If people are asked about cat breeds there are usually only a few that everyone knows. Like Persians with their long fluffy fur and squashed faces and like the Siamese with their particular colouring and slender shape. And then? For most people (unless they are into this topic) it stops there. They might be able to name a lucky 3 to 4 breeds more, because they have some friends who own a “special" cat, they’ve seen a tv show or read about them somewhere.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that of course! Why would anyone know all those breeds anyways? What is astonishing to me though, is that even the people who DO care about cat breeds to a certain degree, more often than not have never heard about Oriental Longhairs. How is it possible that a breed that is directly linked to the Siamese — one of the most well-known cat breeds — is leading such a secret existence in the shadows? Ok, ok. That maybe came out a bit overdramatic. Still, even the Oriental Shorthairs which are a whole lot more known than their longhaired relatives, are relatively uncommon. And they literally just have a different fur and eye colour. Their shape, their character and temperament, even sometimes their parents are exactly the same!
Unfortunately I don’t have a real answer to my own question and I can only try to give some reasons here. But what I can definitely do is keep posting pictures of Sambucca and Faolan and Blake and contribute a little bit in making even the least known of the three cat breeds that run around my house a little more known.
So where did this mysterious breed come from?
When I titled this post “The Origins of the Oriental Longhair Cat" I lied. At least a bit. I am going to talk about their history, but it is impossible to talk about the Oriental Longhairs without talking about the origins of their three other relatives (the Siamese, the Balinese and the Oriental Shorthair) at the same time. It all started a long long time ago with the Siamese cats. There are records from as early as the 1600s, which talk about Siamese cats in Thailand (formerly known as Siam). It is said they were very precious, highly regarded by society and only royalty or noblemen were allowed to own them. Already at that time also full colour variations of those cats were mentioned here and there.
Around the 1880s Siamese cats found their way to the USA and to the UK for the first time (documented at least) and left a deep impression. They rapidly gained in popularity and were among one of the first cat breeds to be officially recognized as a distinct cat breed by cat associations. It was not too unusual to have occasionally also long haired kittens in a litter of Siamese. However they were considered as faulty Siamese and therefore only sold as pets and not being used for breeding programs. Only in the 1950s breeders started actually aiming for those longer haired Siamese cats, which we now know under the name Balinese. Unlike the Siamese the Balinese have not been named after a geographic location, but after Balinese dancers as a reference to their graceful appearance and movement.
So what about the Oriental Longhairs? I am getting there!
This is where the exciting stuff started to happen. Due to World War II there was a huge decrease in breeders and Siamese breeding cats around the 1950s in England. In order to get back to a healthy breeding population, cats were outcrossed with other shorthair breeds, like the Russian Blues, Abyssinians and British Shorthairs and others. The plan was to increase the gene pool and secure healthy bloodlines, by using those kittens — which were no longer pointed (that’s what you call the colour of a cat with a light body but darker head, paws and tail) but full coloured — to cross them again with Siamese.
And guess who was a by-product? All those little cats that now looked like a Siamese bodywise, sounded like a Siamese and behaved like a Siamese, but had all sorts of colours from their non-Siamese heritage!
The Oriental Shorthair was born.
By breeding Oriental Shorthairs with Balinese cats, we finally got our Oriental Longhairs in the 1970s! Since then, depending on the country and the cat associations, they have been around under confusingly different names like Javanese, Mandarin and in England even Angora, as well as of course the Oriental Longhair.
All 4 of those breeds are part of the same “Oriental Cat" family. There are the shorthaired versions with the Siamese (pointed) and the Oriental Shorthair (coloured) and the ones with the slightly longer fur, the Balinese (pointed) and the Oriental Longhair (coloured).
"Oh, what do we have here? This is where you control the boat? Sounds like the place where I belong!"
— Blake, Maine Coon and Captain of the boat
Blake Special! Last weekend we rented a boat for a day (it was my and a friend’s birthday present :) ) and we took Blake with us, to have his first boat ride ever. I’d say it looks like a great combination!
I managed to add profile pages for Sambucca, Blake and Faolan. Please check them out!
It has some basic information so far. Let me know what you think and if you want to see any other information on there! :)
Your cats are SO amazing! And so are you!
You are so sweet, thank you!
Last week thesilverpaws reached over 7000 followers!!! Purrs for each and everyone of you out there, who reblogged, liked, commented or maybe even just silently enjoyed our pictures. :3
This is amazing and unbelievable, thanks so much for following us!
Blake, master of striking a pose without even trying.