by Carissa Altschul

Originally published in The Cat Fanciers’ Yearbook, 2011

“The early history of calico and bi-color Persians has been chronicled in past CFA Yearbook 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 records 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.”

This quote, taken from Anna Sadler’s article “Bi-Color and Calico Persians: The 80’s and 90’s” published in CFA Almanac in March of 1991, is amazingly applicable to the present day discussion of breed purity.

GC, NW Cacao Make Everything Magical,
brown tabby and white male.
CFA’s 15th Best Cat, 2009
Br/Ow: Janet and Carissa Altschul.

To summarize the historical information presented in past articles, here is a bi-color timeline:

  • Mid-late 1800s – First Longhair Bi-Color and calico cats imported from areas of Persia and Turkey into England.
  • Early 1900s – Longhair Calicos and Bi-Colors shown in both England and America, however, they were not popular in England, considered to be “spoilt” solids.
  • 1900s-1930s – Bi-colors fall out of favor, recommendations of “culling” Bi-Color kittens (considered to be “spoilt” colors) in breeding manuals.
  • 1930s – Bi-Colors and Calicos are no longer allowed in Championship.
  • 1955 – Calicos are accepted for Championship.
  • 1970 – Bi-Colors are accepted for Championship.
  • 1973 – First Bi-Color Grand Champion.
  • 1974 – First Calico Grand Champion.
  • 1976 – First National Kitten Win.
  • 1977 – Vans accepted for Championship and first National adult win.
  • 1979 – First Bi-Color Cat Of The Year.
  • 1985 – Tabby and White Bi-Colors accepted for Championship.
  • 1989 – First Bi-Color Distinguished Merit.
  • 1999 – Blue and Odd-Eyed Bi-colors accepted for Championship.
  • 2003 – Van description removed from the Persian Calico and Bi-Color Division Breed Standard. Voted on by the Breed Council Fall 2002, passed at the February 2003 Board Meeting and effective May 1, 2003.
  • 2003 – First Odd-Eyed Bi-Color Grand Champion.
  • 2010 – First Chocolate series Bi-Color Grand Champion (a lilac and white.)
GC Ceylon Color Me Crazy of Warkatz, lilac and white male.
CFA’s First lilac bi-color grand champion, 2010.
Br: Arturo Rios and Chasity McCarty.
Ow: Alma Ward and Chasity McCarty.

To be sure, the Calico and Bi-Color Division has become one the strongest divisions in CFA’s Persian breed. Each and every year, cats from this division continue to demonstrate their far-reaching appeal. Yet the history of this incredible division has become distorted and stretched to such an extent that new breeders are often at a loss to explain the existence of these colors in the Persian breed.

Unquestionably, bi-colors have existed in the Persian breed since before the founding of CFA. They were imported as “Longhairs” from the areas of Persia and Turkey in the mid-late 1800s. It is important to note that the term “Persian” did not come about until the 1950s. Prior to that time, all “Longhair” cats were grouped into one division, and “breeds” were actually colors. (Blue Longhairs were considered a division/breed, rather than being called Blue Persians).

English breeders in the late 1800s and early 1900s preferred the solid colors and thus selected for them almost exclusively. The bi-color gene was suppressed to such an extent that it all but disappeared, kept alive only hidden behind the solid white gene. Early American breeders enjoyed the variety bi-colors brought to their programs. However, by the 1930s, most American breeders had fallen in line with the English beliefs that “with white” Longhairs were “spoilt” colors and should not be bred. As in England, the persistence of the bi-color gene was only preserved when hidden behind the solid white gene.

In the 1940s, interest began anew in the “with white” gene. Previous articles have well-documented the lengthy and sometimes heart-rending struggles of the “new” pioneers into the Calico and Bi-color Division. Suffice it is to say that today’s bi-colors owe their existence to the hard work and tears of a few very determined breeders from that time period.

GC, NW Couronne Big Bad Billy, red and white male.
CFA’s 14th Best Cat, 2007
Br: Lynn Jacobs. Ow: Sharon Rogers-Pichotta.

Breed purity has become a very hot topic in the last decade. The major question being how exactly can “pure” be defined? Some suggest purity can be defined by “X” number of years or generations. Another way might be by a rigorous and lengthy study of pedigrees, however that generally leads to the question can the pedigrees be trusted? Another way that might be considered would be simply to protect the “parent” breeds from offshoots attempting to merge back into the parent breed.

This final way might be the best solution, as well as the most easily defined. To put it simply, if a breed defines itself by using one or more other breeds and for a period of time, exists as its own separate breed, then it would be considered pure to itself, but never pure to any of the parent breeds. Applying this to bi-colors, they have never existed outside of the Persian breed, or, pre- Persian terminology, outside the breed of “Longhair,” therefore, they have always been part of the Persian breed.



Since 1998, the bi-color class has expanded well beyond the traditional colors and variations seen in previous decades and moved in several different directions. From blue eyes to silver tabbies, smokes to pointeds, chocolates and more, the Calico and Bi-Color Division has expanded in unprecedented fashion.

Perhaps the key to understanding the appeal of bi-colors is understanding the genetics of the piebald (bi-color) gene. Firstly, the piebald gene is a dominant gene, meaning it always expresses itself when present (it cannot be carried in the recessive form. The only exception to this is suppression by the “solid white” gene, which can suppress (or mask) all genes for “color,” dominant or recessive.) Second, the piebald gene is unpredictable. This is probably what draws most breeders to the Calico and Bi-Color Division. In all other divisions, the allocation of color and/or markings can be predicted with rudimentary Punnet squares or statistical tables allocating a percentage of likelihood to get “X” color or pattern in a particular mating. Still, there is yet to be a reliable method to accurately predict the exact allocation of white – and where that white will be present – with the piebald gene.

While some assumptions can be made, such as breeding two cats of “high white” or “van” pattern will produce a high likelihood of offspring with similar amounts of white, the exact patterning of color and white can never be accurately predicted. Thus, each litter of bi-color kittens contains the element of surprise and wonder that has never quite been matched in any other division.

Another interesting draw of bi-colors would be the ability to combine the appeal of other divisions with the “with white” pattern. A breeder who is drawn to the rich color of solids might also find themselves enjoying the solid pattern with white. A breeder who enjoys the challenge of keeping a solid white groomed to perfection can find that challenge in the Calico and Bi-Color Division in the “high white” pattern. Both tabby and smoke enthusiasts can also find their niches in the Calico and Bi-Color Division.

Among new breeders, many have found their path leading to bi-colors to conquer the challenges of the “firsts” not yet accomplished. In many of the other Persian Divisions, growth has become static perhaps due partly to the fact that most, if not all, of the “firsts” have been accomplished and newer breeders can only repeat the feats of the past. In bi-colors, there are many “firsts” yet to be had; thus new breeders are able to strive to be the ones to accomplish those firsts and assure themselves a place in bi-color history.

Of the “firsts” yet to be accomplished, some are on the cusp of being accomplished. In the next decade, CFA will probably see at least one of the following: a smoke or shaded bi-color achieve the title of National Winner; more “firsts” in the chocolate series bi-colors reaching Grand; chocolate series bi-colors achieving Regional Wins.

A “first” that is not as close to being achieved would be the acceptance of the pointed bi-colors. This can primarily be attributed to two factors. The first being that breeders of pointed Persians, or Himalayans, prefer to work strictly with their pointed colors. To introduce the bi-color pattern would require the production of non-pointed color-point carrier offspring as the “mid-point” to producing a bi-color point. Additionally, many breeders of the pointed Persians prefer the traditional 8 points of color (face, tail, ears, and feet.) Since the majority of bi-colors have white on their feet and face, some of the points would be “lost” in the bi-color pattern. The second drawback on the pointed bi-colors is a lack of consensus on which division they best belong in. Some breeders believe that all cats with the pointed restricted pattern (Himalayan) belong in the Himalayan Division. However, the other point of view argues pointed bi-colors belong in the Calico and Bi-Color Division for two reasons. First, the piebald gene cannot be restricted the “points,” and second, the fact that all other divisions when combined with the piebald gene were put in the Calico and Bi-Color Division (solid and white, parti- color and white, smoke and white, tabby and white). The second view has more support and more history, but until the breeders can agree, the pointed bi-colors are mired in AOV status.

The first odd-eyed and blue-eyed bi-colors have achieved the title of Grand Champion, however, there has yet to be one to achieve the title of Regional or National winner to this date.

Considering the quality of the bi-colors representing these colors, it is expected they will quickly rise to the challenges ahead. Without a doubt, the blue and odd-eyed bi- colors have become some of the most sought-after bi-colors of the last decade. This quote from Anna Sadler’s CFA Almanac article was incredibly accurate: “Perhaps most fascinating of the new possibilities is the request for championship of odd-eyed bi-colors, which are cropping up in widely scattered litters.” Anna Sadler, Bi- Color and Calico Persians: The 80’s and 90’s.


Anna’s prediction in 1991 proved to be true, as the blue and odd-eyed bi-colors have slowly but surely developed a near cult-like following since their acceptance in 1999. Perhaps the person who can speak best to the dramatic rise of these variations would be Laura Thomas of Purrinlot. Laura is responsible for breeding both the first odd-eye bi-color grand champion and the first and, currently only, blue eyed bi-color grand champion. The following is the story in her pursuit for the elusive blue eyes in bi-colors.

by Laura Thomas of Purrinlot

In 1996 I had a vision of breeding blue-eyed tabby bi-color Persians. I’d never seen one, and I didn’t even know if there was such a thing. In fact, I was told that none existed and that even if it did, it could never be registered. So I went on a quest to find a way not only to make one, but also to register and show it. That was the beginning of Purrinlot’s bi-color Persian program.

In May 1999, CFA approved blue-eyed and odd-eyed bi-colors for championship status. As a member of the Calico and Bi-Color Division of the Persian Breed Council, I voted for this ruling and looked forward to the day when I could show a blue-eyed or odd-eyed bi-color I had bred.

I began by doing pedigree research on two Persians I had purchased – a patched tabby female and a blue-white genetic van male. I really didn’t know what I was looking for when I looked at various pedigrees, so I purchased the yearbooks of the previous ten years and began looking up cats, especially those within my two pedigrees: CH, PR Marhei Magic Marquer of Purrinlot (aka Marquer) and CH Catillak Judgement Day of Purrinlot (aka Judge). To my surprise, I actually saw many of the cats from my pedigrees in the CFA Yearbook grand parades.

I made notes on the cats behind the cats and looked for good and bad qualities. Once I finished, I called Anna Sadler and picked her brain. My foundation male, Judge, had about 85 percent Brannaway behind him, so I figured Anna could help me to know what was in his pedigree.

Anna listed all the advantages and disadvantages of every cat behind Judge. She told me how each ancestor had died and at what age. She explained which lines blended well and which did not. She said that Marhei was a great line to blend with hers, and since I happened to have already purchased a Marhei female, I felt I had taken two steps forward. Anna shared her heart with me that day, but she never once mentioned that she was trying to create a blue-eyed Persian bi-color.

I studied everything Anna told me and began looking for a few more females to bring into my program to help me on my quest for a blue-eyed. My goal was to have a show cat with eyes that were of a nice shade of blue. This was of the utmost importance to me. I wanted to make certain that when I finally produced a blue-eyed bi-color Persian, the cat wasn’t pet quality, didn’t have a long nose, or, worse yet, have eyes so weak in color that they were washed-out looking. So as I researched the pedigrees Anna told me about, I knew to look for certain lines for health and type and to avoid others. But how would I figure out when and where to bring in the blue eyes?

My first thought was to bring in a white Persian, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the challenge of grooming and showing in the solid class. I joined a few fanciers’ lists and began asking questions related to eye color. I then purchased several books on genetics. I began by studying genetics of the human eye, then of monkeys, dogs, and even turtles. As I read and researched, I started getting a feel for eye genetics.

I know that genetic experts claim that there is no such thing as a eye color “gene”. However, I found it easier to understand how the eye-color is produced if I simply called it a gene instead of getting technical and using terms that could be confusing. So as I thought about what produced a blue-eyed bi-color, I called it a gene and treated it like a gene. To this day, I honestly can’t discuss genetics using the correct terminology, yet I seem to have an inner understanding of how it works.

I decided that the best way to make a blue-eye bi-color would be to increase my percentages. When I spoke to people about my dream and they asked how I planned to accomplish it, I told said, “By upping my percentages.” Almost nobody who knew what I was planning thought it would ever happen. Nevertheless, I kept reading pedigrees and acting on what I call a gut feeling.

I looked at making the blue-eyed bi-color as I would a quilt. I believed that the odd-eyed “gene” of the bi-colors was like the backing, the first big piece of the quilt. Then I needed to find more pieces that would blend in.

I needed a very tight yet outcrossed pedigree. I call each side of the pedigree a leg. Each cat has a pedigree made up of two legs. The father’s side of a cat’s pedigree is one leg and the mother’s side is the other leg. Each of the cats within that pedigree also has two legs. What I was looking for was a very tight side on the pedigree with a slight blend on the second side yet with cats from the first leg still blended into the second leg. This is how my percentages started growing.

Patience and faith became my main supports as I continued my quest to add a blue-eyed bi-color to my program. For years I waited for a blue-eye Persian as I put the pedigree percentages to the test. It took me about three years before I finally decided to add solid whites to my program and blend them into the bi-color. And it took me another few years to discover that the whites wouldn’t help my blue-eyed quest at all! The white was dominant, which meant that every white masked the bi-color yet none had blue eyes unless they were indeed white. So I stopped blending the whites and began building two things in particular–tabby alleles and piebald genes.

I doubled up on Anna Sadler’s 85-percent pedigree. First, I bred my 50 percent Marhei girl, Marquer, to Judge. No whites were in these pedigrees, but both the piebald and tabby were there. The result was GC Purrinlot’s Seven-of-Nine, DM (aka Seven). Then I bred Seven back to Judge. To my surprise, the percentage game worked incredibly well. Seven birthed not one, but two, odd-eyed bi-color Persians, one of which became CFA’s first odd-eyed Bi-Color Grand Champion Persian–GC Purrinlot Jacob Said- My Eyes Is Me (aka Jacob).

When Jacob was born, I learned from Anna Sadler that she had the same vision I did. This was the first time I had heard about her dream. She told me how she had been trying for years to make a blue-eyed bi-color. I suppose that’s why Anna’s pedigree was strong enough in the percentage game to make Jacob and his sister Promise.

I was also blessed with a Kramkattens female whose genes would be part of the next set blended into the Purrinlot foundation. CH Kramkattens GodGif2me of Purrinlot was an odd- eyed red tabby and white bi-color Persian. For this female, I needed an outcross male that fit the pedigree percentage I had been working toward. That’s when GC Brannaway Here’s Mud In Your Eye (aka Mud), a copper-eyed brown tabby and white van male, became available.

I felt it was such an honor to be able to own this wonderful boy, and I knew from the bottom of my heart that he would be the father of my blue-eyed bi-color program. It was something I just knew. I had that gut feeling I get when I know it’s right. Oddly enough, this boy’s father, GC, BW, NW Wishstar Triumph, DM started popping out odd-eye bi-colors right about the time I was to get Mud.

I considered myself privileged to have been able to build my bi-color program from Anna’s Brannaway lines. To be honored with a second male from her lines was a gift indeed! Based on this blessing, I was able to build not only my first Purrinlot tier, but my second as well, and I promised that I would name a special baby after Anna.

When Mud arrived, he wasn’t interested in breeding. I figured he missed Anna, who had just gone to heaven, and that he would breed when he was ready. So I waited for a little more than a year. During the same period, my odd-eye female didn’t go into heat. Then one afternoon, Mud sauntered past me, grabbed the neck of GodGif2me, and had his way with her. I hadn’t even noticed that she was in heat, but Mud sure knew! At that moment, I just knew they had just made a blue-eyed bi-color. And they had!

In April of 2005, GC Purrinlot Anna’s Gift became CFA’s first blue-eyed bi-color Persian to grand, and she did it in only two shows and one ring. Anna’s Gift cycled very heavily and I had to pull her after showing her for a few months. I was more concerned about her being able to have offspring than going for a higher title than Grand Champion. However, in my opinion, she had already brought me the highest honors I could have achieved as a tabby bi-color breeder. In 2007 she was awarded Best of Breed Persian, Calico and Bi-color Division Southern Region; Best Tabby and White, Southern Region; and Best Tabby and White Nationally. These smaller color class titles proved that my breeding program was a success.

There are still a few lines I would love to bring into my program, such as some of the older lines of Harwood and Artemis that came from the original Marhei line. I’m also interested in adding a touch of Pansypatch. So far none of my pedigrees have these lines, although all of them have a dab of the percentages I’m looking for in an old-line pedigree.

As of today, I’ve bred and shown many bi-colors with both blue and odd eyes, have had four different males help create blue and odd-eyed offspring, and am in my fifth and sixth generation of blue and odd-eyed bi-color Persians. Without a doubt, I’m a breeder first and foremost. I do hope that someday the bi-color class is packed full of Anna’s dream of blue-eyed bi-color Persians!


Like any other division, bi-colors have their own issues that today’s breeders must address to decide the future of the bi-color. Perhaps the most controversial of those issues can be best called “breeding the color off the cat.”

To understand this dilemma, one must first appreciate the diversity of bi-color patterns. Bobara Pendergrast (Olde Calico) created a diagram (see right and below) that is used to this day to describe the eight most common variations of the bi-color pattern.

For decades, the CFA bi-color standard called for a particular pattern of bi-color, that described in number four of Pendergrast’s drawing. White feet, legs, shoulders, hips, “collar,” and the inverted “V” on the face. The second pattern most favored since its acceptance in 1977 is the “Van” pattern described in number eight. As the years progressed, bi-color breeders decided to break away from the prescribed pattern of number four and re-wrote the standard to only describe the minimum amount of white preferred on a bi-color cat. Since the standard only called for a minimum of white, but not a minimum of color, bi-color breeders began actively breeding for as much white as they could get on a bi-color. As far as most bi-color breeders are concerned, “the more white, the better.”

Additionally, when breeding with high white or “van” pattern cats, bi-color breeders could be virtually assured of producing all bi-color kittens in their litters. Since most bi-color breeders only wanted to work with bi-colors, high white and “van” pattern has become very desirable in breeding programs. This breeding philosophy has produced some strikingly marked bi-colors – similar to the numbers five, six, and seven on Pendergrast’s diagram, nevertheless, it has produced several dilemmas both inside and outside of the Calico and Bi-Color Division.

The first is the afore-mentioned “breeding off the color.” I have added a 9th pattern to Pendergrast’s diagram, a bi-color pattern that has been appearing in bi-color programs with increasing frequency. This 9th pattern is essentially an all-white cat with a colored tail. The question remains is this pattern the penultimate desired pattern for bi- colors, or is it pushing the white too far? Some breeders are concerned with breeding for too much white and not enough color. Indeed, the term “bi-color” seems to lead one to believe the cat is to be ideally about half color and half white.

This breeding for “high white” has had other unexpected side effects to the breeding programs for both solid and tabby breeders. For decades, solid breeders focused on “color” breeding programs – that is, breeding for soundness of color. By carefully selecting for color, solid breeders were able to establish incredible lines of stunning and dramatic colors. Likewise, tabby breeders spent years carefully selecting for clear and distinct patterns with warm color. However, with the advent of bi-color breeding programs, most of this color breeding philosophy was cheerfully disregarded and preference was instead given to selecting for white (piebald) markings over color. Since bi-color breeding programs were based heavily on the solid breeding programs, they initially did not struggle with the clarity of color. As time has passed and breeders have escalated their selection for white in preference of color, the clarity and depth of color on the bi-colors has decreased over the years. In part, this can be attributed to the bi-color standard. In all other Persian divisions, 20 points are allocated to color. In the Bi-Color and Calico Division, the 20 points are divided: 10 points for “white” pattern, and 10 points on color. Thus, a “high white” bi-color tabby with poor tabby pattern would not be penalized as heavily as a poorly marked specimen from the tabby division. The same goes for a faded black and white, or a dark blue and white, and is especially true for the bi-color cats with very little color. A cat marked with the 9th bi-color pattern can only be judged by the color on the tail. How is a judge able to accurately award or penalize those 10 points based solely on the color present on the tail of such a cat?

Solid breeders in recent years have lamented about the lack of availability of solids from programs breeding exclusively for solids. When looking for dilute solids, breeders find it even more difficult to find a program dedicated to truly breeding for color. While the bi-color breeders are able to fully utilize cats from solid breeding programs, the reverse is not always possible due to the lack of selection for color in most bi-color breeding programs.

Breeders of tabby Persians find themselves in the same predicament. It is impossible to see what the tabby pattern looks like with most “high white” bi-color Persians. In fact, some of these tabby bi-colors appear to be “brown and white” with very little or no striping present in their colored pattern. Since the bi-color standard favors the higher white cats, these poorly marked tabby bi-colors are often quite successful in the show ring and are used in many breeding programs. Perhaps it would be best if the breeders of tabby bi-colors remembered the words of Bobara Pendergrast concerning the breeding of tabby and whites:

“This may be one of the hardest colors and patterns to breed. One not only has to keep the proper amount of white, but at the same time keep the intricate tabby pattern and color.”

Another dilemma facing bi-color breeders today is whether or not to pursue a “tortie and white” color class. For the best answer to this situation, I refer once again to Bobara Pendergrast’s 1978 article: “I would like to comment on the term “tortie and white.” The word “calico” is exclusively American and denotes a cat which is white with red and black patches, similar to No. 4 or No. 5 on our chart. The term “tortie and white” is English or European and denotes a cat which is white with red and black patches, also similar to No. 4 or No. 5 on our chart. The American calico standard and the English tortie and white standard are virtually identical. Some members of the cat fancy have suggested a new class called “tortie and white” which would be composed of calicos with insufficient amounts of white similar to No. I or No. 2 on the chart. There is no reason to make a different class for these cats since they are genetically identical to other calicos. Solid color Persians are genetically denoted as ss. Standard bi-color and calicos are denoted Ss. The so-called “tortie and white” is still Ss. The only difference is an improper amount of white in relation to our standard. One of the reasons some people feel the so-called “tortie and white” is genetically different is the addition of cream to the coat. However, I would point out that whenever red appears on the undersides of a cat it will be many shades lighter or cream. It would be absurd to call a solid red “red and cream” simply because it’s underside hair was many shades lighter. So, on an improperly marked calico, in the absence of sufficient white, there will naturally be more black and red and where this red appears on the undersides it will appear as cream. In no way does this suggest a genetic difference. It is also strikingly apparent that a single cat cannot phenotypically express both dilute and dominant colors. Their second contention is that the more brindled coat pattern as opposed to well defined patches proves genetic differences. The fact is the amount of white determines the degree of patching. Naturally, a cat with insufficient white would display more brindling. Again, no genetic difference.

If a class should be formed for mismarked calicos and be called “tortie and whites,” I would assume they would be marked as No. I and No. 2 degrees. What would we do with our bi-color litter mates marked as No. I and No. 2? Should we form yet another class for mismarked bi-colors? All standards are written as the perfect example for the breed and color described. I would suggest that instead of forming a class for mismarked calicos, that breeders strive to improve pattern and produce as close to the standard as possible. All bi-color breeders will at one time or another have a kitten born with excellent type and improper color. I feel this cat should be shown and, if the judge sees fit, faulted for color pattern just the same as that same judge would fault a blue-cream, etc., whose patching was not correct. This would only be fair to all.”

GC, BW, NW Budmar’s Beyonce’ of Inthewind, DM,
dilute calico female.
CFA’s 3rd Best Cat, 2005
Br: Maurice D. Ruble, Jr. Ow: Linda A. Fisher.

What can we expect from the Bi-Color and Calico Division in the next decade? Assuredly, there will be many grands, regional winners, national winners, and distinguished merit awards. New breeders will enter the fancy and carve their places in history. No doubt many firsts will be achieved and celebrated. From the few tenacious breeders working with the chocolate and lilac gene in their bi-colors poised to make history, to the many stalwart breeders who have created pre-potent winning lines, this division holds a place for a variety of interests. Perhaps even the pointed bi-colors will finally find acceptance and their place in the show ring.

Since the 1800s, the bi-color Persian has undergone quite an evolution. From the disregard and second-class status they faced early on to the places of high honor they hold today, they continue to evolve and rise in popularity. The lack of set-in-stone “rules” regarding pattern allow this division to re-invent itself in every litter. The excitement, beauty, and charm of our beloved bi-colors will continue to keep us enthralled for many years to come.