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Bi-Color and Calico Persians:
The 80's and 90's


by Anna Sadler

Should anyone harbor any doubts about the popularity of bi-color and calico Persians, a glance at any show catalog should put them to rest. For proof positive, though, a look back at CFA's registration statistics for the brief (by other color standards) 20-year history, tells the tale. By decade:

  • At the close of 1970, a total of 203 had been registered (69 calicos and 134 bi-colors).
  • When 1980 ended, a total of 4,989 were on the books (1,698 calicos, 3,108 bi-colors and 183 vans).
  • When 1990 figures were tallied, a total of 29,439 were registered (8,930 calicos, 16,172 bi-colors, 1,455 vans, 525 tabby & whites, and 2,357 colorpoint carriers).

The early history of bi-color and calico Persians has been chronicled in post CFA Year book and Almanac articles. The debate about whether the piebald gene has always been present in Persians, or whether it represents something less than "pure" rages even today, and will likely never be settled, The fact remains that the earliest record of the organized cat fancy do list bi-colors and calicos, and that, despite efforts at culling these "spoiled Persians," the gene stubbornly survived, probably masked by white.

The tenaciousness of the gene is matched by the spirit of the pioneer bi-color and calico breeders in the.American cat fancy who have struggled against decks stacked with old wives' tales (some of which persist today) to accomplish recognition and advancement of these, the flashiest, most colorful of the Persians.

Calicos were accepted for Championship in CFA in 1953, thanks to the efforts of Dorothy Anderson Jay-Kay), but drowned in obscurity until the beginning of the decade of the Seventies, where "Firsts" for bi-colors/calicos came fast and furious:

  • 1970 - Bi-colors accepted for Championship, primarily due to the never-say-die spirit of Bobara Pendergrast (Olde Calico),
  • 1973 - First bi-color Grand Champion, Vogue's Sunny Side Up, a cream & white (Susan Ellsworth, breeder),
  • 1974 - First calico Grand Champion, Beirut's Wildfell (Dorothy Akers, breeder).
  • 1976 - First National win, GC, NW Lee's Chief White Cloud, a blue & white male, was CFA's 2nd Best Kitten (Bill & Gayle Lee, breeders).
  • 1977 - Vans accepted for Championship at October Board meeting, again with Bobara Pendergrast spearheading the effort. Also first National adult win, GC, NW Lee's Apricot Brandy Alexander, a cream &.white male, was CFA's 4th Best Cat (Bill & Gayle Lee, breeders).
  • 1979 - First bi-color Cat of the Year, GC, NW Clare.Way Cheers, a black & white fe male (Clare Johnson, breeder), Also that year Clare-Way Chaz, a black & white male, was National 3rd Best Kitten,

Enter, the decade of the Eighties. While Bobara Pendergrast pursued her next goal, the acceptance of the tabby & whites, and while Bill & Gayle Lee continued their dominance of the Grand Parade's bi-colors and calicos (with a cattery total of 17), other breeders across the country were becoming enchanted with the Persians in fancy dress, and the trickle of bi-colors and calicos in the show rings became a surge and then, before the close of the Eighties, a flood.

Those breeders who took up the bi-color torch in the late 70's, and who remain today, are as dedicated as their predecessors. They owe much to the pioneers who paved the way, and realized that their challenge was to develop the same consistency of type to be found in the solids and particolors. And what better way to accomplish this than to draw heavily on that winning solid gene pool? When we asked those breeders to tell us what cats/lines had the most impact on their breeding program, the answers read like a veritable Who's Who of Persians - national winning lines and DM's galore.

While the piebald patterning is reasonably, predictable within a range, these breeders had to face the frustrations of trying to achieve both type and pattern - preferably on the same kit. They can tell you how often best type in a litter is in direct inverse proportion to the best pattern. And they can outdo one another with stories of breeding beautifully marked bi- colors to beautifully marked bi-colors, and get- ting litters of all solid kittens, The old maxim, "You must build your house before you paint it" must, for bi-color breeders, read instead, "You must paint your house as you build it."

From CFA's records of Grand Champions and Grand Premiers , we find a dramatic annual increase in Grands from 8 in the 1979-80 show year, to 68 in 1988-89. Almost a full third (27%) of the 364 bi-color and calico Grands in the decade came from seven breeders who built their foundations in the 70's, and who hit the 80's with winning cats, with one from each region to accomplish the most consistent success.

  • North Atlantic Region - Anne Waddington (Anz) - 11 Grands
  • Northwest Region - Beverly Cain (Kashmur) - 12 Grands
  • Gulf Shore Region - Anna Sadler (Brannaway) - 14 Grands
  • Great Lakes Region - Doris Pape (Iran) - 13 Grands
  • Southwest Region - Vivian & Bud Gramer (Masnpas) - 21 Grands
  • Midwest Region - Lloyd & Janet Bernard (Bernard's P.T.S.) - 22 Grands
  • Southern Region - Jim & Anne Rambo (Rambo) - 8 Grands

Of this group, all continue to actively breed, with the exception of Bernard's P.T.S, after Janet Bernard's untimely death last year. Other Catteries in the eighties to enjoy considerable success with bi-colors and calicos in the show rings include: Arahn, Bar-B, Biloe, Charcrimson, Fleurelaine, Heathcliff, Harwood, Kitty Charm, Pajean, Shemlon, Toshika and Waymars.

Thirteen bi-color and calico National wins were recorded in the Eighties, including two Cats of the Year and two Kittens of the Year, Bill and Gayle Lee's beautiful cream & white male, GRC, NW Lee's Let the Sunshine in, swept into Cat of the Year in 198l with his immense, flowing coat and burnt orange eyes.

GC, NW Rambo's Rocky Mountain Sunrise captured Best Kitten in 1985, followed by Best Cat in 1986. Rocky's massive bone, incredible tophead and extreme type could not have been denied had he been purple instead of red & white.

Kitten of the Year, to close the decade of the Eighties, was Capodicapi Fruit Loops of Khaszar, bred and owned by Jill Marie Spero & Wayne McTighe. Fruit Loops displayed perfect balance, and sported a coat of many colors in the vivid patching hoped for in every calico.

Other landmark events of the decade included acceptance of the tabby & white for championship in 1985, followed quickly by the first Grand of this color, GC Kashrnur's Candi Dancer, a brown tabby & white bred and owned by Beverly Cain.

As more and more bi-colors and calicos were being shown, breeders and judges alike were chasing under a too-restrictive pattern standard. The 1988-89 show year saw implementation of standard changes passed by Breed Council and Board, that said in essence, "There is no such thing as too much white.' and while there can be too little, less white than what is described as a "preferred minimum" should be penalized proportionately with I 0 of the 20 points for color being allotted to pattern of white, and the other 10 to color," The mistaken impression still exists that there is a designated percentage of white ... this has never been a part of the standard. Nor does the standard call for symmetry, ideally, a bi-color or calico could be viewed from any angle with no mistaking what it is.

In February, 1989, the first bi-color/calico Distinguished Merit cat was confirmed, CH Brannaway Etch-a-Sketch, a calico van bred and owned by Anna Sadler. During the next two years, GRC Myshadows Miss Markie (a calico bred by Anne Sones, owned by Anne Waddington) and GRC Brannaway Cherry Bomb (a red mc tabby & white female bred and owned by Anna Sadier) were the 2nd and 3rd DMs, CRC Anz Nicholas Nickleby, (blue & white male bred and owned by Anne Waddington) was the fourth and the first male bi-color to DM, and GRC Thistledown Summer Candy (a van dilute calico bred and owned by Joanne Pringle) became the fifth.

The decade of the Nineties kicked off in grand fashion, with three National winners in 1989-90, including the first tabby & white to claim the honor, GRC, NW Kikikat's Answered Prayer, a silver tabby & white male bred and owned by Larry and Joann Miksa, CFA's 25th Best Cat. Second Best Kitten was Jorien's Southern Belle of Rambo, a calico bred and owned by Doreen & John Spencer, Jim & Anne Rambo and Ashley Reynolds, and Fourth Best Kitten was Anz Betty Boop, a black & white female bred and owned by Anne Waddington.

We asked a group of 25 bi-color breeders questions about how they viewed the Eighties, and what they see ahead for the Nineties.

The consensus is that overall type and refinement in both their own cats and in bi-colors as a whole has made enormous strides, but some bemoan the loss of the preferred pattern.

How can good pattern be built into a line? Responses to the survey range from "Use good pattern to get good pattern," to "It's just the luck of the draw," and "There is no predictable way, no consistency." It's "luck," Jim Rambo insists, so why worry about it? ... Go for type and body over pattern."

While the breeders we polled were almost evenly divided on whether there remains resistance from solid breeders to using cats from bi-color stock, they unanimously debunk the old bugaboo that the piebald factor is an extension of the gene producing lockets, and that solid kittens from bi-color parents will have/carry lockets. "Complete hogwash," Bill Lee calls it, and adds, "I can, however, make a good case for the fact that early English breeders may have used the bi-color to cover the fact that the locket genetic was prevalent in their lines."

Our respondents for the most part opposed this year's separate bi-color division. Edna Field says, "There are less Divisional points available, and a good bi-color can compete in the regular particolor class and receive more points." Joann Miksa feels that "by dividing the two divisions, you have ended up with two weaker divisions rather than one very strong division." Other breeders, though, liked the fact of "equal recognition."

The consensus seems to lean, though, toward the fact that the time has come to divide the colors into separate color classes.

We asked these breeders about their personal goals for the future. Never people to shirk a challenge, we received these answers.

"Nearly an entire cattery with national winning type and wonderful color," is Dorothy Perssons' ambition

"To see the bi-color class as large and competitive as the solid class," is what Darlene Feger hopes for.

Wendy Edwards predicts, "We are going to see a lot of the old, strictly solid breeders going into bi-colors and calicos because of the variety and the "flash" that can be had ... It must be so boring to see the same color and pattern over and over."

For these people, there are yet more challenges in the future, as the current Breed Council poll identifies. Again up for vote is a division of color classes. The tabby & white van pattem is looking for championship status, as is the smoke & white.

Perhaps most fascinating of the new possibilities is the request for championship of odd-eyed bicolors, which are cropping up in widely scattered litters. Fairly common in conjunction with the piebald pattern in other breeds, this appears to be a new phenomenon in the Persian bi-colors. One odd eyed black & white van male from two cats of Edna Field's breeding is being shown AOV in Canada and creating quite a stir. The pedigree shows the nearest solid white cat to be seven generations removed. Did the blue-eyed gene carry through the solid cats and wait for the piebald gene to manifest? Or was it carried through on the piebald gene?

Receiving somewhat less enthusiastic response from our survey respondents are the shaded bi-colors and pointed bi-colors, but breeders are currently working with these color combinations. In a brief article in which so many landmark Firsts, Mosts and Bests must be cataloged, it is nearly impossible for a writer to describe the years of dedicated effort necessary to produce the results that appear so matter-of-factly in show reports today. Or to describe the eager anticipation of and thrill of seeing each "Easter Basket" litter, every kitten's pattern being unique to itself. Because of the continuing challenges, breeding bi's seriously is not for the faint of spirit. But as more and more jump onto the bandwagon that began rolling with the determined breeders from the 70's and 80's, watch out, Solids ... here we come!