats anyone could possess. At the time their owner scarcely realised their value, and allowed them absolute freedom, with such sad results.
But undoubtedly the best result of the 'Fluffy' and 'Chinnie' alliance was 'Beauty,' from whom, as already stated, came the 'Silver Lambkins.' [Beauty] had three remarkable litters of chinchilla kittens, the first by 'Rahman,' who shortly afterwards strayed from home and was lost. This was the litter which produced four queens, including the two 'Silver Lambkin,' and which (with the exception of one renamed 'Mimi,' who went to America with her owner) all unfortunately died.
The second [litter] was by Mrs Shearman's 'Champion Perso,' a magnificent light smoke [...] In this lot was a tom kitten destined to be a pillar of the chinchilla stud book, the 'Silver Lambkin,' named after his deceased half-sisters. The third litter […] by 'Bonny Boy,' [a silver tabby of unknown background, reputedly imported] renamed 'Nizam'. 'Beauty's' litter by 'Nizam' consisted of one male and four females, two of which [were] 'Twin and I' - so named because they were so exactly alike […] 'Twin' eventually went to Mr Lawton, who renamed her ' Queen of the Mist.' Mated with 'Silver Lambkin' she produced 'Sea Foam,' the first chinchilla to win a prize in a class solely confined to cats of the colour. There was an amusing coincidence about this win, inasmuch as after considerable trouble had been taken to get a separate class for chinchillas, the judge gave the first prize to a heavily marked silver tabby, thus totally ignoring the desired object. […] The next that was heard of 'Twin' was that she had succumbed from the effects of swallowing a needle.
The colour of the chinchilla has been bred in various ways. In bygone days, when chinchilla cats were flukes or freaks and few and far between, methods which would now be considered somewhat eccentric were resorted to by the first breeders of the colour. The useful tortoiseshell […] was pressed into service, and, paired with a silver or light blue tabby not too clearly marked, would occasionally, amid the multi-coloured kittens for which tortoiseshells are proverbial, throw a medium chinchilla or light silver tabby, which with careful selection might, a generation or two later, develop into something approaching a good chinchilla.
Simpson noted: Many cat fanciers describe the shaded silver as a "spoilt tabby". The colour of a silver tabby should be a pale clear silver, with distinct black markings.
Chinchillas – a Judge’s View
Mrs Martin, a Chinchilla class judge, gives us an insight into the cats penned at the Bath Show. This is her report published in Our Cats on 31st January, 1903: "The Chinchilla males were about the best ever penned. It cannot now be said that Chinchillas fail in bone, quite seven out of the thirteen should have been in the money, if only for head, shape, and bone, and a v.h.c. [Very Highly Commended] in this class was not to be despised. A little too much head and leg marking was in evidence. His Majesty, the lightest, with hardly a mark, was quite out of coat and failed in face and ears. Firefly, the winning kitten, although very light, was much too young to do more than v.h.c in this very strong class. The winner, Otto Boy, if he can throw off his head and leg markings, will take some beating later on, and the same may be said of the second, Cairo Ramadan. We liked this cat very much. We venture to say that if the Palace winners had been there they would, without a doubt have got a good thrashing. We think the Bath Show will always be remembered as a very happy one, envy, hatred and malice, being conspicuous by their absence. [...] Class 12: Chinchilla and Shaded Silver Male: (13): 1st and Specials, Mrs E.R.Morrison. Otto Boy, in marvellous coat, lovely head, sweet face, round, green eyes, little marked on head and leg, otherwise a nice clear colour; 2nd and Special for best green eyes, Mrs. E. Bonner, Cairo Ramadan, lovely head and face, sweet, short nose, small ears, short tail, finest limbs and best made cat in the class, nice clear colour, marked on head and legs, not in such good coat as winner, a close run; equal 3rd, Miss S. Bartlett, The Silver Sultan, one of the lightest in the class, losing his coat, good head and limbs, green eyes, required more coat for this class, the owner must feel proud of him being the sire of two male, also three female, both taking special for best green eyes, get him in coat Miss Bartlett."
Craze For Chinchilla Cats (Iowa City Press Citizen, November 19, 1904)
Chinchilla cats are the newest society pets, the craze for them coming direct from London, where a particularly beautiful specimen owned by Lady Decies recently won the blue ribbon in a class of 550 in the National Cat club show, says the New York Press. This variety of feline aristocrat is more magnificent even than the Persian, having long, silky, snowy hair, a face of extraordinary intelligence and a tail more luxurious than that of a Laverach setter. Fulmer Zaida, Lady Decies’ prize winner, is valued at §5,000 by experts, but the proud owner after her pet's triumph said she wouldn't take twice that sum for the dainty tabby. Mrs. Van Rensselaer Kennedy has a pair of fine chinchillas in her country house in Hempstead, N.Y., that will be entered at the next show in the United States, and Mrs. Sidney Dillon Ripley is awaiting eagerly the arrival of a couple of kittens of the same breed from across the water. A fine tom, half-brother to the British champion, is on the way from the cattery of Lady Decies to Mrs. James A. Burden.
"Silver Tabby" Persian (Harrison Weir)
(This is not the silver tabby as we know it today, but sounds like a blue mackerel tabby)
I find there is yet another tint or colour of the tabby proper which I have not mentioned, that is to say, a cat marked with light wavy lines, and an exceedingly pretty one it is. It is very rare; in fact, so much so that it has never had a class appropriated to it, and therefore is only admissible to or likely to win in the class "For Any Other Colour", in which class usually a number of very beautiful varieties are to be found, some of which I shall have occasion to notice further on. The colour, however, that I now refer to is often called the silver tabby, for want of a better name. It is this. The whole of the ground colour is of a most delicate silver-grey, clear and firm in tone, slightly blue if anything apart from the grey, and the markings thereon are but a little darker, with a tinge of lilac in them, making the fur to look like an evening sky, rayed with light clouds. The eyes are orange-yellow, and when large and full make a fine contrast to the colour of the fur. The nose is red, edged with a lilac tint, and the pads of the feet and claws are black, or nearly so. The hair is generally very fine, short, and soft. Altogether it is most lovely, and well worthy of attention, forming, as it does, a beautiful contrast to the red, the yellow, or even the brown tabby. A turquoise ribbon about its neck will show to great advantage the delicate lilac tints of its coat, or, if a contrast is preferred, a light orange scarlet, or what is often called geranium colour, will perhaps give a brighter and more pleasing effect.
This is by no means so uncommon a colour in the longhaired cats, some of which are exquisite, and are certainly the acme of beauty in the way of cat colouring; but I must here remark that there is a vast difference in the way of disposition between these two light varieties, that of the former being far more gentle. In fact, I am of opinion that the short haired cat in general is of a more genial temperament, more "cossetty", more observant, more quick in adapting itself to surroundings and circumstances than its long-haired brother, and, as a rule it is also more cleanly in its habit. Though at the same time I am willing to admit that some of these peculiarities being set aside, the long-haired cat is charmingly beautiful, and at the same time has a large degree of intelligence - in fact, not even setting aside the dog, and I have come to this conclusion after much long, careful, and mature consideration.
Silver Tabby Persians (Frances Simpson)
There can be no question that a really god silver tabby will carry off the palm even from the most exquisite unmarked silver cat, and in this assertion I feel I have the support of all our professional judges, for with the "mere man", it is well known, the pale silvers [chinchillas] do not stand high in favour. Men call them "wishy-washy," insipid, and wanting in expression, and are generally displeased at this sport in the fancy that has spoiled the handsome silver tabbies of years gone by.
No doubt there is just cause for complaint, for the inter-breeding of silvers with silver tabbies has undoubtedly done much to destroy the clear defined markings which in tabby cats is their chief glory. Now, of course, it is easily understood that these tabby markings in a long-haired cat cannot be so distinct as those that appear to such advantage in the short-haired breeds. "The better the coat the weaker the markings," may be said of Persian silver tabbies and judges have been known to give the highest award to an out-of-coat specimen just because the markings are more evident than in a cat in full pelage.
Harrison Weir states that "Tabby is not a Persian colour," and goes on to say, "Nor have I ever seen an imported cat of that colour." His definition of a silver tabby reads thus:- "Markings: Jet-black lines, not too broad, scarcely so wide as the ground colour shown between, so as to give a light and brilliant effect. When the black lines are broader than the colour space, it is a defect, being then black marked with colour, instead of colour with black."
Simpson quotes the silver society: "Discussion arose as to whether the markings on silver tabbies should be broad or narrow […] Miss Leake said she thought there were two distinct types, the one with broad markings, the other with narrow stripes, and that both were correct silver tabbies, but the superior beauty of either being a matter of opinion."
As regards the eye colour of a silver tabby, Harrison Weir says "deep bright yellow." The Silver Society gives an option of "orange or green"; but the mandate of present-day fashion and personal bias is in favour of green eyes for silver tabbies. From an artistic point of view there is not doubt emerald green is a better contrast to silver than yellow or orange.
The Rev R Maynard, whose name had for many years been connected with silver tabbies, recently complained in the papers of the tendency to breed green eyes in this variety. He writes: "In former days we never had anything to do with a cat that had green eyes, and now that so much is being done to improve the feline race, why should we try to think the green eye is right and even desirable?" Another authority says: "The fiat has gone forth that silver tabbies are to have green eyes. Happily there still remains room for a difference of opinion on the subject, for the oldest and most perfect breeds of silver tabbies have always been distinguished by their deep hazel eyes."
This vexed question of eyes, certainly outside the "self classes", ought not to be one of such vast importance. As Louis Wain aptly writes when complaining of this undue proportion of points, "Everyone, judges and exhibitors alike, are bitten by the craze for the 'correct coloured eyes.'" It is a fault that judges are prone to commit, and truly one point ought not to be allowed to outweigh others.
I think it is not to be wondered at that fanciers who have bred tabby cats are not easily satisfied as regards selfs and silvers. A friend of mine declared, "I always miss the stripes which give a tabby cat such a sweetly expressive countenance." Yet in spite of the beauty of the silver tabby, there are very few fanciers of this variety, and to those wishing to take up Persians I could not recommend a more interesting field for speculative breeding. The number of good show specimens can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Silver tabby classes at our shows are full of nondescript cats with shaded silver bodies and markings only on legs and heads.
When judging the silver tabbies at the Crystal Palace in 1902, I was greatly struck with the number of cats and kittens which ought really to have been marked "Wrong Class," for some of these were absolutely wanting in any definite marks at all; some had faint grey pencilling on the head and legs, but not a sign of the dense mottling on the sides […] These pretty nondescript silvers, which are neither one thing nor the other, should be disposed of as pets. [..] remember the beautiful cats of bygone years. In 1889 Miss Leake entered "Topso" and two toms in a class for "blue or silver tabbies, with or without white."
But the ranks need filling, and with the assistance of the [Silver] society now in existence the classification at shows will become more liberal, and instead of silvers and browns being often placed together at our smaller shows, separate classes are guaranteed, for it is certainly most unfair on judge and exhibitor to place these two very distinct breeds together […] It is hard on the brownies for the more brilliant silvers to be placed side by side in competition.
As regards the mating of silver tabbies, the essential point to try and breed for is markings, and it behoves the fancier to endeavour to find a sire with bold, distinct tabby markings, and if it is desired to strengthen the colour, then a black is not at all a bad cross. There are two distinct kinds of tabbies - the blotched [classic] and the pencilled [mackerel]; and it is a matter of choice which is considered the handsomest. But it does not do to mate these two varieties together. A well-known authority on breeding tabbies writes thus in Fur and Feather:- "A great deal has been said as to the disadvantage of crossing chinchillas with silver tabbies, but we think this applies more to the detriment of chinchillas than of tabbies. Provided the tabby, on one side, is of very decided type, the chinchilla, having come originally from the same stock, may not prove a bad cross."
The union of two strongly marked silvers is not always a complete success. A brown tabby makes a most excellent cross, and some of the purest and best silvers we have seen have been obtained in this way. Of course, you must be prepared for a brown tabby kitten or two; but you need not fear sandy smudges and yellow noses. The colour seems to be concentrated in one or two examples, and leaves the silver free.
The cat fancy needs some new sensational cat to appear on its horizon, and if only a perfect silver tabby, male or female, could be penned at one of our leading shows a great impetus would be given to this variety, and a thoroughly good strain might be established. Then we should not read such remarks as these from the pen of the reporter: "The silver tabbies, we regret to say, were only a shade of days that are gone. There is room for an enterprising enthusiast in this breed. The beautiful clear silver colour with deep black markings seems to be quite a thing of the past. Who will revive them?"
From such and authority as Miss Anderson Leake […]: "Possibly amongst the rarest of our long-haired cats may be classed the really well-marked silver tabby. Twenty years ago he existed, and was, indeed, more commonly met with than today. For at that time chinchillas were practically unknown, save for a few scarce specimens, and the silver cats of that day were more commonly called 'grey' Persians, and were nearly always tabbies. But with the popularity of the pale chinchillas began the downfall of the heavily marked tabby. Instead of breeding for the preservation of markings, everyone worked their hardest to breed out markings, and real tabby kittens were almost unsaleable. Those that were produced were very frequently ventured, and sold as pets. The lightest specimens in a litter were preserved for breeding purposes, and rarer and rarer became the deeply marked silver tabbies.
The correct colour for the eyes of a silver tabby is neither green, orange, nor yellow, but hazel - a deep nut brown. This shade of eye is very difficult to obtain, and it fades with age; but once seen, its beauty and suitability to the colouring of the cat will never be denied. When he proposes to moult he changes colour, and if you are unwise enough to exhibit him at this stage ominous whispers of 'brown tabby blood' will pass from mouth to mouth. For a thorough good rusty brown shade, commend me to a moulting silver tabby. […] In the first beauty of [his] new coat, when the hair is about an inch long, he is a dream of colour contrast, and somehow suggests such ineffable cleanliness.
How to breed silver tabbies is a moot point. […] A smoke of silver origin is another good cross, but the sire should always be the tabby. The blacker the kittens are at birth the better.
Exposure to the sun considerably injures the colour of the silver tabby cats, giving them a brown tinge. […] The old-fashioned cats were very long, low on the legs, and a trifle narrow in head. Nowadays we have remedied this defect, and the modern cats are decidedly more cobby than their progenitors. If only fanciers will now devote themselves to the production of such cats as I have tried to describe, we shall soon see the silver tabby classes at our shows filled with typical animals, instead of, as is too often the case, with spoilt silvers, too heavily marked to be called chinchillas, too unevenly or lightly marked to be correct tabbies."
Simpson included remarks by a silver tabby breeder, Miss Cope: "There is no doubt that until quite recently interest in this fascinating breed had, to a great extent, died out, owing to the craze for chinchilla breeding. But I hope their day is coming again. There is a marked improvement already shown in the silver tabby classes at the best shows."
Here comes in the study of pedigree. It by no means follows that the mating of two tabby parents will result in a litter of pure tabby kittens, unless both sire and dam and of pure silver tabby lineage. Here purity of pedigree on both sides is of great importance. If there is a trace of chinchilla blood in the ancestry it is certain to manifest itself at odd times in the progeny. Nevertheless, do not despise your shaded silver, if it be a queen, providing all other points are perfect. As Miss Leake says - and I quite agree with her - 'You no longer have a show specimen, but you have a cat that, crossed with a heavily marked cat, will provide you with splendid silver tabbies.' This, however, can scarcely be called the true science of breeding, as the progeny of two such cats may hark back to some of the original characteristics. My own practice is to mate silver tabby with silver tabby invariably, and of the purest pedigree I can find. I should never breed from a sire that I knew possessed a brown tabby ancestry. I would far rather choose a good black sire, and in this way strengthen the markings.
Smoke Persians (Frances Simpson)
It is only within recent years that smoke Persian cats have really come into notice at all, and even now these lovely cats may be said to be sadly neglected in the fancy. It was not till the year 1893 that they were considered sufficiently popular to deserve a class the themselves. They were formerly relegated to the "any other colour" class, and very often at smaller shows this is where we find the smokes penned. A really good smoke is a thing of beauty, and it seems certain that as the fancy expands and the Silver and Smoke Cat Society looks after their interests, a good time will be in store for breeders of this handsome variety.
Smokes may therefore be called a new breed, and it is a very distinctive one, made up, as it were, of the three self colours - black, white, and blue. It is a shaded cat without markings, the fur being pure white underneath and gradually assuming almost a black tone on the outer coat. The face, paws, and back down to the tip of the tail are the darkest parts, shading to a dark grey down the sides and on the under part of the tail. A very great beauty in smokes is the light frill and ear tufts, which lend an air of much distinction to this breed. The great failings in many smokes is the appearance of tabby markings; these especially mar the beauty of head and face, and take away from their value in the show pen. The tail should be quite free from any rims of light and dark, and should have the upper part an even dark colour, and underneath a cinder grey. Some smokes are so dense in the surface coat as to be really black cats with white under-coats, having none of the modulated grades of dark and light grey. These cats are often minus the light ear tufts and ruff, and therefore cannot be regarded as correct smokes. Then again, there are light smokes which might almost be called silver smokes - very beautiful cats to look at, but far removed from the ideal smoke.
Perhaps at some future time there may be a special classification for these cats, which are now without an abiding place at our shows. It is most important that the coat of a smoke should be long and of the true Persian flakiness, otherwise the chief beauty of the contrast between the light under-coat and dark outer-coat is not seen to full advantage. I think I may say without fear of contradiction that, of all long-haired breeds, smokes present the most altered and absolutely dishevelled appearance when out of coat. The glory of the light frill disappears, and multitudes of lines and streaks can be plainly discerned. Then a very rusty brown tinge appears on the back, and the rich, glossy, black surface coat vanishes. I owned a lovely smoke cat once that at certain times of the year - and, I may say for most part of the year - was nothing better than a bad black, his only claim to the title of smoke being the general appearance of a dark cat that had spent his life in an ashpit. But when "Pepper" was in full feather, he was a joy to behold.
It is curious that when the kittens are first born they appear almost a dead black, with no trace of a white undercoat. This appears gradually as the kittens grow, and at three weeks old the lighter coat becomes visible. Their faces and paws should be intensely black when born, as the tendency in smokes is to get lighter and not darker. If a kitten is born with the appearance of a smoke it will generally turn into what I have termed a silver smoke later on. As with black kittens, so with smokes: they are often very rusty in appearance, but this will disappear with their kitten coat. This also applies to tabby markings, though, of course, if there is any tabby blood in the strain the markings may be retained. For this reason it is most undesirable to mate smokes with tabbies; neither is it advisable to select a blue as a cross. The blue tinge destroys the purity of the white under-coat, which is one of the glories of a perfect smoke. It is a case of "like to like" in breeding smokes, and, failing this, choose a good black sire for your queen with amber eyes. This is especially advantageous if your queen should be light in colour and throw light kittens; but if she is already too dark, mate with a chinchilla, avoiding, if possible, a green-eyed one.
Above all things shun, as you would Sin, tabbies of any colour, and let your choice fall on a heavily coated sire. I have been told by smoke fanciers that it is much more difficult to breed a good smoke female than a male, and that the latter sex predominates in litters.
I think there are no fanciers or breeders of smokes who feel that any option should be given as to the colour of eyes in this breed, for, as in the black cats, the eyes should be amber or light golden. However, I must confess that brilliant green eyes are to be preferred to the pae yellow, which too often spoil the beauty of many of the smokes now exhibited. I should never place an indifferent smoke with orange eyes over a good specimen with eyes of emerald green. In the early days of the fancy, smokes were entered in the "any other variety" class, and were sometimes called Smoke Blues or Smoke Chinchillas.
In 1891 Miss Manley (now Mrs Strick) exhibited a fine smoke called "Bayadère." Amongst the names of our oldest smoke breeders who still continue to breed I may mention Mrs Cartwright, of Upwood. In 1895 this lady showed smokes at Crufts show bred from her "Timkins." The Upwood cats are very pure in colour, having the dense out coat very white at the roots. At one time the Lindfield smokes held their own everywhere . Mrs Robert Little has for years combined the breeding of smokes with blacks. In 1897 "Namoushka," a smoke female, won first at the Crystal Palace, and her daughters continue their career as first-class smokes. Perhaps the most consistent and successful breeder of smokes now in the fancy is Mrs H V James, who started in 12893, and has been faithful to this breed ever since. I am glad to be able to insert the following valuable article on smoke Persians from the pen of Mrs James, who is certainly our best authority on this breed.
"In 1893 I purchased a blue [Persian] kitten, which, on its arrival, appeared far from well. The man who sold it offered, if it died, to replace it. In a few days I was in a position to accept this offer, for the kitten succumbed, and another - which was also supposed to be a blue - was sent to replace it. As time went on this kitten darkened, and, much to my disgust, turned to a deep cinder colour. In 1894 there was a grand West of England Cat Show held at Bristol, and, to please an old servant who had taken great care of the kitten, I entered "Jubilee". I was not mush up in cat showing then, but 'smoke' seemed to answer the description of the kitten better than any other colour; so into the smoke class he went, and, to my surprise, carried everything before him. ["Jubilee" was described as the best smoke cat seen since the days of the famous 'Mildew'.
At the Palace in 1894, I bought a smoke female kitten from Miss Bray as a mate for 'Jubilee'. This mating proved successful, and I had several grand litters of smokes, most of which, I am sorry to say, went to swell the ranks of neuter pets, being given as presents to my friends. In time I learnt wisdom, however, and kept my smokes myself. 'Jubilee's' career as a show cat was unfortunately cut short after his Brighton win in 1894. He escaped one night, and in a fight with another cat had his ears so torn that I was unable to exhibit him again. A year later, when I was away from home, he was let out one day, and never returned, having, I expect, been trapped in the woods [i.e. killed in a rabbit snare].
At that period my smokes nearly died out, as I had only one litter a few weeks old by 'Jubilee.' Of the two smokes one was promised, and the other I kept, and he is still alive as 'Champion Backwell Jogram.' […] have lost sometimes as many as twelve cats and kitten in a few days from distemper, and once or twice a very promising female has strayed into the woods and been seen no more. I hope however, that for some years, at least, 'Jubilee's' descendants will continue to flourish, as there are a number of 'Jogram's' kittens scattered over England, and several have left these shores for America.
In mating my smoke queens I have several times tried a black sire, and have always been successful in getting good smokes from this cross. […] I have only once - years ago - tried a blue cross, but the result was a mixed litter of blacks and blues. I have found that all the blue queens mated with 'Jogram' have had chiefly blacks. Smokes may be considered a very hardy breed, perhaps from the fact that there has been little in-breeding so far.
A good smoke is perhaps one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful breeds of long-haired cats, a bad smoke one of the plainest. […] 'A smoke cat must be black, shading to smoke (grey), with as light an under-coat as possible, and black points, light frill and ear tufts; eyes to be orange.' But the word 'black' having sometimes led novices to suppose that a black cat possessed of a white under-coat is a smoke, it would be perhaps safer to say 'a smoke is a deep cinder-coloured cat shading to grey, with a white under-coat,' etc. In order to distinguish the difference between black and the true cinder-colour of the smoke, it is an excellent plan to keep a sound black cat in a smoke cattery.
Smokes are, comparatively speaking, one of the newer breeds of long-haired cats, and arose from the crossing of blues, blacks, and silver, and appeared as a freak in litters of blues or silver, and, being beautiful, were kept by their owners. No serious attempt, however, was made to breed them until quite recently […] extreme difficulties of breeding a good, unmarked shaded cat deter many breeders from taking them up. With a whole-coloured cat it is fairly plain sailing when a strain, sound in shape and bone, has been established; but with a shaded cat it is quite another matter. Litter after litter of kittens appear, grand in shape, strong in limbs, apparently perfect in shading. In a few months the kittens moult, and the shading become perhaps a hopeless jumble of light and dark. Where it should be dark it has turned light, and vice versa. Still worse, the shading disappears, and the markings - the bugbear of all smoke breeders - appear, showing traces of the far-away silver tabby ancestors. These markings have perhaps been lying dormant for a generation, and appear as a reminder of the silver tabby origin of the smoke. [note: the practice of mating smokes to chinchillas perpetuated the markings]
Never part with a well-shaped smoke until at least a year old, lest you find you have, in rejecting the apparently ugly duckling and keeping the gem, thrown away the substance for the shadow. On the subject of mating, there is much to be said. I am afraid many owners of smoke queens mate with any coloured cat which takes their fancy in the hopes of getting something in the litter besides smokes.
I have sometimes heard owners say, 'Oh! I mate my smoke queen with all sorts of colours. She always has one or two good smokes in each litter.' That may be true, but if a smoke strain is to be built up, you are making a fatal mistake. The kitten thus bred goes to a new home and is expected to produce smokes as good as herself. She is mated with a smoke male, and when the litter arrives there are perhaps no smokes, she having thrown back to her sire, so as a breeder she is useless. Smoke to smoke must be the rule, except in special cases - when for instance, the queen is on the light side; then a cross with a black may be found to be necessary. Or the queen may be too dark and given to breeding black kittens. The choice should fall on a silver as free as possible from tabby relations. On no account must a tabby of any colour be chosen or a sire with any white. A blue should also be avoided as the under-coat is liable to take the blue shade and become blurred instead of white at the roots.
Orange eyes are much prized in smokes, and I believe, from my own experience in breeding smokes for the last ten years, that it is from the mothers that the kittens get their eye colour. If the queen has pale green eyes, you may mate her with all the orange-eyed sires in the kingdom, and the eyes will still be pale. But if the queen has deep orange eyes, the kittens will inherit them also, even should the sire have only pale eyes.
My experience has been that if a kitten shows any trace of grey at birth, it will grow up too light. There are, however, a few well-known queen who throw almost silver kittens, which remain so for weeks, and then shed this kitten coat for a darker one; so no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to what a smoke kitten should look like when born. Try in-breeding for coat to avoid the sleek or woolly-coated smoke, and aim at getting a cat with a coat of the true Persian flakiness described by Mr Harrison Weir in his book on Persian cats, otherwise the chief beauty - the light under- and dark outer-coat - is not seen to advantage as the cat moves. One point to be remembered in this breed is that the new coat growing is dark just at the roots. These marks, when the smoke is changing coat, have often been mistaken for tabby markings, so for this reason it is most unwise ever to show a smoke when out of coat. Wait until your cat is in full coat before accusing it of having tabby markings.
There is a fashion in smokes, as in everything else; and at present in England the very dark smokes are the rage, but in America the light ones are more sought after. That grand cat 'Watership Caesar,' who was considered too light for English taste, was last year bought by the late Mrs Thurston and taken to America, where he carried off all the smoke honours, also taking the prize for the best cat in the show. […] The tide may turn, however, even in England, where the slightly lighter smokes may share the honours with their darker brothers. It is better, however, to be on the safe side and breed for the darker smoke, as the lighter are apt to lose the smoke characteristics and overstep the line which divides them from a shaded silver."
Mrs Sinkins [another smoke breeder] has written a few notes on smokes. "I began by buying a well-bred queen in kitten, and she presented me with two chinchillas and a perfect smoke female, which I named 'Teufella,' and showed at Westminster in 1899. She carried all before her, winning everything in her class […] From a silver half-sister of hers I then bred 'Teufel,' whose picture is in this issue, and who is a great pet, being extremely sweet-tempered and affectionate. His chief characteristics are his absolutely unmarked black face and the lovely white under-coat, so desirable in a perfect smoke.
In my opinion it is a fatal mistake to mate smokes with blues, as they then lose this white undercoat. I think one obtains it best by mating a smoke-bred smoke cat with either a silver-bred smoke or else with a silver cat, as unmarked as possible, who possesses a smoke ancestor. Some day I should like to try mating a black with a pale silver, just as an experiment. As to eye colour, there can be no two opinions. The deeper the orange, the better.
It seems that all Persians should have to pass through an 'ugly duckling' period - luckily a short one - when they change their coats, looking ragged and certainly not their best. Smokes and blacks then show the brown tinge even worse than chinchillas, as it gives them the poverty-stricken appearance of rusty moulting - though I must say 'Teufel' has so far been the exception, taking all honours at one show when in full moult."
Mrs Stead, the owner of "Champion Ranji" and "Rhoda," a winning smoke female, has given me her opinion on smokes:-
"My ideal of perfect smoke cats is that they should be black, shading to smoke grey, with s light an under-coat as possible, light frill and ear tufts, eyes orange. […] A kitten I had in the spring of 1902 lightened considerably, and developed markings on the face, but at eight months old he was nearly up to the standard. A litter of six I have recently bred were entirely unmarked at birth, being in fact, quite black. Five are now medium-coloured smokes, and one a very dark one, with beautiful light under-coat."
The following article on smoke cats in America is taken from "Field and Fancy" of October 1902:-
"Smokes, with us, will probably rank with the silvers, and are destined to always hold a measure of popularity, though we have not such a very strong lot; in fact, we may say that good smokes are never so numerous anywhere as to become a nuisance, and we may fairly congratulate ourselves at this stage of the game upon what we have had and bred.
Opinions differ as to what is a smoke, and at times we have to be rather lenient in the judging of these cats, for they are apt to be off colour - too light or too streaky. No-one has yet, in America, taken up the colour solely to breed smokes and nothing else, which seems a pity, for they can be bred and kept with blacks, and each sets off the other, and when visitors come to the cattery the contrast is made more apparent.
Those not conversant with the colour are apt to think anything smoky is a smoke exhibition cat, and no doubt, when good, those cats with dark faces and paws and light bodies are very handsome, but more often than not they are streaky and are smoke tabbies. After mature consideration and after seeing a good many, we, as well as other breeders, still think that unless the 'Southdown' cats, as some have called them, are very good, we had better stick to the old definition of a smoke, and demand them dark enough.
A really dark, rich smoke without marks is, without doubt, one of the richest in colouring of all our long-hairs, and the stars are few. One may go away from the original definition of a smoke, but when brought face to face with a good one it forces one to confess that this is the genuine article, and, when in grand condition, a thing of beauty and a joy for ever."
The “Smoke” Cat., St James’s Gazette, 13th July, 1904
What are the points to be looked for in a smoke cat? 'Miss Frances Simpson, authoress of “The Book of the Cat,” writing in “Madame” on this subject says :—“ The chief beauty of a smoke should be a pure white undercoat, shading up to a dark cinder colour, almost blark. No tabby markings should appear anywhere. It is very seldom, however, that a smoke cat is perfectly free from a few streaks the forehead, and these show up more clearly when the cat is not in full coat. The light frill and ear tufts in these cats lend a very great charm. In fact, a really good smoke is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful breeds in long-haired cats, and a bad smoke one of the plainest! It is curious that when the kittens are first born they appear almost a dead black, with no trace of a white undercoat. This appears gradually as the kittens grow, and at about three weeks old the lighter coat begins to show. Their faces and paws should be intensely black when born, as the tendency in smokes is to get lighter and not darker. If a kitten is born with the appearance of a smoke, it will generally turn into what is commonly called a silver smoke, and these cats, though pretty in themselves, are not valuable from an exhibitor’s or breeder’s point of view. As to eye colour in smokes, there can be no two opinions, for the deeper the orange tone the better.”