by Sue Helmke
Originally published in The Cat Fanciers’ Almanac, October 2000

My romance with Tabby Persians began when I acquired GC Harwood Rock Promise of Marhei from Dorothy Persson almost 20 years ago. When I got “Rocky” he was an eight-week-old red kitten with stripes EVERYWHERE! Rocky grew and he grew. I was a rank novice at the time, so I took him everywhere. I even flew to Pennsylvania (from Miami) for FOUR points to get his grand, and we went to Chicago and to the Pennsylvania Poconos in mid-winter. In 1981 he was CFA’s Best Red Mackerel Tabby Persian (I think he was the only one).

Prior to Rocky my introduction to the Tabby Persian was through GC Palmetto’s Sunchaser, a gorgeous shaded cameo tabby bred and owned by Pat Lichtenberg. He was, for the most part, different from the other tabbies of his day, as he had a copious coat and extreme type. I was quite smitten.

One of the best things that resulted from my travels with Rocky was that I was introduced to the Tabby Persian division. GC Tabbylands Timothy of Gold Coast (a wonderful agouti red classic tabby bred by Beverly Witbeck) lived in Miami. When I flew to Maryland, I got to meet other Tabbyland cats and Beverly Witbeck herself. Huge Tabby divisions were common in the Northeast in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I must make a distinction about tabbies based on my experience with them. The vast majority of red tabbies that are shown in the Tabby Persian division are “tabbied” reds. There are blacks with tabby marks and blues with tabby marks that are not shown as tabbies, nor will they ever produce what I consider to be the determining factor, a brown tabby, blue tabby or silver tabby. Most red tabbies are out of solid color breedings. This is not a factor in the show ring since judges are not judging the heredity of the cat. (There are more red tabbies registered than any other color tabby.) Heredity is certainly a consideration, however, in a tabby breeding program. Some very fine tabbies out of solid lines have done extremely well on the campaign trail. They are beautiful cats, striped, spotted and swirled. The agouti tabby gene expresses itself as brown tabby (black without the gene), blue tabby (instead of blue), cream tabby (rather than cream), red agouti tabby (as opposed to red or red tabby), and brown patched and blue patched tabby (as opposed to tortoiseshell or blue-cream). Consequently, a black will never produce a brown tabby (unless bred to one). A red tabby out of a solid program will never produce a brown tabby (unless bred to a cat carrying the agouti gene). Red tabbies out of brown tabbies may or may not carry the agouti gene. The only way to determine what they are is to breed them. In some cases red agouti tabbies have distinctive facial markings, especially a pale colored chin, which leads one to strongly suspect their genetic makeup. The same cannot be said of creams from agouti breedings. My first “true” tabby arose from a cream out of smoke breeding – that agouti gene again. (Smokes have also played an important role in breeding tabbies.) What looked like a blue-cream turned into a blue patched tabby, patina and all. Obviously, the “cream” was really a cream tabby!

The word “tabby” is thought to have originated in the Attabi quarter of Baghdad in ancient Persia, where silks and cottons were produced in different colors and patterns. A specific pattern of a wavelike appearance on silk taffeta is thought to have evolved into the name “tabby.” Many of the cats roaming the area had patterns much like the fabric; hence, their name. There is much speculation as to how the Persian moved from Persia to England and then to the United States. Every cat historian has a different slant. In an article entitled “Bars and Stripes Forever,” which appeared in the 1984 CFA Yearbook, Phil Maggitti states: “Ultimately, most discussions about the origin and migration of Tabby Persians, like the markings on these striking cats themselves, tend to be circular.” Suffice it to say that the first reference in the English language to tabby cats appeared in 1695, and tabby eventually came to mean “cat.” In the late 1800s Tabby Persians became the first English show cats.

One of the early U.S. Tabby breeders was Jane Martinke, who bred tabbies at her Minqua Cattery for over 50 years. She wrote at least two articles for CFA Yearbooks: one in 1961 and an extensive one for the 1966 edition. There were no brown tabby grands in any association until the late 1950s! (By this time Mrs. Martinke had been breeding 30 years.) One of the first grands, GC Minqua’s Gingersnap of Co-Mc, went to Virginia Coughlin and her daughter Jeanie (McPhee) in Texas. “Gingersnap’s” sire was Tpl Ch Sunny-Land Calumet of Minqua, bred by Klara Schick of Miami, FL.; the dam was Sunny-Land Nerrisa of Longhill. Combined with Nikki Horner’s Shawnee lines (colorbred blues), the Co-Mc brownies were off and running. Many catteries famous for their tabbies have their origins here: Wynden, Tabbyland, Duncan, Georgetown, Your Pet’s, Winterset and Sarouk.

Beverly Witbeck wrote an article titled “The Stylish Persian Tabby” for the April 1979 edition of Cat-Tab. Two more articles published in 1993, one by Carol Krzanowski titled “The Tabby Persian” in the June 1993 Cat Fanciers’ Almanac, and “Best of Tabbies” by Colleen Power, in the February 1993 Persian News, are worth adding to your reading list for more extensive background material which will not fit in this space!

For a detailed description of the various colors of Tabby Persians, please refer to the Show Standards available from CFA. Also of interest is an article written by Helen Smith (Smithway) for Cat World (May/June 1977) on the peke-face red tabby. I have not personally seen a peke-face in the show ring in over ten years (not since an Invitational Show in St. Louis).

The only national-winning brown tabby shown in the mid-1980s was GC, NW Pa-Ha’s Hot Chocolate, a brown mackerel tabby female bred by Pat and Harvey Gober of Brooksville, FL.

No article about Tabby Persians would be complete without mention of GC, NW Q-T Cats Danny Boy, a red tabby bred by Leon and Marcia Samuels, who was CFA’s 2nd Best Cat in the 1989-90 show season. He was a stunning cat with all the accoutrements of a magnificent classic pattern, even to the butterfly across his shoulders (which Marcia always called a moth). His overall balance and type were such that he could have competed in any color class. His tabbiness was the icing on the cake!

Some of the more competitive tabbies of today can be traced back to several important cats and catteries. PaJean (Jean Bassett) has had great success bringing in Gemenee cats from Evelyn Huey in Washington State. According to Evelyn there were several prepotent Gemenee cats that helped her create her “look”: GC Gemenee’s Nermal, CFA’s first blue mackerel tabby grand; GC Gemenee’s Swiss Miss, a brown mackerel tabby female; and CH Gemenee’s Surprise Package, a brown patched tabby. [Dearborn (Pam LeFave) was also using Evelyn’s cats. KirLu (Luann Fleming) has incorporated Dearborn with other lines to produce GC, RW Kirlu’s Woodchip, a brown mackerel tabby.] Jean Bassett acquired GC Gemenee’s Tiffany of PaJean, DM, a silver mackerel tabby female, and GC, RW Gemenee’s Tiara of PaJean, DM, a brown patched tabby female, as small kittens. In the case of “Tiffany,” about half of her pedigree is from solid lines, the other half from cameos, smokes, shadeds, silvers and brown and blue tabbies. Jean feels that the lovely white undercoat on her silver tabbies has been enhanced by this combination.

Tiffany is the mother of GC, NW PaJean’s Trinket Love, DM, CFA’s 1994 Best Cat AND the first silver tabby to make a national win. “Trinket Love” produced GC, NW PaJean’s To Sir With Love, a silver mackerel tabby that was CFA’s 8th Best kitten in 1997. Trinket Love’s full sister, CH PaJean’s Tassel, produced GC, NW PaJean’s Trademark, a silver mackerel tabby male that was CFA’s 12th Best Cat in 1998. “To Sir With Love” produced GC, NW PaJean’s Tango, a red mackerel tabby who was CFA’s 13th Best Cat in 2000! The only word that comes to mind is prodigious!

“Tiara’s” pedigree has a background in commom with other successful tabby lines. Her pedigree includes CH Bevron’s (Ron and Beverly Talty) Hot Fudge of Wilcha (Wm. C. and Char Peterson), who has a Duncan (Patricia Chase and Kenneth Duncan) brown tabby on his mother’s side. “Hot Fudge” is also behind Pa-Ha (Pat and Harvey Gober), KiKicat (JoAnn Miksa), Willafred (Freda Watts), Great Oaks (Paula McLean), Purrkay (Kay Sanders), Marhei and Red Sky (Gary Powell). Hot Fudge produced CH, PR Wilcha’s Shadow Dancer of KiKicat and half brother GC Wilcha’s Chocolate Mousse of Pa-Ha. “Mousse” produced GC Pa-Ha’s Fire ’N’ Ice of Willafred. The mother of “Fire ’N’ Ice” was a daughter of GC Palmetto’s Sunchaser (that shaded cameo tabby I loved so much)! “Shadow Dancer” and CH Debo’s Shasta of KiKicat, DM, became a very successful breeding pair. JoAnn Miksa says, “…Shasta (a blue tabby) became available…. I brought her to my home. A short time later I purchased a black smoke named Wilcha’s Shadow Dancer. Ironically, both catteries went out of cats…making the winning combination more valuable.” Shadow Dancer’s first 26 kittens were males, and one of these males, GC KiKicat Higgens of Whitthaven, was the grandsire of Tiara.

Tiara produced GC, NW PaJean’s Tallahassee, CFA’s 25th Best Cat and first brown patched tabby national winner in 1992. The repeat breeding of “Tallahassee” produced GC, NW PaJean’s Topeka, a brown patched tabby, CFA’s 5th Best Cat and Best of Breed in 1993. PaJean has brilliantly combined tabbies with the very top solid lines (notably Christy and Randy Miller’s Candirand) to produce PaJean’s most recent tabby national winners.

Gary Powell, from Minneapolis, has always loved tabbies. He worked with Harvey and Pat Gober (Pa-Ha), Freda Watts (Willafred), and Sue and Chuck Helmke (Marhei). Freda doubled up on GC Wilcha’s Chocolate Mousse, breeding GC Pa-Ha’s Fire ’N’ Ice of Willafred to Pa-Ha’s Carmel of Willafred. Carmel is out of a Debo (Patti and Timothy Debiasse) queen closely related to CH Debo’s Shasta of KiKicat, DM; also related to Debo’s Diorling of Midas (Marianne Byrne). Freda’s breeding produced GC Willafred’s Excalibur, a brown tabby. Meanwhile, I had too many cats, as usual, and sent Marhei Babe Ginger Elle home with Gary to be bred to “Excalibur.” “Ginger Elle” combined the very best of Marhei in a brown tabby wrapper. (Ginger Elle’s littermate, CH Marhei Post Toes Tees of Aladar sired some very nice brown tabby kittens for the Dowds). Ginger Elle’s father was GC Marhei Toe the Marque (COTY in Europe), a GC Mystichill on the Marque, DM son; her mother GC KiKicat Praise Ye T’Lord of Marhei ““Raisin”). Raisin’s mother was a daughter of GC, NW Bar-B (Barbara Sumner) V.I.C., DM, and her father was CH, GP KiKicat’s Anointed One, a silver tabby out of CH Wilcha’s Shadow Dancer of KiKicat and CH Debo’s Shasta of KiKicat, DM. Diane Silverman’s (Mystichill) “Shelley,” Tao-Lu’s Shalimar of Palmaire, DM (a DM at least three times over), was Shasta’s grandmother on her daddy’s side.

The webs we weave are almost as exciting as the tabbies themselves! But I digress…

The breeding of Ginger Elle to Excalibur produced three lovely kittens: a black male grand, a brown tabby female, and GC, RW Red Sky Wooden Ships, DM, a homozygous (produces nothing but tabbies) brown classic tabby male. To date “Woody” has produced 27 grands! Ginger Elle went on to produce two very nice brown tabby and white male grands when bred to a bi-color, a breeding which doubled on CH, GP KiKicat’s Anointed One.

“Woody’s” Grands include Himalayan (lynx point) and Bi-Color Persians, Exotics, six or so regional winners and almost two dozen different cattery prefixes: Red Sky, Oakheaven (Linda Berg), Marmondy (Susan Johnson and Sheryl Joyce), Willafred, Becton (Becky Orlando), Beaudee (Molly Sherrick), Wishstar (Linda Mercer), Joleigh (Sue Bloomquist), Don-Mar (Donna and Mark Thompson), Truelegance (Valerie Christoffersen and Rebecca Head), Heatherbrook (Diane Poitevin), Lafourre (Michael Foreman), Tomorow (Patricia Toft), Satterlee (Charles, Mary and Ann Satterlee), Jeannel (Donna Jean Thompson), Thunderheart (Jennifer Schwanberg), and Primadowdy (Tamra Dowdy). To say that “Woody” has left his MARKS in the tabby world is truly an understatement!

Cozmo (Carol Krzanowski) has been successfully breeding tabbies using a “Woody” son, GC Willafred Wooden Nickel of Cozmo, in her program. Two of her new grands are pictured in the July 2000 Cat Fanciers’ Almanac: GC Cozmo Cassidy and GC Cozmo Cabernet. A brown mackerel tabby littermate brother of Cassidy is working on his grand. According to Carol, they both”“…have exceptionally warm [brown mackerel tabby] color; both have good markings, but Cassidy’s are truly outstanding.” “Wooden Nickel,” when bred to GC, RW Cozmo Summer, produced GC Cozmo Cabernet, a red classic tabby. “Summer” is a daughter of GC, NW Q-T Cats Danny Boy. Summer’s mother is out of a D-Jon (Dolores Johnson) x Sierra (Doris Taylor) male. Also, Beaudee, Dolcevita (Maria and Robert Groppi) and GC Anz Nicholas Nickelby, DM (bred by Anne Waddington) appear on the dam’s side – a veritable “who’s who”” of the Persian cat world over the last ten years!!!!!

Thus far “Woody” has produced one Distinguished Merit offspring, GC, RW Wishstar Go Calforum, DM, a brown mackerel tabby bred and owned by Linda Mercer, of the Chicago area. The dam’s side of the pedigree contains Joyville (Pauline Joy), Basha (Robbin Schulte), Kitty Charm (Darlene and June Feger) and Jovan (Cheryl and Bob Lorditch).

Belcats (Diana Belfatto) has also been working with similar combinations, using as her base, GC KiKicat High Hopes of Belcats (KiKicat and Marhei), a black bred to various twists on Chocolate Mousse and Shadow Dancer with the addition of some South Paw (Judy Brocato) to produce some lovely tabbies: both silver tabbies and brown tabbies. Diana has produced six grands over the last several years or so. “In my silver tabby program, I am trying to achieve clarity of pattern.” GC, RW Belcats Cookies ’N Cream may be the first silver patched tabby to have reached a regional win, and is pictured in a recent issue of the Almanac.

In addition to the PaJean national winner of this past season, another red mackerel tabby was a national winner: Randy Primmer’s GC, NW Boberan’s Wild Ride, a beautifully typed young male out of top lines including Cattrax (Dianna and Manuel Fekete), Vickits (Kenneth and Vickie Lanham), Bolo (Robert and Linda Bantz), Connaught (Claudia Moore) and Bastis (Wain Harding and Bob and Janet Chorneau).

In the running presently for a national win is Mark Hannon’s 2000 Southern Region Kitten winner, GC, RW Marcus Cheyenne, a brown mackerel tabby out of GC, RW Le-Hi (Betty Sauls) Cinnamon Swirl, a red tabby (Quin-Jo [Rich and Becky Jones] and Marhei) and GC, NW Beaudee’s Shiloh of Marcus, a brown mackerel tabby and white (Beaudee to Beaudee with “Woody” as one of the grandsires), 1999 CFA Kitten of the Year. [You’ll have to pardon the author for observing that this is the epitome of a tabby pedigree….]

As far as Tabby Persians in Europe are concerned, several tabbies were sold to Switzerland by Teragram (Peggy and Steve Stolpe). Peggy and Steve combined Marhei and KiKicat to produce GC Teragram Little Joseph of Cashiba. This boy has beautiful markings, huge eyes and cobby body and was shown in marvelous condition by the Stolpes. He produced Cashiba Gaeltarra of Layout, who as a six month old kitten made four finals in a CFA show in Fallingbostel (Germany). This little package has beautiful color, markings, body, bone and big round eyes, and now has a litter of her own. Manuela Schellenberg (Cashiba) is the leading breeder of tabbies and silver tabbies in Switzerland. Her cats are known for their outstanding tabby markings.