RUSSIAN CAT BREEDS
Copyright 2016, Sarah Hartwell

In the nineteenth century, two Russian breeds played an important role in the cat fancy. The Russian Longhair was one of the ancestors of the modern Persian, while the Russian Blue was one of the early recognised breeds. For much of the twentieth century, the Iron Curtain meant that little was known about the aboriginal cat breeds that existed in the former Soviet Union. That changed in the 1990s with Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of "perestroika" (restructuring) and "glasnost" (openness). The growth of the internet and usenet, particularly in the mid 1990s, played an instrumental role when an article containing short descriptions of a number of Russian breeds was circulated. This piqued the interest of Western cat fanciers so that all of the breeds described, excepting the Ussuri, are now bred and shown outside of their home country.

DON SPHYNX (DONSKOY)

The hairless Donskoy, also known as Don Sphynx, was born in 1987 when cat breeder Elena Kovaleva rescued a hairless cat in Rostov-on-Don. The breed foundation cat was blue-cream tortoiseshell female rescue named Varvara. At first, it was believed Varvara was hairless due to illness or a skin condition, but as time went on Varvara was found to healthy, albeit hairless. Around 1989, she was bred to a neighbouring tomcat and produced several hairless kittens, demonstrating the mutation to be a dominant gene. The progeny were bred to European Shorthairs and Domestic Shorthairs and became the foundation cats of the Donskoy Sphynx breed. It seems other hairless kittens were born in the area, one of which was rescued and used in breeding.

Unlike the recessive hairless mutation which created the Sphynx breed, the Russian hairless mutation is a dominant "hair loss" gene, meaning that only one parent needs to have the gene for hairless kittens to be produced. Some kittens born from mating a Donskoy to a fully furred outcross can have a residual curly or fine coat at birth. This fur is shed their coats between 2 months and 2 years of age. Other kittens from Donskoy-to-furred matings retain a curly coat throughout their life and are known as "brush" coated. When this first generation are bred among themselves, kittens that are hairless at birth appear in litters.

The Donskoy was recognised by World Cat Federation (WCF) in 1997, and by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 2005. Not all registries recognise the breed and there are some concerns that cats with 2 copies of the dominant hairlessness gene could suffer feline ectodermal dysplasia which can cause poor dentition and affect the ability to lactate (milk glands are modified sweat glands).

It is a solid, medium-size cat with a short wedge-shaped head with prominent cheekbones; large, upright ears; almond-shaped-eyes; and wrinkles on the face, forehead, and jowls resulting in an “old man” expression. Some Donskoy have whiskers, others don't. Young cats may have curly whiskers, short fur on the muzzle, cheeks and at the base of the ears. The Donskoy may grow a fine coat of fur in the winter.

It is recognized in all colours. Because hairlessness in these breeds is a dominant trait, expression of the hairlessness trait can varies. Cats with one copy of the gene may have a different feel to their skin from cats with two copies of the gene. Variations include complete hairlessness on the body, resulting in a rubbery feel to the skin that resembles vinyl; a soft, velour coat of short hairs that feels like crushed velvet; and a curly, coarse, brush-like coat. TICA classify the different coats as: Rubber Bald/Ultra Bald (born bald), Flocked/Chamois, Velour (crushed velvet texture) and Brush (coarse and curly). Straight coated kittens also occur due to recessive genes carried in these breeds. The amount of hair may change with the seasons, becoming more dense in the cooler months.

KARELIAN BOBTAIL

The Karelian Bobtail originated as a natural breed in the Republic of Karelia along the coast and on the islands of Lake Ladoga. Unlike the dominant bobtail trait of the Kurilian, the Karelian’s bobtail is a recessive gene. This means the trait breeds true. As a natural breed, the Karelian Bobtail is robust and healthy. It occurs in both shorthair and longhair varieties and has a silky, glossy coat. It is a medium-sized cat with a pom-pom tail. Its body is neither cobby nor elongated. Its hind legs are longer than the forelegs.

Its distinctive feature is the tail which consists of one or more kinks and/or curves in any direction. The base of the tail is flexible, but the kinks may be either stiff or flexible. The visible length of tail (without fur) is 4 - 13 cm. The fur on the tail forms a pom-pom.

Karelians are bred in all colours and patterns, with or without white. Colours that are not permitted (in either solids or patterns) are chocolate, cinnamon, lilac and fawn. Colourpoints (Siamese, Burmese or mink patterns) are not permitted.

KURILIAN BOBTAIL (CURILSK)

The Kurilian Bobtail originated on the Kuril Islands, claimed by both Russia and Japan, as well as Sakhalin Island and the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia (the 56 Kurilian volcanic islands extend 700 miles from the easternmost point of Russia to the tip of Japan's Hokkaido Island). It has existed in isolation for over 100 years. There are accounts of short-tailed cats being brought home from the islands by the members of the military or scientists in the middle of the 20th century, at a time when Russia had no cat clubs or breed registries. However, Their rodent-hunting skills made them popular pets. The breed is also called the Kuril Islands Bobtail, Kuril Bobtail and Curilsk Bobtail.

In the wild state, it is an excellent fisherman and hunter, and domestic Kurilians enjoy playing in water. People living in Kunashir report that bears will run away from Kurilian cats. Kurilian Bobtails are intelligent and independent, and though wild-looking and good hunters in their wild habitat, they are very sociable and gentle cats in the home. Foundation cats taken from the semi-feral state are said to be easily tamed. Their personality is often described as trusting and dog-like. They also tend to be non-vocal except for musical trills. In the wild, Kurilian Bobtails are sociable and often form family groups.

Short- or semi-long-haired, it is a medium to large cat with a semi-cobby body type and a short, fluffy tail. The back is slightly arched with hind legs longer than the front. It is a muscular cat and males can reach 15 pounds, while females tend to be between 8 and 11 pounds. In the feral state, they tend to be smaller. The most distinctive feature of the Kurilian is its "pom-pom" style kinked, short, fluffy tail. The tail contains between 2 and 10 vertebrae and has one or more kinks or curves in any direction. The visible length of the tail (without the fur) is between 3 and 8 cm.

Shorthair Kurilians have a short, dense coat. Semi-longhair Kurilians have long coats with a dense undercoat and noticeable ruff, frill, britches and ear-furnishings. They are found in solid, tabby and tortie (with or without white markings) in all colours except chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lilac. The range of patterns includes silver/golden tabbies, shaded silver/golden and silver/golden smokes. Colourpoints are not permitted. The most common colours are red, grey (blue) and mackerel pattern. Some Kurilian Bobtails exhibit silver highlights to their fur.

Kurilian Bobtail litters usually contain only 2 or 3 kittens, which may be a result of early inbreeding on the islands, or a side-effect of the gene mutation. In the feral state they breed only once per year, in common with European wildcats. Kurilian males may spend as much time tending to the kittens as their mother does, perhaps a wild trait that ensured the kittens’ survival.

The first Kurilian breeders were Lilia Ivanova (Kunashir) and Tatiana Botcharova (Renessence). These two breeders were competitors and did not co-operate with each other. Ivanova’s small breeding stock resulted in severe inbreeding and an accompanying loss of vitality in her cattery. However, cats from her bloodlines became the foundation stock for many catteries in Russia today. Kunashir lines are longhaired only and weigh 4 - 5 kgs. The cats have wide heads which makes the body look small. The body is short, often with a curved back. Meanwhile Botcharova began with more breeding stock, all originating from the islands. Renessence lines were mostly shorthair and had a more flexible skeleton and longer body than the Kunashir cats. Renessence bloodlines concentrated on the van-pattern and on dilute colours.

Nowadays, more bloodlines have been created using more foundation cats and the Kurilian Bobtail is a popular breed in Russia. Kurilians are also bred in Germany and Canada, and a stud cat was exported to the USA. The Kurilian Bobtail was recognized by the WCF in 1995. Recognition by other registries has been hampered because there are few 5th generation pedigree Kurilian Bobtails. Cat fancy Kurilians are not outcrossed to other breeds as there are existing foundation cats on the Kuril Islands.

The first time the Kurilian Bobtail was exhibited in 1990, many believed it was a robust variety of Japanese Bobtail. However, it originated on the opposite side of Eurasia and is considered an aboriginal Russian breed resulting from a spontaneous mutation that was perpetuated due to geographical isolation. It may be the original source of the bobtailed trait in the Japanese Bobtail breed (which was developed in the USA) The Kurilian’s bobbed tail is due to an incomplete dominant gene, while the similarly named Karelian’s bobbed tail is a recessive gene. While the Kurilian shares physical characteristics with the Siberian cat, the Karelian has similarities with the Norwegian Forest Cat. The Kurilian Bobtail gained Championship status with TICA in 2012.

MEKONG BOBTAIL (Thai Bobtail, Thai Short-tailed, Thaibob)

This is a Russian breed with a Vietnamese name. The Mekong Bobtail is named after the Mekong River bordering Thailand. Colourpoint bobtails occur naturally in Thai (traditional style Siamese) non-pedigree cats in Russia and in the southeast of Asia, Iran, Iraq, China, Mongolia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam. In the late 19th century Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia received a number of “Royal” cats from the King of Siam Chulalongkorn, Rama V. Many of these had short, kinked tails. Along with later imports, including cats from Vietnam, these were the foundation cats for the Mekong Bobtail. It is not outcrossed with any other cats.

In many respects it differs from the Thai (which resembles the older style Siamese) and may not be outcrossed to the Thai. Unlike modern Siamese it is rectangular rather than tubular. It is medium sized, well-muscled, but elegant with a short curved tail. The head is a slightly rounded wedge like that of the old style of Siamese. The eyes must be blue. All colourpoints are permitted, but must not have any white spotting. The fur is short, glossy and close-lying, is thin but not silky. There is a noticeable undercoat.

The distinctive feature is the tail: it should be no longer than one quarter of the body length and should be flexible despite having one or more kinks or curves. Shorter tails are preferable, but should not be less than 3 cm long. Its tail is short with varying combinations of kinks or curves. It must have at least 3 vertebrae. Long-tailed cats are not eligible for exhibition.

Between 1997 and 2004, it was known as the Thai Bobtail. It was renamed Mekong Bobtail to avoid confusion with the already recognised Thai. By 2012 there were around 1,500 Mekong Bobtail cats registered with cat clubs in Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Belorussia, Latvia and Germany.

PETERBALD

The Peterbald is a descendent of the Donskoy and shares the dominant hairless mutation. Some Donskoy cats were mated to Oriental/Siamese in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1993, resulting in an oriental-type hairless cat. The first Peterbalds were born in January of 1994. Their sire was a Donskoy with light bone structure, Afinogen Myth, and an Oriental Shorthair female named Radma von Jagerhov. The resulting four kittens were the founders of the breed. Afinogen Myth was also mated to Russian Blue females, some offspring being used in the Donskoy breeding program and others becoming foundation Peterbalds. At the time of this article, it may still be outcrossed to Oriental Shorthairs.

While the Donskoy is a solid, medium-size cat with a short wedge-shaped head, the Peterbald was developed in the Oriental style, with long, fine-boned legs, a long neck, and a long, muscular body. The ears are large and flared out from the wedge-shaped head with a blunted muzzle. Peterbalds may grow a fine coat of fur in the winter.

It is recognized in all colours. Because hairlessness in these breeds is a dominant trait, expression of the hairlessness trait can varies. Cats with one copy of the gene may have a different feel to their skin from cats with two copies of the gene. Variations include complete hairlessness on the body, resulting in a rubbery feel to the skin that resembles vinyl; a soft, velour coat of short hairs that feels like crushed velvet; and a curly, coarse, brush-like coat. TICA classify the different coats as: Rubber Bald/Ultra Bald (born bald), Flocked/Chamois, Velour (crushed velvet texture) and Brush (coarse and curly). Straight coated kittens also occur due to recessive genes carried in these breeds. The amount of hair may change with the seasons, becoming more dense in the cooler months.

In 1996, the breed was recognised by the Russian Selectional Feline Federation (SFF). TICA recognised it in 1997. The World Cat Federation (WCF) recognised the Peterbald in 2003. Hairless and brush-coated Peterbalds have championship status in TICA.

As with its parent breed, the Donskoy, there are some concerns that cats with 2 copies of the dominant hairlessness gene could suffer feline ectodermal dysplasia which can cause poor dentition and affect the ability to lactate (milk glands are modified sweat glands).

RUSSIAN BLUE (and RUSSIAN SHORTHAIR GROUP)

The Russian Blue was one of the early fancy breeds. It is believed that sailors brought blue-grey cats to England from Archangel in the 1860s, hence they were first exhibited in 1875 at the Crystal Palace as the “Archangel Cat”. Early cat fancy records show that foundation cats included imported solid blues, solid whites, lavender-blues, blue-and-whites, blue tabbies and solid blue "Siamese" (these last being the unrecognised Korat breed). These were bred to Black British Shorthairs in the hope of improving the fur colour and to Persians to improve the eye colour. Although claimed to be a naturally occurring breed and favoured pets of the Russian Tsars, the purebred Russian Blue (the exhibition breed) is a man-made breed developed in Britain using random-bred and pedigree cats. The Russian Blue was distinguished from British cats due to its more foreign appearance: larger ears and eyes, longer heads and legs and bright glossy fur. Up until 1912, they often competed in a general class for "Blue, With or Without White". The longer, leaner, leggier Russian Blue was judged against the British Blue standard, which it could not hope to meet. Dedicated Russian Blue breeders protested and in 1912 it was given its own class under the name "Foreign Blue".

One of the foremost early breeders was Mrs Constance Carew-Cox who had bred Russian Blues since 1890. While modern Russian Blues have green eyes, those of the late 19th Century were crossed with Persians to get the preferred deep orange eye colour. This ruined their conformation and resulted in longhaired "sports" in later generations. Imported Russian Blues were also very variable: some had long, lean pointed heads and large ears, while others had rounder heads, small ears and wide-set eyes. The coat was short, close, glossy and silvery but sometimes rather woolly due to the severity of their native climates and the colour varied from lavender-blue to darker shades. The best Russian Blues were considered to be those imported from Archangel. Some websites mention the blue tabbies (Canon Girdlestone’s breed) owned by Mrs Carew-Cox, but they came from Norway, were in poor health and died without breeding.

Early Russian Blues were also confused with Korats. In 1896, a Blue Siamese was transferred from the Siamese class (on account of not being seal-pointed) into the "Russian or Any Other Blue Cat" class. Right from the start, Russian Whites and Russian Bicolours were imported. Registrations in 1898 and 1899 recorded an unnamed white Russian female imported by Mr Brooks; another white Russian registered as "Granny" and "Olga", a Russian Blue with a white spot. Carew-Cox imported a blue-and-white Russians called Kola. In the USA in 1900, Helen Winslow mentioned fine short-haired cats from Russia which were usually solid blue, though a cat fancier in Chicago owned a very handsome blue-and-white Russian. Ultimately the solid blues found favour and the other colours vanished in the western cat fancy until quite recently. When I’ve mentioned the early bicolour foundation cats, I’ve been attacked by American breeders who state those cats weren’t Russian Blues, they were street cats! Dear breeders, your Russian Blue has its origin in those street cats, and those street cats weren’t always solid blue!

During the Second World War, it was hard to maintain purebred lines in Britain. Numbers declined and it was impossible to transport cats over long distances to be mated. Some British breeders crossed their Russian Blues to the Siamese in order to preserve the conformation at the cost of introducing the recessive gene for colourpoints and the Siamese “voice” into the Russian Blue. Others crossed it to the British Blue to preserve the colour. The original conformation has since been restored through careful breeding, though some European lines still carry the gene for colourpoint. Except for their pattern, Russian Colourpoints are identical to the Russian Blue. Russian Blacks and Russian Whites appeared in the UK during the early 1960’s when the registration policy allowed outcrosses to unregistered cats of unknown parentage to re-invigorate the breed. Scandinavian breeders crossed their Russian Blues to Siamese and to blue cats from Finland, preserving both the short coat and the green eyes. The breed had arrived in the USA in the early 1900s, but serious breeding did not begin until after the Second World War. American breeders used stock from Scandinavia and Britain and worked to eliminate any Siamese traits. As a result, the American Russian Blue is not identical to Russian Blues in Britain, Europe and Australasia.

Russian Whites and Russian Blacks were imported into the UK from the Netherlands in 1995. They came from a line originally developed by Frances McLeod in the 1960’s as well as the Russian White line produced by the Joneses in Australia in the 1970’s. Frances McLeod’s cats came from a white female kitten (b. 1961), which came from a Russian boat. It was registered by the GCCF (UK) as Arctic Chumvi, an “any other variety, foreign type.” Because the 1960s Russian Blue gene pool was small, there were limited out-crossings to blue-point Siamese and domestic cats. Chumvi was bred to a Russian Blue stud and produced white, blue and black offspring. One of her white sons, Arctic Sumairki, was registered and was mated to a Russian Blue female who was registered by the GCCF in 1968 as a Russian White. McLeod bred and exhibited her Russian Blues, Whites and Blacks in the UK for many years before returning to Australia. Other breeders continued with her Russian White and Russian Black lines, and a black kitten, Arctic Lascatsya, (from a Russian Blue female and Russian White stud) founded the Lavengro line of Russian Blacks in 1984. In 1986 a pregnant Russian Black female, Jofran Emerald Eye, was exported to Belgium where she produced one blue and 2 black offspring. Some of Emerald’s later kittens went Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands to found Russian Black lines there.

In August 1974, Linda Kirsch, of the Russian Blue Association in the USA, wrote to geneticist Don Shaw via Cats Magazine saying “Much controversy currently rages amongst our ranks, or should I say breed? A newcomer to the Russian Blue section of the Cat Fancy has reported the occurrence of a "White Russian" in her litter. She ask if it is a new form of hybrid. Many letters have come to me from long-time Russian breeders insisting they have never had a white Russian. Then too, I have received letters from people, owning Russians, who were told, ‘Everyone gets Bluepoint Siamese in Russian Blue litters.’ Who's to blame? Well the current trend is to pin it on the English lines of several generations past. Your comments on this subject are respected by cat fanciers at large. I would appreciate your thoughts on this timely topic [. . .] I feel that a professional opinion is essential to set the genetic facts clearly in the minds of our Breeders.”

Shaw replied at length to her concerns (I have omitted some of the out-dated genetics notation). “First to the English and the "Siamese'' problem. It is fairly certain that during' World War II the British did produce some rather interesting combinations in their cats. Under the circumstances we have no right to point a finger; they simply did what they felt many times to be necessary for the survival of their cats. However, this is not the only indication that Russian Blues were crossed with Siamese in the British Isles. Cats similar to what we now call Russian Blues were introduced into England at approximately the same time as the now famous pair of "Siamese" in the late 1800s. The original breeding pair of "Siamese" were reportedly Sealpoints. Bluepoints began to show-up in the area shortly thereafter. It has long been considered that they were the products of outcrosses to what we now call Russian Blues [note: many were early Korats]. The evidence is; to say the least, reasonable if not popular among us Siamese breeders. Since the Siamese Colorpoint system is the result of a recessive allele it can be carried for several generations without being detected unless close inbreeding is employed. If this is not enough, there are several indications that out crosses have occurred in this hemisphere over the years and there is some evidence that a similar situation might have occurred in Sweden. After all the cats are not all that particular about our breed classifications, and some of the breeders tend not to be too cautious - nor, in an organization as large as the Cat Fancy, can we expect everyone to be totally honest. There is this saving factor, however: most of the dedicated Russian Blue breeders tend toward rather close inbreeding to set type and consistently produce their show quality cats. With this type of inbreeding any recessives such as the cs (siamese, colorpoint allele) are very quickly discovered and can thus be eliminated if the breeder employes reasonable caution in the subsequent breeding program.

The "White Russian" problem is a very different can of worms. As far as our present data in cats goes we have no real evidence of any recessive white-coat color system other than possibly in the reported "albino" group. If this recessive system is indeed operating in Russian Blues it would never be expected to produce anything near green in eye color. At most the eyes would be expected to be a pasty pinkish blue, which could never be confused with green even by the most novice of the novice breeders. The two established whiting systems in cats are the dominant white and dominant white-spotting. In the case of the dominant white system there are no valid reports [. . .] of two non-white cats ever producing a kitten which was white due to this allele. At least one of the two parents has to be white. In the case of piebald white-spotting there are indications of variable expressivity and possibly incomplete penetrance. This lack of penetrance is extremely uncommon at most, and in order to get a solid white cat as a result of this system it would normally require that both parents be carrying the allele in an impenetrant [hidden] state and then have the resulting kitten be homozygous and for both alleles to be essentially totally penetrant. That really is asking a bit much, since penetrance tends to be reduced in the progeny of impenetrant phenotypic parents. Yes, it is remotely possible that there was a mutation to White in a Russian Blue, but we have discussed this rare event before—don’t bank on its being the answer.

By an odd set of circumstances, I saw a "White Russian" in a show only a few days ago. It was indeed white with the blue cap so frequently seen on White Persians, Domestics, Rex, etc. which is due to the dominant white allele [note: surely he meant white spotting]. Yes, it did have the broad flat forehead, low set eyes and reasonable bonnet ears I normally expect on Russian Blues. The body type might also have been considered reasonable for a Russian. There was one other small problem, it had a coat approximately an inch long, very silky like in the Turkish Angora. According to the catalog it was entered as a White Russian in the Shorthair division, I ask to transfer the cat to the Longhair division, but the owner objected, and since there were no other Shorthair New Breed and Color cats in the show, I did not press the point. Now since the Russian Blues are noted for their very short dense coats, this type of coat would not be expected, no matter how you rearranged the normal modifiers in the now existing Russian Blues I have seen in our show rooms over the past ten or fifteen years. Maybe in Europe Russian Blues are different, but according to the established breed standards in this western hemisphere, there is no reasonable way to obtain a cat with this coat type from two honestly registered Russian Blues, except by mutation. There is that bad word again. Now if you want to believe that two normal Russians according to our standards produced this cat, you certainly may do so but the mutational chances are like one in three million multiplied by one in three million. OK, it's possible, but an outcross is far more probable.

If we must, then why not call them "white Archangels?" Many years ago the late Milan Greer exhibited his "$5,000," or some such fabulous sum, "Russian Archangel." It too had this type of coat but was blue in color. Yes, many believe that our present day Russians are from the "Russian Archangel" and this may very well be the case; however, through the years the tat now registered in the stud books and shown in our shows no longer conforms to this coat type, but has been established as Russian Blue by name and has a very dense short cropped coat as one of its breed's identifying features. Besides if we are going to have a "White Russian" then I can only suggest that we be American about the whole thing and immediately produce a "Red Russian."

In Australia in the 1970s, Mavis and Dick Jones courted controversy when they started the Russian White. As a reader of “National Cat” in the pre-WWW 1990s, I was aware of these “other colour” Russians. Mavis Jones described her breeding programme in a letter to the Russian Blue Newsletter in 1977. The Jones’ breeding programme took twelve years to produce Russian Whites of the correct conformation. They began by importing a white short-haired Siberian domestic cat owned by an official at the Thai Embassy in Australia. This was the only cat bred to the Russian Blue in Australia. Any Australian Russian Blue breeder outcrossing to Siamese would be permanently banned from breeding, so a compatible Russian cat had to be imported. This is no easy task because Australia has a long quarantine period. It then took the Royal Agricultural Society Cat Club (RASCC) of NSW (the cat control registry of the time) 2 years to grant permission to develop the Russian White as an experimental breed. During that time, the Joneses bred several litters from the Siberian white shorthair and one of their best Russian Blue males. Their own ruling body confirmed that the cats were Russian in conformation and permitted the cats to be exhibited. This opened the way for a formal experimental breeding programme under the auspices of RASCC of NSW. The strict rules meant every birth and death had to be reported. Every kitten that left the Joneses cattery had to be neutered, and no other cattery could participate in the breeding programme. Because the Russian Whites carried other colours, including blue, there was a huge fear of polluting the pure Russian Blue breed. Their two best “white Russian” females were bred to two unrelated Russian Blue males. For 4 generations, the best white female from each litter were bred to a total of seven Russian Blue males. Early litters also included silver-striped grey kittens (a colour found in shorthaired cats in Siberia), but the tabby trait disappeared after the 3rd generation. A black kitten from the 3rd generation was formally recognised by RASCC in 1977 and led to its own breeding line in Australia. The white cats were born with a small blue smudge on the top of the head, an indicator of good hearing. The fourth generation of Russian Whites achieved full recognition from the Royal Agricultural Society Cat Club of New South Wales in November 1975. By the 5th generation (1976) the cats were genetically identical to Russian Blues in all respects apart from fur colour. That meant the blue offspring of a Russian White crossed to a Russian Blue could be registered as Russian Blues.

Ingrid Nuyten imported an Australian Russian White male kitten, Yaralin Sjtsjoekin (b. 1993), a descendant of the Jones’ breeding programme. He was bred to several Russian Blue queens, founding Russian White breed lines in Europe. He also carried blue. Sjtsjoekin was mated to a Russian Black female derived from chi from the UK Russian Black line. This appears to have been the only mating between a Russian White and a Russian Black, and the offspring included all three colours (the white cats carrying black or blue). This helped restore lost genes to the UK blood line. Blue-eyed or Odd-eyed Russian Whites can be registered with the GCCF, but not bred and can only be exhibited in pet classes. When a White Russian Shorthair stud from Australia was imported into the USA, it caused great controversy. Most American Russian Blue breeders proclaimed “Russian Blues can only be blue!” and any breeder working with other colours risked being boycotted. The battle-cry “a Russian Blue can only be blue” is nonsensical since a Russian Shorthair of any other colour is a Russian White, Russian Black etc, not a Russian Blue (and certainly not a “white Russian Blue”!). Underneath the coat colour, the structure of the cat is the same and it was a whim of the early cat fancy that only the blue colour was selected for perpetuation.

Because dominant white masks out other colours that are genetically present, the Russian White breed programme also gave rise to the Russian Black and to Black (Brown) Tabbies and Blue Tabbies. The “Russian Shorthair” group comprises cats of Russian Blue type but a wider variety of colours. Those with varying degrees of recognition are Blue, White and Black. Blue-pointed Russians and Lilacs have also occurred. Peach Russians (cream) and a blue-cream Russian Shorthair occurred in the USA in the 1990s (probably 1997). The Peach Russian and the Blue-Cream Russian came from Psykitt cattery when a Russian Blue female got pregnant by a domestic cat and produced cream and blue-cream offspring. Although one or two breeders became interested, the Peach Russian did not take off. The blue-tortie Russian was exhibited as a Russian Blue, but was not positively received. Some fanciers and registries dismiss all colours except for blue as indicative of mongrelisation even though the Russian Blue was originally developed using a variety of breeds. White and Black Russians are also bred in Britain and parts of Europe and have varying degrees of recognition (or lack thereof) in European registries. Perhaps Russian Creams will also be accepted in the future.

Although Russian semi-longhairs occur naturally in their home country, the Nebelung began as a semi-longhaired version of the Russian Blue, developed through outcrossing two American domestic cats to Russian Blues. Siegfried (b. 1984) and Brunhilde (b. 1985) both resembled Russian Blues, but with semi-longhair coats. Their owner, Cora Cobb enlisted the aid of TICA geneticist Solveig Pfleuger who advised her to define the new breed as semi-longhaired Russian Blue cats. Because the breed standard is identical to that of the Russian Blue, except for the semi-long coat, outside of the USA the breed was founded using long-haired kittens of Russian Blue parentage (in part reflecting different rules on registering/trading outcrosses to non-pedigree cats).

Longhaired Russian cats other than the Siberian exist naturally in their own country and in 1993/4, the first Nebelung in the Netherlands arrived from Russia. This was a purebred Russian Blue stud cat called "Timofeus" who turned out to be semi-longhaired. Even though he is not part of Nebelung pedigrees, his existence confirmed that the recessive longhair trait was already present among Russian Blues. Eastern European countries started recreating the Nebelung from Russian Blue type cats carrying a gene for longhair (Russian Blue “type” because the Eastern European cats were not registered as Russian Blues in a Western cat registry). In later years, it turned out that semi-longhaired Russian Blues (variants) were not uncommon in Russia and some joined Nebelung breeding programmes in other countries. In 1995 Cora Cobb imported a Moscow-bred Russian Nebelung born to Russians Blue. This cat, Winterday Georgin of Nebelheim, came from a Moscow cattery that had bred several prize-winning longhaired Russian Blues over the years.

The American and European Nebelungs’ physical appearance mirrors the different appearances of American and English Russian Blues. In some European registries, it is treated as a long-haired Russian Blue, or Russian Semi-Longhair (just as the Russian Blue is a Blue Russian Shorthair). This allows long-haired variants of Russian Blue (shorthair) parentage to be registered as Nebelungs. The continued influx of Russian Blue blood keeps both breeds consistent in type. TICA recognises it as an entirely separate breed with Russian Blue as an allowable outcross. Under TICA rules, the outcross kittens are registered as Shorthair Nebelung variants carrying longhair; they are not used in Russian Blue breeding, only in Nebelung breeding (this allows TICA breeders to keep the longhair trait out of the Russian Blue gene pool). To date Nebelungs have not been bred to mirror the Russian Black and Russian White, although this option exists.

The Russian Shorthair is a long-legged, graceful, medium-size, muscular cat with a moderately foreign conformation. Its dense, plush "double coat" is tipped in silver. They have distinctive emerald-green eyes. Russian Shorthairs tend to be quiet-voiced, and can be shy and cautious with strangers, but are playful and affectionate with their owners. They are also intelligent and can learn to open doors and turning on water taps.

SIBERIAN AND NEVA MASQUERADE

The Siberian Forest Cat has existed in Russia since at least 1000AD. This natural breed is believed to have originated in the Siberian Taiga where domestic cats mated with wild cats. “Russian Longhairs” or “Russian Angoras” were used in the 19th Century to develop the Persian breed. Those Russian Longhairs were mostly large, tabby cats with shorter and heavier boned legs than the Turkish Angora and a massive coat and ruff.

The modern Siberian breed was developed after the Second World War from free-ranging cats from Leningrad (St Petersburg) and Moscow. The colourpointed variety appears to have originated during the 1960s through matings with colourpointed feral cats in the Neva River region in Leningrad.

Siberians were unknown outside of Russia until borders with Westen Europe began to open up. During the 1980s, Russia developed its own cat fancy and the Siberian was recognised by the Kotofei Cat Club in Moscow in 1987. Siberians and Neva Masquerades arrived in the USA during the 1990s. Siberians were recognised by FIFe in 1997.

Unlike the better known Maine Coon, the Siberian’s dense, triple coat is not shaggy. Its coat is more dense in the winter. Its body is shorter than either the Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat. The protective seasonal coat and no extremes of conformation indicate a cat that evolved to survive in a harsh climate. Females may be considerably smaller than males. Although they may take 4-5 years to mature physically, Siberians reach sexual maturity relatively early. The females often bond closely to only a single mate who may take an interest in rearing the kittens.

Amost all colours and patterns occur, including colourpointed varieties. Some registries recognise those colourpointed cats separately as Neva Masquerade (“masked cats from Neva”). In the fancy breed, brown and silver tabbies are the most popular colours. Brown tabby can have a golden appearance. The colours not accepted are chocolate, cinnamon, lilac, fawn and apricot. The Burmese pattern and mink patterns are also not permitted. Some western lines of “golden” Siberians may carry Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy due to inbreeding of limited foundation stock during the 1990s.

It is claimed that Siberians are hypoallergenic due to producing less of the Fel d1 allergen in their saliva than other breeds. Scientific studies between 1999 and 2010 found that only around half of the Siberians surveyed produced less Fel d1 allergen, while others produced high levels of the allergen. With such great variation between individuals, the breed cannot be considered allergen-free.

SCYTH-TOY-BOB (TOYBOB) AND SKIF-THAI-DON (SKIF-TOY-BOB)

(Skif is the Russian word for Scyth). These are both miniature sized cats, but they are not the same. According to Russian breeders, he Skif-Thai-Don (Toy-Bob - two words or hyphenated) is thought to be the product of a recessive dwarfish mutation. meanwhile, the Scyth-Toy-Bob (Toybob one word) is a Russian native breed of miniature sized cats from the Ural area of Russia.

The Toybob breed dates back to early 2000, when cat breeders in the Ural region became very interested in a native variety of cat. The unusually small cats were founc in Natalya Fedyaeva's "Si-Savat's" cattery and "Little Angel" cattery. In the early 1990s, those breeders had become intrigued by the smaal-but-hardy bobtailed cats found on the streets of the Ural region of Russia. They took some in and worked with them to develop a new breed. Similar looking cats, supposedly from the same region, were also found at a Rostov Thai cat breeder's cattery. Two small cats from this Rostov breeder's cattery (Skif-Thai-Don cats) were added to the Toybob gene pool, as were healthy small domestic cats of similar phenotype found in different cities in the Sverdlovsk region and neighboring regions, plus some Russian Mekong Bobtail cats. These cats became the Scyth-Toy-Bob, which was abbreviated in the USA to "Toybob". Toybobs are bred in both shorthair and semi-longhair varieties and a wide variety of colors, although pointed colours (particularly seal-point) are the most common. The Toybob has been recognised inside and outside of Russia.

Toybobs (Scyth-toy-bobs) are small cats that can’t grow any larger than the size of 4-6 months old kittens of a well-developed domestic cat with a short sturdy body and a well-developed musculature, a short tail that consists of several distorted vertebrae and a balanced temperament. Regardless of their size they are healthy animals with a rounded, wide-wedge shaped head, low and round cheekbones, a short, wide muzzle and wide, medium-length nose. They have a flat forehead with well-developed brows, a strong china and small-to-medium size ears set high up and straight. They have large, wide, blue eyes. The tail is mobile and made of several distorted vertebra and has the visible length of 3-7 cm. Their small bodies are compact and muscular with a relatively deep, wide chest. Their limbs are medium length and look stocky relative to the body. They come in both shorthair and longhair varieties. Because its head and legs are in proportion to the body, it is considered a miniature cat not a dwarf.

The first breeder who imported small bobtailed cats from Russia into the USA claimed them to be Skif-Thai-Dons, but they were actually Scyth-Toy-Bobs. This was later confirmed by the founder of the Skif-Thai-Dons, Elena Krasnichenk who also confirmed that there were two types of small bobtailedcats in Russia. So where does the Skif-Thai-Don fit in?

According to translator Svetlana Kalinina in 1995, the Skif-Thai-Don (or Toy-Bob) had been bred for almost 10 years by Thai Bobtail breeder Elena (Helen) Krasnitchenko of Rostov-on-Don. Krasnitchenko found a colourpoint bobtail cat which she named Mishka ... then along came kittens. She originally gave away the kittens as gifts to friends in and around Rostov-on-Don rather than selling them. In 1988, a miniature kitten, Kutcyi, was born and Helen Krasnitchenko's cattery became Kutc. Kutcyi became the founder of Skif-Thai-Don breed. The name was later changed from Skif-Thai-Don to Skif-Toy-Bob and finally just to Toy-Bob (with a hyphen). By joining the Felinological Association of Russia (FAR) the Skif-Toy-Bob became a recognised breed and is only recognised in seal-point shorthair form (any other colour variants are used in breeding, not for exhibition). Unlike the Scyth-toy-bob, the Skif-Toy-Bob may not be outcrossed to any other breed. Its diminutive size is inherited although its exact genetic cause is not currently known. There are currently no reports of any abnormalities and the cats seem to be extremely healthy. Unlike the Scyth-toy-bob, the confusingly similarly named Skif-Toy-Bob is not well-known outside of its native Russia.

As with the full-size Thai Bobtail, it generally resembles the Thai Cat (traditional style Siamese). The Toy-Bob standard describes it as being the size of a normal domestic kitten of 3-4 months old and weighing 2-5 lbs. It has a compact, solid body and excellent muscles, with a short straight or curved bobtail which forms either a "brush", a "mini-spiral" or a pom-pom with not less than 2-3 vertebrae (1 - 3 inches long). A long tail or straight tail is considered a defect. The legs are proportional to its body. Despite the tiny size, they are healthy, lively, alert and pretty. The head is not over-large and is rounded with a slight break from forehead to nose (i.e. the "dent" that marks the break between forehead and muzzle). It has rounded cheekbones and a medium-short broad muzzle. The bright blue eyes (these are associated with its Siamese-type colouring) are large and round and set slightly slanted. Its ears are proportionally large, wide-open, high and straight set. It is only bred in colourpoint, preferably without any white mitts. They described as laid back with a dog-like temperament.

While several of Russia's indigenous breeds quickly found enthusiasts in the US and UK, these Toy Bobtails were not among them, which is surprising considering the amount of interest in mini-cats in the USA. In 2004, Mila Denny of Sacred Spirit Cattery (Idaho, USA) imported a pair of supposed Toy-Bobs (i.e. Skif-Thai-Don cats) called Pashka America and Mikki - these were later confirmed to be Toybobs (Scyth-toy-bob cats). Both the World Cat Federation and TICA have breed standards for the Toy-Bob. The Toybob hopes for TICA registration in 2016.

UKRAINIAN LEVKOY

The Ukrainian Levkoy is a Ukrainian, not Russian, breed, but is included here because it was developed from the hairless Donskoy. It is currently only recognised by Ukrainian and Russian cat clubs.

It was first developed in 2000, when Elena Biriukova in the Ukraine crossed Donskoy females with Scottish Fold males. This results in a distinctive appearance combining folded ears and hairlessness. Oriental and Domestic cats were also used in breed development. It was recognized in 2005 in the Ukraine by ICFA RUI (Rolandus Union International), gaining championship status in 2010. It was recognised in Russia in 2010 by ICFA WCA, gaining championship status in 2011.

The Ukrainian Levkoy has a slender, medium-to-long, muscular body and long legs. The head is almost dog-like in shape. The ears are large and set high and wide apart. In ideal show specimens, 1/2 to 1/3 of each ear is roundly folded forward and down, without touching the head. Straight-eared Levkoys occur and are important in the breeding programme. Ukrainian Levkoys are sociable, friendly, playful, and intelligent.

Because the gene for folded ears is associated with skeletal problems, two fold-eared individuals must not be bred together. When breeding Levkoy-to-Levkoy, one of the parents must be straight-eared. As a young breed, it is also outcrossed the Donskoy, Scottish Fold, Peterbald and to household pets that have the correct conformation.

URAL REX

In 1988 a domestic cat from the suburb of Ekaterinburg produced a litter of 3 kittens. Two of the kittens had curly coats. This was the beginning of the modern Ural Rex breed. According to local people the variety existed as free roaming domestic cats since the 1940s, but were never selectively bred.

It is medium in size, with a muscular body and slender, medium-length legs. The head forms a short wedge, with prominent cheeks and a broad nose. The short curly hair is similar to the Cornish Rex, but test mating with Cornish Rexes and Bohemia Rexes resulted in straight haired kittens indicating the Ural Rex has an unrelated mutation. Ural Rexes occur in both shorthair and semi-longhair versions. The fur is fine, but very dense. The coat is very densely curled with double waves. Full development of the waves can take up to two years. Ural Rex kittens display open waves at around 3-4 months old.

The Ural Rex breed foundation male was Vasiliy, born in 1988. He was later mated with his mother, Mura, a black-and-white domestic cat. The first litter was born in 1994 and included a rexed black-and-white male called Bars, and a rexed black-and-white female called Murka. In 1997 a breeding program was set up in Moscow using two females Merlushka and Bonny, and a male Clyde (or Clide).

Kittens often have a greyish tinge to the coat. This later becomes a brownish tinge. Black tabby Ural Rexes have a striking golden background colour. Most colours are permitted, excepting chocolate, lilac, cinnamon and fawn. Solids, tabbies (classic, mackerel and spotted) and torties are permitted with or without white markings (ranging from white spots to van-pattern). Silver tabbies, shaded silvers, smokes and the corresponding golden series of colours are all permitted. All of the colours can also occur as colourpoints as the colourpointed pattern occurs naturally in parts of Russia.

The Ural is cautious and sensitive, but is calm and sociable with its family.

USSURI

The Ussuri is a rare natural breed originating from Russia's Amur River region. It is reputedly derived from natural hybrids between domestic cats and Amur Leopard Cats (a subspecies of the Asian leopard cat, the same species used to create the Bengal). Semi-wild Ussuris then bred naturally with local domestic cats including Siberians (or at least longhaired domestic cats) and European Shorthairs. However, this claim of hybrid ancestry is based on the cat's appearance.

A translated breed standard for this and other Russian breeds, from a Russian cat fancier, was published in the mid-1990s, but nothing has been heard in the West since then. Its breed status even in Russia is unclear. Its numbers may be dwindling due to interbreeding with local domestic cats and, without a breeding programme to preserve the strain, it will likely disappear. The Ussuri is not recognised as a breed by any major cat registry and no authenticated photographs of the variety have emerged.

The Ussuri was described as muscular, but not massive in conformation. Its mature weight appears to be around 12 pounds. It has medium-length muscular legs and firm, rounded paws. The neck is firm but not long. The ears often have lynx-like brushes. The tail has a rounded tip like the European wildcat. The European Wildcat freely interbreeds with domestic cats and is a more plausible parent than the Leopard Cat, especially considering the breeds allegedly challenging temperament. The short coat of Ussuri cats is glossy and close-lying, with a thick undercoat.

It has a distinctive colour and modified tabby pattern: vertical solid or merged spots on the body with lines on the forehead and two or three bronzed lines on its cheeks and one or more solid or broken necklaces of bronzed tone on the neck and chest. There is a dark dorsal stripe. The flank pattern consists of stripes, rings, or spots on golden-brown or goldish-fawn background and bronzed buttons on the paler belly. It should have distinct lines on the legs, with the upper part being a bronzed colour and the lower part being the ground colour. The tail should be ringed and have a dark tip of ground colour.

So why has this natural Russian breed not become as popular or well-known as the other cats described here? The answer appears to lie in its challenging temperament. Though it is apparently sociable with adult family members it is wary of unfamiliar people. A Ussuri may form a strong bond with one person. Their intolerance of younger children means they may react aggressively if pestered. Being strong-willed, highly independent and resourceful, Ussuris require free access to outdoors (an outdoor pen is not sufficient freedom for these cats) and are unsuited to living in smaller homes or indoor-only. On the showbench, any sign of challenge results in disqualification. This likely makes the Ussuri an unattractive proposition for North American breeders.

Although athletic, active and intelligent, they are not as playful as other domestic breeds and would rather hunt real prey than chase toys. This makes them excellent farm cats rather than household pets. Ussuris are just not lap cats and despite their intelligence, they are apparently very hard to train (not even simple tricks – most likely these are viewed as pointless!) as they would rather turn their intelligence towards hunting and survival skills.

Although rare, the Ussuri is said to have no hereditary health issues. This may change if inbreeding is used to boost the pet population or to select for a more tractable temperament.

MESSYBEAST : BREEDING ETHICS AND PURPORTED BREED ORIGINS