Learn more about the Exotic
Breed Article: Exotic
By Barbara Sims
Through the years, cat breeders have had visions of creating a cat fitting a unique image. The Himalayan is a good example of a great idea: a longhaired cat with the color markings of a Siamese. The Himmy is an example of an idea that caught the imagination of breeders and resulted in the acceptance of our beautiful pointed Persians.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE EXOTIC
This same creative instinct was in place when the Exotic was first envisioned. The Exotic vision started from more than one direction. Some thirty plus years ago, American Shorthair breeders on several fronts had an idea they felt would improve the color of their breed, and perhaps give them new directions for additional colors in their cats. They began to breed their American Shorthairs to Silver Persians in an effort to get the lovely silver coat color and green eye color. The resulting kittens from these breedings were pleasing to look at, but did not resemble true American Shorthairs. Be that as it was, sufficient outcrosses were being introduced from these breedings to catch the attention of Jane Martinke. She noticed that changes were gradually taking place in the American Shorthair type and coat texture. Jane, with her vision and foresight, saw both the harm that could be done to the American Shorthair breed through the continuation of these outcrosses, and also the possibilities presented by this adorable cat. In 1966, she proposed to the CFA Board of Directors the creation of a new breed.
The name originally proposed for this new breed was to be “Sterling,” from their beautiful silver color. These cats were to look like Persians, but with a short, plush coat. The original concept was to allow cats to transfer from American Shorthair classes to this new shorthaired class if they had been hybridized with Persians. The discussion over this new breed resulted in the development of the standard for the Exotic Shorthair. The standard was the same as that for the Persian except that, in the beginning, the cat did not need to have a nose break. Although originally the standard was intended to be written just for the silver color, all Persian colors were accepted into the new Exotic Shorthair breed right from the beginning. Also, even though the outcross was originally conceived as being a hybrid American Shorthair x Persian, the rules were broadly interpreted at first, and any CFA-registered shorthair could be used as a cross. Early breeders used American Shorthair and Burmese for their excellent body and moderate head; a few breeders used outcrosses to the Russian Blue for the plush double coat. To my knowledge, no oriental-type cats were used because of the complete opposite requirements in body type. Any breeder desiring a pointed Exotic had to cross to a Himalayan to achieve that outcome. It is very important to remember that, even though the shorthair gene was initially achieved through the outcross to many different breeds, early breeders made few such outcrosses. Once the original outcross was made, the shorthair offspring were taken right back to Persians, not back to shorthaired cats of other breeds. The goal from the beginning has been to create a Persian with short hair, so once the shorthair gene was introduced, no further outcrossing was necessary.
As I said in the beginning, many people had been inspired by the vision of the shorthaired Persian. Doris Walkingstick, Grayfire Cattery, speaks with great conviction of her “spirit” vision of a beautiful shorthaired silver Persian. She set out to breed such a cat and met with much success in the early days of the Exotic. She bred and exhibited CFA’s first Exotic grand champion, Grayfire Cheyenne. Doris went on to breed three other grands. Janice Walkingstick, Doris’s daughter, continues to breed Exotics under the Walkingstick cattery name.
Carolyn Bussey, of New Dawn Cattery, has been breeding cats since the early ’50s. Early in her career, in the latter part of the ’50s, she was determined to try to create a brown Persian. For her first cross she bred a Burmese, for the brown color, to a red tabby Persian. Because brown is recessive, the resulting kittens were black. Carolyn reports that they were adorable little kittens and the idea occurred to her then to create a shorthaired Persian. She worked toward that goal, registering her kittens with ACFA. (At that time there were very few CFA shows in the Northwest and Carolyn exhibited mostly in ACFA.) By the time Exotics were accepted in CFA, Carolyn already had a big jump on what was to become a very successful Exotic program. Although much has been said about Burmese in the background of the Exotic, Carolyn only outcrossed twice; once in the late ’50s and once again in the early ’60s. This means that by the time her cats were finally transferred to CFA registration, the Burmese crosses were already several generations back. Carolyn went on to have three national winning Exotics and twenty-four grand champions. Her cats are the foundation for many other Exotic lines. When Carolyn decided to breed white Exotics, she introduced top-winning Persian lines using a Babalong male, producing kittens with exceptional type.
SOME EARLY SUCCESS STORIES
In the early days of the Exotic, the breed was met with resistance from many Persian breeders. It was very difficult to get good Persian lines to work with. Many Persian breeders would not hear of having their lines being used to breed Exotics. This made early progress slow and difficult. Established Persian breeders who wanted to press the advancement of the Exotic found progress easier. One such early success story was Docia-Dao Cattery owned by Barbara and Don Yoder, who used their main Persian stud, Docia-Dao The Mug, a white masking smoke. They also outcrossed to a Burmese and soon had beautiful black smokes. Docia Dao Trilby did much to excite the fancy about this new breed. Trilby was the first national winning Exotic. She achieved three national wins, a record that has yet to be broken by another Exotic. Trilby received 2nd Best Kitten and 18th Best Cat in 1973 and 9th Best Cat in 1974. Docia-Dao Cattery also had the Best Kitten in 1974 with Docia-Dao Supercat and, in 1975, had the 3rd Best Kitten with Docia-Dao Super Colossal. Though the Yoders met with much early success, they bred Exotics only on a limited basis. There is very little, if any, of their bloodline remaining behind today’s Exotics. The Yoders quit breeding altogether in 1980 and Trilby and others were spayed.
Kalamar’s Sweet Pea of Swany followed close behind Trilby achieving two national wins. She was 2nd Best Kitten to Supercat in 1974, and in 1975 was 3rd Best Cat. Sweet Pea was bred by Cal and Marge Lee and owned by Don Swanson.
In 1976, Don Swanson bred Swany’s That Other Woman, a blue female who achieved Best Shorthair Kitten. In 1978, Swany’s Jade of Chateau Blanc achieved 17th Best Cat. Don used Kalamar Exotics and a Persian male, Simbelair Fanfare, as the basis for his line. Swany’s Red Trumpeter of Dala, a longhaired Exotic (Fanfare x Sweet Pea), bred back to his dam produced GC Dala Twilight Zone of Grandaries. Twilight Zone was 16th Best Cat nationally in 1983.
Desmin, a long established CFA Cattery of Excellence, is still producing fine Exotics today. Johanna Leibfarth registered her cattery in 1972 and began working to produce color-bred blue Exotics. Her union with Chandelle Cattery (Ed, her future husband) continued the successful breeding, adding the beautiful bi-colors. Johanna bred the first Exotic DM, Desmin Dawne of Kapa. Johanna also served as Exotic Breed Council Secretary and has written much of the history of the Exotic in Yearbook and Almanac articles. Johanna’s Desmin Cattery should rightfully be proud of its 27 Exotic grands.
In 1973, Sue Fraser of Lion House Cattery, began breeding Exotics. Her first Exotics came from Leprechaun Cattery. She then acquired GC Lowlands Tom Cat of Lion House. Tom produced many fine cats for Sue, including one very special to me, GC, GP Lion House Fast Freda of Bard. In 1984, GC Lionhouse Marvelous Mavis was Second Best of Breed nationally. Sue reports that she now only has one cat left in her breeding program that goes back to “Tom Cat.” In recent years Sue has been producing lovely blacks, whites, and bi-colors.
My husband Jim and I began breeding cats in 1969 as Bard Cattery and entered into Exotic breeding in 1974. Don and Barbara Yoder’s Trilby was my inspiration. Through the years I have had many different colors, but I seem to have narrowed my range to white, black, brown tabby and now, a small venture into bi-colors. I have served the past four years as Exotic Breed Council Secretary. I am proud of the eleven grand champion Exotics of my own breeding, and I have enjoyed showing and granding six Exotics from other catteries. Several of these cats became both grand champions and grand premiers.
GC Cyndi-Kits Paper Tiger certainly made his mark on the Exotic world. Jane Stephens began breeding Exotics in 1980 and Paper Tiger was her foundation male for many years. “P.T.” was out of Squire’s Zuper Hot and Cyndi-Kits Faline. P.T. was the male we all dream of who consistently threw kittens with his same wide-open, sweet look. Many catteries that are today breeding brown and blue tabbies have P.T. somewhere in their pedigree. As well as being known for her tabbies, Jane also produced many lovely bi-colors from Cyndi-Kits Eric.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE STANDARD
From the beginning, the standard for the Exotic was written with the goal of creating a Persian with a shorter, more care-free coat. Early breeders outcrossed to shorthairs to get the shorthair gene and then continued to take those cats back to Persians to get closer to the Persian standard. As the Persian standard evolved, so did the standard of the Exotic. As Persians became more “typy,” so did the Exotic. As the breed became more popular, more and more Persian breeders were willing to allow their lines to be used in Exotic breeding programs and even began breeding Exotics themselves.
The original Exotic standard did not call for the nose to have a break because early Exotics came from American Shorthairs which did not have a break, and the board felt that it would be unfair to have the nose break requirement. As the Exotics came closer to the Persian standard, in 1973 the words “with break” were added to the standard.
In 1975, allowable outcrosses were narrowed to Persian and American Shorthair which means that Burmese and other shorthair breeds have not been allowed for 21 years. The Exotic standard stayed almost the same until 1978, at which time the breed council felt that there should be more emphasis placed on the unique plush coat of the Exotic. At that time, the points allotted for condition were removed and added to the coat, thus giving the coat 20 points.
The standard remained relatively the same for almost ten years. For the 1987-88 show season the “balance” section was created, and points for this new section were taken from the points allotted to head. The disqualify section was expanded to conform to the Persian standard. At this same time, American Shorthairs were removed from allowable outcrosses. For the past nine years, the Exotic’s only allowable cross has been to the Persian. Indeed, CFA litter registration statistics show that for the five years prior to the Exotic x American Shorthair cut-off, only five percent of Exotic litters registered had an American Shorthair parent. By the 1980s, the gene pool was broad enough that it was no longer felt to be beneficial to “re-invent the wheel” by going back to the shorthair outcross.
Beginning with the 1990 show season, the Exotic standard was completely realigned to be identical to the Persian standard except for the coat description. Exotic breeders voted to do this by an 89% margin. The time had come. After 23 years of breeding Exotics, breeders felt that there was no doubt that the plush-coated Persian was on its way. It was agreed that thereafter Exotics would include in their standard any changes made to the Persian standard.
Color changes through the years have kept up with newly added Persian colors. In 1985, the Exotic Breed Council voted to automatically accept any new Persian colors added to the standard. At the February 1990 board meeting, the board ruled this policy unconstitutional. Currently, all proposed color changes are voted on by both the Persian and Exotic councils. If a new color is accepted by the Persian council and also accepted by the Exotic council and passed by the board, it becomes a new color for the Exotic and the Persian.
THE EXOTIC NUMBERING SYSTEM
The color numbering system for the Exotics is based on the color numbering system of the Persian. For example, a black Persian male is 0108, a black Exotic male is 7708, a black colorpoint-carrying Persian male is 3008, and a colorpoint carrying black Exotic male is 7508. Our numbering system hits a snag, however, when identifying the longhair Exotics. An AOV number (7798 and 7799) exists for all longhair colors. However, many times CFA issues a regular Exotic color number to these cats. Often the breeder does not know that this is not correct; therefore, we do not have an accurate account of how many longhair Exotics are really out there. It would be helpful to have a color number and a coat indicator such as an L after the number to indicate a longhair (a black longhair Exotic male would be 7708L) This year’s registration statistics show AOV registrations number fifth among all Exotic colors registered. But all AOV longhairs, no matter what color, are given the same number. Regardless of what the future holds for the Exotic, both longhair and shorthair, they will continue to carry their own unique number just as the Himalayan carries its identifying number. Numbering systems are designed to help breeders make informed choices in their breeding programs.
Breeding Exotics can be filled with frustration. From the beginning, the goal has always been to create a cat that looked like a Persian with a short, plush coat. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so. In the beginning, over 30 years ago, breeders used a variety of shorthaired cats. Most used American Shorthairs, some used Burmese and a few used Russian Blues. The purpose in using these cats was to get the shorthair gene. Once this was accomplished, shorthair progeny of the first outcross were bred back to Persians. A common misconception seems to be that this outcrossing was done a lot. Although many of the original Exotic breeders are no longer breeding, pedigree research shows a few outcrosses. This outcrossing was done so long ago that it is difficult to trace far enough back on most Exotic pedigrees to find the original shorthair cross. By the ’80s Exotics had established Persian type and there was no need to outcross to other breeds. The Persian gene pool was large and breeders could go in many directions for color and type. When CFA established group one and group two (longhair and shorthair) in 1984, the Exotic was moved to the group one, or longhair, class. The board felt that this was a Persian-type cat and should be judged in the same specialty as the Persians. By doing so, CFA acknowledged that the Exotic was indeed a Persian!
Most Exotics today have top Persian bloodlines in their pedigrees. Persian breeders today do not seem to have a problem with their cats being used in Exotic breeding programs. In fact, many Persian breeders have tried Exotics at one time or another. Breeding Exotics can become very frustrating and sometimes discouraging because of the number of longhair kittens produced. The longhair kittens in the litter may be used in Exotic breeding programs, but they will breed the same as a Persian. They must be bred to a shorthair in order to throw shorthair kittens. Bred to a longhair, Exotic or Persian, all the kittens would be longhair. It can be very discouraging to have a beautiful kitten that has no place in the show ring. Exotic breeders want the same right as Himalayan breeders, to be able to champion and grand deserving cats. Our primary concern is giving these cats a chance to compete. The following is a short course in coat and color genetics from Dr. Heather Lorimer: “For informational purposes, dilute color, pointedness, and longhair are all recessives and can therefore be carried, hidden, essentially forever by cats that have the dominant phenotype (dense color, non-pointed, shorthair). Thus, two lilac point Balis or Persians could only throw more of the same, whereas two ebony Oriental Shorthairs or Exotic Shorthairs could throw longhair, dilute, and/or pointed if they carried the appropriate genes.” The dream of all Exotic breeders is to have a homozygous shorthair. This is a cat that will have only shorthair offspring, even when bred to a longhair. These cats are not easy to come by and the only way to determine which cat is homozygous is through breeding. A homozygous Exotic can only result from a breeding of shorthair to shorthair and, in most cases, grandparents need to be shorthairs also. Because all of our cats carry the recessive longhair gene it is impossible to eliminate all longhair kittens. It has been a difficult task to maintain the proper plush coat and type through repeated generations of short to short breeding.
EXOTIC MORSE CODE – SHORTS AND LONGS
Once your breeding is done and the kittens arrive, then comes the wait to see which are longhairs and which are shorthairs. Here are some tips gathered from Exotic breeders on how to make an educated guess. While the kittens are still wet the longhair coat may have a wavy appearance. After the kittens are dry, rub the hair backwards on the back of the cat. The shorthair kittens will have a more bristly feel to the coat. Hold the kitten up to the light and look at the hair on the top of its head. The shorthair kittens will have a halolike appearance with guard hair sticking slightly above the other hair. Now that your predictions have been made it is time to sit back and wait to see if you are right. For the first two to three weeks, as the hair grows, sometimes it is hard to tell. At about three weeks, when they all look fuzzy and you wonder what is going on, don’t get discouraged. A good rule of thumb is to watch the tails on the kittens. The longhair kittens will have tails that resemble little Christmas trees. The hair on the tails of the shorthairs will stay short. I personally find white kittens the most difficult to predict. I have been fooled by the whites more than once. As the kittens reach eight or nine weeks and you are sure you know which is which, you may look one day at your favorite shorthair kitten and it looks like someone stuck its tail in a light socket. The guard hairs are sticking out all over giving the kitten a spiky appearance. No, it is not time to get the stripping comb, it is time to be patient. Kittens that go through this stage usually end up having excellent thick, plush coats. This is seldom seen in the judging ring because it is usually gone by the time the kitten is four months old. The strange thing about this spiky coat is that it seems to disappear overnight. One day you look at the kitten and realize that the coat is all evened out as if by magic.
Although the Exotic started off to be a silver cat, much has changed through the years. The most popular colors now, according to CFA statistics, are black, tortoiseshell, red tabby, brown tabby and recently, the bi-color. I think that further analysis would show a direct correlation to colors that are popular in Persians. Remember not so long ago when there might be 15 black Persians in a show? Is it any wonder that we have a lot of top notch black Exotics? And where did the Torties come from? Why, all the blacks, of course. Colors seem to go in cycles. (I guess that means that I have been around too long. I am now starting to see the cycle start over again!)
RECENT HISTORY OF THE BREED
Werner and Irene Kachel, Bryn Mawr Cattery, began breeding Exotics in the late ’70s. At that time, Exotics were considered shorthair cats and Werner used the Exotic as one of his breeds for the shorthair judging program. The Kachels have had three national winning Exotics. This past season, GC, NW Bryn Mawr Bugsy Malone finished as 4th Best Cat. We are pleased to have Bugsy on the cover of this month’s Almanac. The Kachels are also the proud owners of CFA’s fourth Exotic Distinguished Merit cat, GC, NW Jovan Miss USA of Bryn Mawr, DM.
When Cheryl and Bob Lorditch, Jovan Cattery, began using their lovely Persians to breed Exotics, no one could possibly have imagined the impact that they would have on the breed. What they did for the breed was astounding. They lead the list in number of grands produced, have eight national winners and gave the Exotic worldwide recognition. In 1991, GC, NW Jovan the Legend was CFA’s Cat of the Year. This is an honor many breeds have yet to attain. The following year, GC, NW Jovan Cheers was CFA’s Best Kitten. The Jovan “look” is a hallmark for us all.
While Jovan has been busy on the East Coast, Becky Orlando, of Becton Cattery, has been busy on the West Coast. Becky has produced many lovely Exotics with the trademark “Becton eyes.” Becton has had numerous regional and two national winning cats. Her cats are sought after by breeders who like the wide-open, sweet expression her Exotics are famous for. Becton’s Miss Behavin was the third Exotic to become a DM.
At the time of writing, there are five Exotic DMs. They are all females. I am sure that Exotics have contributed to the DM status of many Persians as well. The first DM was Desmin Dawne of Kapa, a blue Exotic female. Dawne was bred by Johanna Dobler Leibfarth and owned by Chuck Hickman. She achieved her DM in April of 1984. It would be nine years before the next DM, Telone Plain Jane, a tortie female bred and owned by Teresa and Linda Nelson, received her DM in April of 1993. 1995 was a very good year with three new Exotic DMs. In February of 1995, Becton’s Miss Behavin achieved her DM. She is also a tortie bred by Becky Orlando. Becky reports her accomplishments as follows: Miss Behavin is the mother of eight CFA grands (six one-show grands), six regional winners, one national breed winner and two national winners (one premier and one kitten). She did all this by the age of three-and-a-half! Congratulations! That is an accomplishment to be proud of! Becky reports that Miss Behavin is now spayed and living happily in a pet home. The fourth DM, and the second in 1995, is GC, NW Jovan Miss USA of Bryn Mawr, a brown mackerel tabby female bred by Bob and Cheryl Lorditch and owned by Werner and Irene Kachel. Miss USA achieved her title in April of 1995. The fifth DM, and the third in 1995, was Ziegfelds Barette of Luvlypurr, a red tabby female bred by Ron and Bobby Zibble. She is owned by Mike Jones, Paul Patton and Brian Pearson. Barette received her title in October of 1995.
Breeding Exotics is certainly a challenge. Throughout the history of our breed there have been many catteries that have made their mark on Exotic history. Some catteries, unfortunately, are not still actively breeding. I am sure that I have omitted catteries that should have been mentioned, and for that I am very sorry. I have tried to highlight catteries that are still actively breeding or that have made a significant contribution to the breed. In the articles mentioned in my bibliography, there are many other catteries mentioned. As a tribute to catteries that have made a significant contribution, here is a list of catteries that have had ten or more grands. They are listed in order from highest number to lowest number according to my records at the time of writing this article. The catteries are: Jovan, Desmin, New Dawn, Lion House, Becton, Dancecats, Bard, Cyndi-Kits, Docia-Dao.
The Exotic has been the center of a major controversy in CFA for the past several years. Questions have been raised about its place in the fancy. Where do these cats belong? What is their breed classification? Should the longhairs be accepted? If so, as what? Since 1984, when CFA established different groupings for longhair and shorthair cats, breeders have begun to question the rightful place of the Exotic. With the acceptance of the Himalayan as a Pointed Persian, still more questions were raised. Has the Exotic established its confirmation to the Persian standard so that we are no longer producing a hybrid-type animal? Have we become established in our own right? Isn’t 30 years enough time to establish a breed? This has become a very emotional issue, and, as a result, some facts get misinterpreted. I have attempted to outline the facts. The future of the breed and what is to become of our longhair kittens is still undecided. The cat fancy must change and grow. Breeds develop and change. Just look at our Persians and Exotics of 10 or 15 years ago. What changes we have made! Regardless of what may happen, the Exotic is a cat with much to offer the cat fancy and the pet-buying public as well. To the public, the concept of a shorthaired Persian is no harder to understand than that of a rough- or smooth-coated Collie, for example. Many breeds of cats and dogs have short- and longhaired varieties. Many people love the Persian but lack the commitment it takes to care for a long coat. A Persian is more than just a long coat. A Persian is a heavy, stocky body, short tail and, most of all, that adorable flat face with the sweet expression. Let’s give people choices and options. Through CFA’s comprehensive numbering system it is possible to give breeders a chance to make informed decisions about cats they choose to use in their breeding programs. Above all, let’s look to the future. We have learned from the past that variety strengthens the fancy. Breeding is an outlet for creating, improving and making our chosen breed more beautiful.
Thanks to all who helped on this article and all who sent pictures. Thanks to Mary Jane Tesdall who is doing a lot of Exotic pedigree research. Thanks to CFA Central Office for supplying information that I asked for to help with the writing of this article.
1. “A Cat Ahead of Its Time,” Phil Maggitti. CFA Almanac, June 1985.
2. “An Exotic Dilemma,” Johanna Leibfarth. CFA Almanac, December 1988.
3. “The Exotic Shorthair,” Rosemond S. Peltz and Joan S. Uzee. CFA Yearbook, 1972.
4. “Exotic Shorthairs, The Long and the Short of It.” Johanna Leibfarth. CFA Almanac, August 1990.
5. “The Extraordinary ‘Exotic,'” Marna Fogarty. CFA Yearbook, 1977.
6. “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Johanna Leibfarth. CFA Yearbook, 1985.
7. “White Persians…A Ball of Fluff,” Vicki Dickerson. CFA Yearbook, 1983.