Learn more about the Persian
Solid Color Persians Are…Solid As A Rock?
by Lorraine Saunders
Originally published in The Cat Fanciers’ Almanac, November 2002
In Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin wrote, “…cats from their nocturnal habits, cannot be so easily matched [bred] and although so much valued by women and children, we rarely see a distinct breed long kept up.” This is the theme of this article as we sadly center our attention on a vanishing breed division – Solid Persians.
Today there are more than 35 breeds of wild cats and over 300 breeds of domestic cats. Tomorrow, these statistics could change. The familiar pedigreed Solid Persian appears to be disappearing from view. Exhibitors in this division, as well as the cats themselves, are certainly not as evident in showhalls. In fact, they are not making their presence known in large numbers in grand parades or worse still – pedigrees.
As Solid Persians are my own first love, I wanted to find out what was causing the numbers to go down. That is why I asked several CFA Judges, plus a sampling of established breeders, if they believed this was true. I wanted to see if they too perceived this division of Persians was on the decline. Those I talked with emphatically stated, “Yes.” Their comments included: “Today’s exhibitors are not breeders in the truest sense of the word,” “They lack patience” and “All they want to do is win…not work with their cats in breeding programs.”
If that is the truth, we can count on the Solid Persian Division to go down the drain any time now. After that, who knows what other pedigreed longhairs are going to tank. Breeding programs for solids have long been the support for so many longhair divisions and other breeds, people have lost touch with the fact that someday the solids might disappear.
At cat shows today, only the same few people are exhibiting Solid Persians from region to region. Meanwhile, other fanciers who began in Solids within the last ten years are now exhibiting Persians in different divisions, other breeds entirely, or worse still – they are leaving. This is because newer fanciers were led to believe that the quick win is the only win. Thus, instead of having the patience to work on a breeding program and reap the joyous rewards one experiences when showing one’s own breedings, they move on and recklessly breed out valuable bloodlines, without having a clue as to what they are doing.
In fairness to novices and breeders who have been around long enough to know better, if information was not handed down regarding the value of a bloodline, how can anyone be blamed? All of us should have been trained in what it takes to develop a bloodline (sweat, tears, time, sacrifice and finances). Otherwise, how will any of us ever respect Solid Persians, or any other division or breed of pedigreed cat in the Cat Fanciers’ Association?
Even if some people sold their most valuable cats and were interested in profit only, as opposed to immortality for their lines, an interested bystander recognizing what a novice has purchased should take the time to tell them what they are lucky to have in their hands. Preserving bloodlines is the backbone of our organization – NOT just the regional or national wins. That is like putting the awards before the work (breeding programs).
Furthermore, novices should be taught that you do not mix other divisions with Solids for several generations, as if you were cooking stew and expecting the contents to remain true to the original recipe. Indeed, when Himmies, Bi-Colors, Tabbies (brown in particular), Shadeds and AOVs are bred to Solid Persians for more than two generations, we lose the flavor and savor…soundness of coat color as well as depth of eye color.
What is the bottom line? Solids are not, with rare exceptions, being bred to enrich, enhance or increase their own division. For example, can you recall when show rings were filled with glorious whites, with three distinct classes for eye color, followed by ring cages loaded with pale creams, vibrant reds, peke-face reds, pale blues and intensely black blacks (from the mid 1990s purple-pink lilacs and warm chocolates)? Well, if you can, then you must be someone who has been showing cats in CFA longer than 10 years.
Before problems existed with coat and eye color, we went too far with “type;” however, we did recover from that episode. For those who do not remember…here is what happened:
It was during the mid 70s and early 80s when many Persians lost that “sweet, open-expression.” Fanciers were on a binge for ultra-extreme head type. The term “piggy expression” was coined. The look was hard on the eyes. Some of these Persians had ultra high noses. They also had breaks above the eyes that looked like they were moving into the foreheads, ears pointing to Mars, eyes as tiny as M & Ms, as well as droopy frowny mouths, with maloccluded jaws. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It is broadly hinted by old timers that the “Peke-Face Reds” were used to create the look.
What actually occurred is the old look of Persians, which existed before the 1980s, had heavy brows, lack of dome and small, flat top heads. The old look disappeared when peke-face reds were quietly bred to Solid Persians. The updated look created a new and exciting head structure – the structure we know today. This was considered a contribution to the breed and most exhibitors and CFA Judges concurred.
Pekes have incredible coat color (brilliantly red) and eyes you can see light though when you turn them to the side and pull back the fur. It can be said that today’s Persians have that same look in the eyes (the good ones). In fact, the teardrop eye is attributed to the pekes. Plus, pekes had a brow-ridge at the top of the skull, which is what we call “doming” today. This is why many can quibble about the value of pekes, but Persians haven’t looked the same since the late 70s and early 80s.
Fortunately, old-time breeders recognized that going too far would ruin the style of all Persians. They saw the error of their way and “pigs,” as a look, did not remain in fashion. If you wanted a Persian with a “sweet, open-expression,” this was not the way to go. Coat color and eye color were not harmed, however, as solid peke-face reds were from the solid family of the color spectrum.
Coming back to present day, one might ask if anyone has recognized that we are in trouble with Solid Persians. Most of the old timers are gone. They probably would have sounded the alarm. Newer people seem to be unaware of the obvious. So, has it occurred to any of YOU to ask, “Just what IS the problem with coat and eye color in the Solid Persian?” Are any of you curious as to why there are less and less Solids at cat shows (or anywhere)? Well, let us go to “Anyplace USA” where we will view a cat show in action. Let us see if we can find a few answers.
We stand back and quietly observe as our CFA Judge zeroes in on the coat color of a Solid Persian. A disapproving look spreads across the judge’s face. Obviously, this judge feels that the color is too dark, too light or uneven. Then the judge waves some feathers to get a closer look at the expression of the cat, and does not appear to like the color of the eyes. Again, here comes that look of disapproval. Judges from ring to ring begin to comment on and dismiss what few Solids are present at the show. Whites are left behind for poor eye color; CEWs (copper-eyed whites) and BEWs (blue-eyed whites) as well as their odd-eyed cousins are ignored if the eye color is pale (Bi-Color or Himmy parentage often produces a pale-whitish eye color with darker rims). Blues are passed over for displaying a blue/black or uneven color from root to tip. Blacks are looked upon with disdain for having too much brown or grey fuzz. If a black has a great deal of undercoat, breeders are chided for using too many dilutes in the pedigree (white/silvery hairs mingled in). Comments about reds, looking too tabby or pink as opposed to red, are more than whispered when the color class is “up” in a ring. Use of Himmies behind solid reds cause weird shades of red. Use of Bi-Colors creates a paler, pinkish tone or odd tabby markings. Peke-faced reds are dismissed as a breed gone by and ignored altogether, even though the few that exist are dismissed for having delicate bone. Creams are ejected from the judging table if they display a (hot) red or a (muddy) brown color. Creams are also put aside if they display heavy saddles across the back. The lilacs are often accused of resembling spoiled blues. Meanwhile chocolates are sometimes said to look like rusty blacks. So? You won’t see a Solid Persian in THOSE finals!
The point? We need to repair bad coat and eye color in Solid Persians, just as we removed the overdone influence of “pigs” in Persians back in the 80s.
So, consider this article a plea on behalf of the magnificent “Solid Persian.” We need to take responsibility for what we have done. Our breeding programs and goals must be reevaluated. We can do that by promoting the value of long-term breeding programs. In this way, we will instill pride in working with our cats and pride for the Solid Persian. In fact, if we breed with a respect FOR this division, we will be channeling our energies properly to establish and perpetuate great cats, be getting great cats – and the wins WILL follow. Just remember, when we human beings have no thought for tomorrow – there will be no tomorrow.
“There are no shortcuts to breeding cats with excellent color. Careful, consistent selection is a must. Does breeding for color mean you lose type? Absolutely not; but, a breeder must balance the needs of their line carefully.” (Jeanie McPhee, CFA Judge)
It may be obvious to fanciers, what is acceptable in a Solid Persian “show cat.” Yet, there are fanciers who do NOT know what our breed councils came up with over the years. CFA has an officially written color standard for Solid Persians. If you want to read that written standard, please go to this link (or you can receive it by sending for it from CFA’s Central Office). Also keep in mind that if you are just beginning OR if you need a refresher, you should always refer to the “Standard.” However, for the sake of this article, we need to picture what the ideal Solid Persian cat should look like. This is because structure, along with color, have affected our solids. For that reason, I have prepared a description of the Persian. I’ve also written an explanation about the solid colors for Persians. So, let us now look at the ideal Solid Persian. In this way, we will be able to comprehend why they are not so “solid” anymore.
Still sought after today: their dramatic flowing coats surround a massive frame. Their rounded bodies have stumps for legs. The pedigreed Solid Persians are desired for their light soothing voices and for their accommodating, stable and low-keyed natures. They are adored for their non-athletic yet gently playful personalities.
Pedigreed Persian cats are solid-boned, heavy cobby-bodied (short) with short thick legs, straight forelegs and heavy-duty hind legs, which are held straight (not bowed or cow-hocked) when viewed from the rear. The legs are an even height (front and back). The paws are large and round with a solid firm feel and the toes are held tightly, five in front and four at the rear. The skull of the cat is rounded and sits atop an equally short, heavy, thick neck, that blends into the large-to-medium torso. The Persian cat’s chest is broad (wide) and deep, while across the shoulders and rump, the cat exhibits a hefty, solid body, with a well-rounded middle section and straight level back. The tail is the punctuation mark at the end of the story and should be in proportion to the short body length. The tail should be held without any curvature at all and carried at an angle that is lower than the back. The entire cat should have good muscle tone and exhibit no tendencies toward flabbiness. The size begins with large and goes to medium but a Persian is never small in size or stature. When standing back, the entire aspect of the cat should indicate all the body parts blend and are of equal proportion, massive and full; a shoebox with legs – square yet rounded.
The facial expression should show refinement coupled with a gentle, soft, alert sweetness. The eye apertures should be round with the eyes set well (but not too deeply) within the sockets and wide apart. Eye placement contributes to the proportions of the circular head shape. The eyes should be brilliant, not dull in color (whether they are copper or blue) and should be full and large. Eyes should be level with each other and set apart, which will result in giving the Persian cat its sweet, pansy-faced trademark “look.” The ears should be small, rounded (not pointed) and tilted forward and not open at the base too obviously. Ears should additionally be set far enough apart, and low enough on the sides of the rounded, full head, to conform to the smooth shape of the skull. No lumps, bumps or ridges, if you please, to that skull! The ears should not permit for any distortion to the roundness of the head. The nose should be short and quite snub, yet delicately broad (never coarse), with a break (indentation) that is centered evenly between the eyes. The cheeks should be rounded and very full, with a jaw that conveys strength yet softness. While the chin should be well-developed, it should exhibit a perfect, even bite – no overbite or undershot jaw that can distort the “look.” The facial expression and contours of the large round head and thick, short neck must flow into the massive body, creating a symmetry which completes the truly acceptable Persian cat. Smooth, not bumpy. Heavy, not fat. One smooth piece!
It is desired that your Persian cat possess a long thick coat. Whether that coat has guard hair (glossy – the kind of hair that reflects light well), undercoat (cottony and soft, adding fullness, lift and texture) or a mixture of the two extremes, the coat must make a statement. The Solid Persian’s coat that should be “over the top” well-groomed so that each hair is individually separated, to add to the dramatic flair and style of the cat. When groomed, the ruff should be full with a petticoat of hair between the front legs to complete the full dressed appearance, with extra hairs dancing on the ear and toe tufts for elegance. Without proper presentation, you might as well go home and forget exhibiting your Persian. After all, the coat of the Solid Persian represents the epitome of elegance while embracing the form of the cat and contributes to its mystique.
Can you see the ideal Persian yet? Well if you can, then here is what we do NOT want to see.
If you have these problems with your cat, best get it a delightful pet home or look forward to not doing well at a cat show. Do not be stubborn and insist on showing a cat with these faults: 1) lockets or buttons, 2) abnormally shaped or kinked tail, 3) too many or not enough toes, 4) weak or misshapen hindquarters, 5) a curved or sloping spine, 6) deformed skull resulting in an asymmetrical head, 7) crossed eyes. Keep in mind that bumps, lumps and ridges on the front and top of the head are considered declasse. Judges are on the watch and don’t appreciate a Persian with a bumpy skull.
White: This is a pristine pure white cat with neither a blue nor gray tint to the coat (and no stains to the eyes, neck or hindquarters). The nose leather and paw pads are pink (not black). The eye color is ideally a deep blue or brilliant copper brown. That is the favored shade. In CEWs, you will also see orange and/or flaming copper eye color, as well as yellow eye colors (hold onto those yellow-eyed whites – if you breed them to an OEW (odd-eyed white) you’ll get great BEWs with deep eye color!). All are acceptable and considered to be in the CEW family. However, today the dark-copper-penny eye color seems to be the preferred eye color for CEWs. BEW eye color is not as deep as the Himalayan blue eye color. A BEW’s eye color should still be obviously blue – not milky white. OEWs have one blue and one copper eye and the intensity of color for both eyes should be equal (whether or not they are pale or dark, as long as they are equal – though darker eye color for both eyes is preferred).
Blue: The lighter shade is the approved shade but a medium even tone of blue is accepted. A navy or blue-black color and/or mottled blue is unacceptable in the show ring. Of course, a sound medium shade of blue is better received than a pale silvery shade that is patchy and uneven. The hair shaft must be sound from the tip to the roots. The nose leather and paw pads are blue. The preferred eye color is a brilliant copper (the vivid orange/copper color) as opposed to a darker brownish copper. Why? The orange color is a great contrast against the stunning blue of the coat.
Black: A sound coal black coat from roots to tip of fur, completely free of rusty discoloration. We don’t want to see a smokey ruff, hocks or undercoat. The nose leather is black and the paw pads are black or brown, but preferably black. Eye color on a black should be brilliant copper. Again, we would like to see orange peel eye color, but most of the time on our best blacks today we are seeing the copper brown shade.
Red: A deep, rich, clear, brilliant red without shading, markings or ticking. Let’s face it – we don’t want those sneaky tabby markings on the head, legs, tail or back. Lips and chin should be the same color as coat. The nose leather and the paw pads are brick red. The eye-color should be a brilliant copper. It is hoped the eye color matches the brilliant orange coat and is not too pale or too brown.
Peke-Face Red: The peke-face cat conforms in color and type to the standard for the solid red cat. Allowances are usually made for a slightly higher placement of the ears. The ears conform to the underlying bone structure of the head. The head differs from the standard Persian. The peke nose is short, depressed and indented between the eyes. The muzzle is wrinkled. Eyes are large, round and set very wide apart. There exists a horizontal break. The break is located between the regular nose break and the top dome of the head. It runs clear across the front of the head, creating a half-moon boning above the eyes. Another horizontal indentation is located smack dab in the center of the forehead’s bone structure. The bone structure creates a very round head with a very strong chin. Eye color on a peke will not let you down as it is generally a brilliant copper.
Cream: The cream coat color is sound from root to tip. The paler and more “buff” the coat color, the better. We do not want to see darkening spread across the back, sides or legs. A reddish or brownish hue to the tips of the coat is undesirable. Nose leather and paw-pads are pink (really a rose color as opposed to a pink shade). The eye color is a brilliant copper. Here, a brownish-copper eye color compliments a cream coat and is the eye color of choice.
Chocolate: Rich and warm with a milk chocolate, candy brown tone. Sound from roots to tip of fur. The coat is even and exhibits equal amounts of guard hair and undercoat. Too much guard hair produces a limp, heavy, dark look; too much undercoat – a pale uneven appearance which makes a chocolate look like a spoiled cream. The nose leather is brown and the paw-pads are cinnamon-pink with eye color a brilliant copper. The dark copper-penny eye color for chocolates is sought after.
Lilac: Warm lavender with a pinkish, and not dull blue or grayish tone, is desired. The coat must be sound and even throughout. Darker almost bluish hair across the face is unacceptable. The nose leather should have a lavender hue. The paw pads should be pink. The eye color is a dark copper-penny tone.
The Mind And The Heart…
Are you thinking Persians are not a particularly clever breed? Unfortunately, some people do. This is just plain not true. Their mindset is actually more mysterious than lacking in intelligence. This is because they lack the outgoing and open approach to life of their bright, shorthair cousins. To understand a Persian’s “mind,” if you will, let us use an analogy that might serve us best here. The definition of the four seasons of the year is a good way to understand the Persian. If you live on the East coast, summer, fall, winter and spring are obvious. In southern California, the uninitiated often cannot detect the seasons. If you have lived in southern California for a few years and have the time to observe the climate, you will easily identify all four seasonal changes, subtle though they may be. The same can be said of the Persian’s mentality. Persians are quiet creatures whose perceptions, thoughts and intuitiveness are masked. They watch us before they wisely tell us who they are (and THAT is using your brains!). Once they trust you, they open like a flower. You can then easily communicate with their distinctive minds and souls. It is a privilege indeed to be trusted and allowed in. That is why it is best to begin a relationship with Persians using patience as your guide, and you will be rewarded a hundred-fold.
The essence of Solid Persians’ emotional makeup is based on their coat color as well as their breed. I’m not kidding! Their moods and feelings are due to breeding programs that sought good looks and sweet personalities, along with body type and coat color. If this sounds a bit far-fetched, check out the descriptions below. You might find that I am not that far off.
Let’s take the dignified, tenderhearted, melt-in-your mouth white Persians. The color implies purity and white Persians certainly seem to be pure of heart. These little guys are softhearted and mushy. Like delicate flowers amidst the thorns (unlike alert and active solid reds), white Persians are known to lounge rather than lunge. They are called the “blondes” of the cat fancy as they tend not to respond as much on the judging table as we would like – but in reality, they are not stupid. They are bright enough to reserve their energies for looking luscious.
As the color implies, blue is symbolic of heaven and when you own a blue, you have a little bit of heaven in your home. Even though blue Persians can be little tyrants from time to time (bossy, dominating and demanding), this is only because they love you with a passion. While the females display tender feelings toward their young, they never forget their owners. When blue Persians show great possessiveness, woe to other kitties that get in their way. They demand a great deal of attention, but it is only because you have stolen their hearts.
Blacks display intelligence, are strong-willed and sometimes a tad rambunctious. Loving and never distant, the black Persian has a mellow heart and an even larger capacity to be near you (their owners first and then their fellow cats). They are quiet and sweet- natured as their breed does imply, but they have the capacity for play and can even be a bit vocal in their demands. However, possessing a typical light vocal quality, they never seem raucous – just a bit opinionated.
Reds are the “Snappy Toms” of the solids. They have energy and are a primal force wherever they live. These class clowns play hard (for a Persian) and push themselves. They enjoy climbing though not to aggressive heights, while other solid colors prefer perching languidly on a shelf. Mischievous as they are, solid red Persians wear their hearts on their sleeves and are always looking for approval.
Peke faced reds were just as warm and friendly as the red Persians above, but more dog-like in their affection and desire to be close to their humans. There aren’t many of them around these days, but those folks that own one can testify to their loyalty and just plain happy-go-lucky natures.
Creams can be laid-back to a fault. This is because they are very clear-minded and even-tempered most of the time. Yet their feelings are on their sleeves. This is an accommodating (and bend-over-backwards-to-please-you) cat. Not vocal at all, the cream is a loving and peaceful part of the solid spectrum. But beware – some of them have their moods, which their soft exterior belies.
Lilacs and chocolates express their love aggressively. They have a greater agility than their Solid counterparts (those sneaky Siamese/Havana Brown genes creeping through all that fur no doubt). This is a robust, full-bodied Persian, who is willing to be associated with their feline friends and share in group activities far more than other Solids (particularly their private white cousins). They are also willing to be lap cats to their humans despite a heavy coat. Indeed these lovely cats are snuggle-bugs to willing owners.
The Early Cat…
Quite frankly no one knows exactly when or how the very first feline appeared. Most men of science do agree, however, that the cat’s most ancient ancestor probably was a weasel-like animal called Miacis, which lived about 40 million or 50 million years ago. Miacis is believed to be the common ancestor of all land-dwelling carnivores (dogs as well as cats). It is theorized cats existed for millions of years – even before the first dogs. As to the original length of the cat’s coat, it is a mystery lost in time but we can assume that these early felines possessed a short dense coat, a factor which protected them from extreme elements. As to color? Grey and/or brown muted shades complete with classic and/or mackerel patterns were thought to be the two colors and patterns which protected primitive woodland creatures, thus camouflaging them from harms way.
Wildcats bred to early domestic cats are said to be the contributing gene pool that brought about longhaired cats. The earliest species can be split into three main groups: 1. F. Silvestris.silvestris, the European wildcat (Silvestris group), found mainly living in forested areas of Europe (fossil records tell us that the European form of the wildcat is the oldest, descended from Martelli’s cat, Felis silvestris lunensis, about 250,000 years ago). 2. F. Silvestris.lybica, the African wildcat (Lybica Group), existed in various forms through history in most of Africa apart from the Sahara. The African Wildcat diverged from the European cat only about 20,000 years ago (fossil specimens of African Wildcats are only known with certainty from the late Pleistocene era). 3. F. Silvestris.ornata, the Indian Desert or Steppe wildcat (Ornata Group), were discovered in various regions of western Asia through parts of India and Southern Asia.
Breedings occurred between the European wildcat (Silvestris Group) and a breed called the Pallas cat. Pallas cats are Asian cats that adapted to a life at high altitudes, with thick fur and low-set ears, that protected them against severe weather. The longhair gene was, in this way, introduced to domestic cats in Eastern Europe. Again, the brown and grey tabby colors predominated.
Or… In Asia, long coated cats were said to exist in ancient China and were said to have YELLOW fur and deep yellow eyes. Whether they were ever bred to European cats is unknown.
The Russian Wildcat is rugged and had a shaggy brown tabby coat. They might have contributed their genetic makeup to the mix. It is proposed that some were exported to other lands and bred but there is no proof that anyone could handle them, much less work with them as part of a breeding program. NOTE: It is postulated that modern day Persian brown tabbies can trace their lineage (and that rich brown color) to Russian wildcats.
Some scientists postulate that ancient Europeans witnessed spontaneously mutated, fully coated cats living in frigid weather. These feral felines became part of families who lived a nomadic existence. Many of these people kept colonies of cats for protection from vermin as they traveled from region to region in cruel climates. It is believed that when tribes of peoples with their ancient felines came together, new varieties of longhaired cats became established for a longer coat factor.
Another Possibility… Longerhaired domestic breeds may have sprung forth in combination with an Asian wildcat, F. manul. The domestic cat’s original coat color was also described as grey or brown with darker tabby stripes, colors that always provided camouflage in all kinds of environments.
As to the development of the shorthaired domestic cat, scientists believe they were derived from the Caffre cat, F. libyca, a species of African wildcat which was domesticated by the ancient Egyptians perhaps as early as 2500 BC. They were transported by the crusaders to Europe. Egyptian tomb paintings, sculptures and the resultant cat mummies present us with very early representations of the domestic shorthaired cat. These domestic cats were incorporated into the life and daily worship of Egypt’s culture. Historians believe the enterprising Romans eventually introduced domestic cats throughout most of Europe. Then, as time went by, other nations with sailing ships imported varieties of shorthaired cats to the New World and later Australia. Once on land, these hardy felines became pets and also were part of semi-feral colonies of cats which, when bred with local wildcats, produced longer coated domestic felines.
By the early 1800s, traveling European adventurers were said to have brought longhaired kittens back from Middle Eastern countries to their own families. Then, as now, the desirable longhair might have caused curiosity and interest but the sweet nature of these particular cats cemented a permanent relationship between Europe’s peoples and these long-coated cats. Longhairs were transported to England, France, Spain and Italy and eventually the United States. They became prizes for people of wealth and longhaired cats gained in popularity as enthusiasm for shorthaired varieties diminished.
One supposition, based on more fact than fiction, is that the longhaired domestic cat evolved from areas in the Middle East (some say Iran, formerly known as Persia; others believe Turkey). It is guessed that longhaired cats were associated with these countries from about the 16th Century and possibly earlier.
Authorities do claim that the Angora was first introduced to Europe around 1626; others say 1550 but it was almost certainly somewhere in that time span. The Angora also appeared in Italy and shortly thereafter in France. Indeed, students of the cat believe that the long bodied Angora from Turkey was bred to a shorter semi-longhaired domestic (wildcat mix) cat by the mid 1800s to create a longer coated cat that would someday be called the “Persian.” The people of Great Britain were the most interested in breeding programs and they are said to be the ones to use the Angora, which they bred to a woolly wildcat x domestic mix, and thus evolved the early Persian.
In the 1959 CFA Yearbook, page 51, it is stated that Angoras came in blue, maltese and white. The differences between the two breeds (as noted in this article) begin with the quality of the fur (the Persian had a woolly coat and thicker tail). The Longhair’s head was also larger with rounder ears and the body was stockier. As for personality, it was thought the primitive Longhair was not as intelligent or sweet tempered as the Angora. For a time, the Angora was considered more desirable. Once the long-coated cats and Angoras bred, the litters were sweeter natured, plus they possessed a lengthier coat. In addition, these cats had a rounder body with heavier bone. As a result of these “improvements,” the Persian became more popular than the Angora.
Coat density, by the way, was attributed indirectly to the fact that this new breed of longhair was transported from a warm, dry climate (Middle East) to a cold damp climate (Great Britain) where they consumed a richer, more diverse diet.
The First Colors…
An easy way to understand color is to remember there are two basic hues for cats: black and red (sometimes referred to as orange). All other colors and patterns are variations of the two colors. When these colors combine, it creates variety. Since the color gene is carried in the same genetic framework with the X (or female) chromosome, the color is sex-linked (NOTE: If you want to research the breakdown of what can be produced today using modern Solids, the Persian Breed Council has a link to color charts.
Furthermore, all cats, no matter what breed, have two genes for tabby, but not all cats display the tabby pattern because other overriding genes are present, and these genes prevent the tabby pattern from emerging. If the cat has the dominant agouti gene, the tabby pattern will appear; but, if instead of the agouti we have a non-agouti gene, then the agouti pattern diminishes and the tabby pattern and the background are both the same, which means a tabby pattern becomes almost indistinct. (And what does agouti really mean? It is the name of a tiny rodent with a coat exhibiting banded coloring that causes the coat to appear invisible against the backdrop of a woodland setting) Simply stated, the Solid Persian is your basic example of a non-agouti cat, and if they are bred (solid-to-solid), then the kittens should be solid (excluded are cats that carry the chocolate or colorpoint gene). NOTE: The use of modern tabbies, particularly brown tabby, in a Solid Persian program can cause havoc with clear non-agouti color, since it introduces the tabby pattern plus agouti (ticked area) between the tabby pattern. Ticking causes visible ripples of color. There are three or four separate bands of color on each hair shaft (which you can see on the Abyssinian).
Solid color in cats is dependent upon the chemical presence of Melanin as a “color” factor. Melanin is the main pigment that gives color to the skin and hair. Eumelanin produces black, blue, chocolate or lilac based colors. Phaeomelanin produces red and cream based colors and they are sex-linked (XR/XR or O/O). The hair itself acquires color by a simple process. Next to the hair root malanophore produces malanin. As each hair grows from the root, Eumelanin is deposited in the hair and it is in this way that color is actually deposited on the hair shaft.
Now that we understand the color process a bit more, we should probably figure out how the agouti and non-agouti merged to produce a solid color longhair. Previously, we said that up to the 1800s, the longhair wildcats had been bred to shorthair domestic cats and created a new mix, which was still breeding in their natural environments. The new longhair agouti brown/ gray striped and blotchy (classic and mackerel tabby) cats resembled their wild ancestors from Africa, Asia and Europe. That is why it is postulated this new longhair was bred to non-agouti Turkish Angoras, with the intent of improving personality as well as basic physical appearance and increased coat length. This step set the stage for programs that permanently affected the destiny of coat colors for Solid Persian cats. More and more non-agouti felines emerged and they caused a trend towards solid color longhair cats – Persian cats.
When Solids Were Show Cats…
Moving forward to the early 1900s, quasi-fanciers in Britain were separating favorite felines that exhibited specific non-agouti coat colors with longer lengths of coat, into breeding programs. Of course, the new solid colors initially exhibited some stripes on the legs and tail. Some cats had white markings. Solid black and solid blue were relatively rare. Some blacks had symmetrical patterns but others had odd stripes and splotches on the body. Solid blacks also had white hairs under the throat and shoulder. Yet, solid color longhairs were on the rise as people became intrigued with the possibility of creating beautiful, sound solid color longhair felines. And that was the beginning of solid color combining with length of coat to constitute fledgling longhair breeding programs. Solid colors eventually included red (orange), black, cream, blue (gray) and were all emerging at a rapid pace.
The inspiration to keep records of these rare breedings (early stud book records) was just a step away. Like-minded individuals visited each other to see new litters and discussed their trial and error methods (early cat clubs), which led to actual cat shows and on to the creation of cat fancy associations. Before we go there, let us have a look at how man, in brief, revered the feline in art and culture. Then you will see where WE as a species began to connect creatively (so to speak) with natural evolution to design the Solid Persian show cat. We will then be able to understand how time marched on as did the progress of the longhaired “Persian” cat with improved coat, color and structure. At first, emphasis was on color (not so much type). Later, it shifted to “type.”
The ancient art works of man openly venerate the shorthaired feline. From wall murals and artifacts of the Egyptians to imposing sculpture, the cat was seen as a model of adoration. Consider the 8th century Irish manuscript of the Gospels, the Book of Kells, which has a representation of short-coated cats and kittens in one of its illuminations. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer are among the artists who included cats that were mostly shorthaired. Pampered pets were pictured as gray or brown tabbies with an occasional red tabby peering out from the canvas.
Modern photographic and illustrative techniques of the late 19th and early 20th centuries celebrated the longhaired cat. With thanks to early photography, you can view longhaired cats (primarily blue Solid Persians) from the late 19th century and early 20th century. They are pictured sitting astride satin pillows and enjoying royal privileges. Curiosity about these longhairs increased with the advent of illustrated postcards that had precious longhairs seated among hearts and flowers. Book covers, playing cards, posters and advertisements of the time depicted cats of long coat, lounging amongst satins, laces, brocades and flowers.
The public’s interest was piqued. Not only did people want to see these interesting longhair cats in person, but they wanted to have them in their own homes. The time was right for something new. Indeed, it was absolutely perfect timing for the great pioneer and historian of the Persian, and the creator of the original cat show in England, Harrison Weir, to step in. First, he wrote the book Our Cats and All About Them in 1889. He was also responsible for the illustrations of the breeds contained within the covers of his amazing book. Mr. Weir’s “Points of Excellence” also contained within Our Cats was literally the first standard to assign points. He gave 20 points out of a possible 100 – more than for any other feature – for color in the self-colored longhair cats.
As a result, and due to Harrison Weir’s influence, cat clubs were formed. These cat clubs were dedicated to specific colors of cats. Very different standards evolved on that basis, even among the same so-called breed. Some breeds would include up to 35 points for color alone. This is why when the very first catteries (whether English or American) put on the very first cat shows, they separated cats into classes by their color as opposed to a specific breed.
After writing the “book” on felines, Mr. Weir initially decided to promote “breeds” by raising awareness of the “beauty and attractiveness” of the cat, so that “the too often despised cat will meet with the attention and kind treatment that every dumb animal should have and ought to receive.” A brilliant innovator, Mr. Weir approached his friend, Mr. Wilkinson, the manager of Crystal Palace, with the idea of designing a novelty – a cat show. The judges at that very first show held in July 1871 were Harrison Weir himself, his brother John Jenner Weir and the Rev. J. MacDonna, a well-known breeder of Saint Bernards.
Queen Victoria purchased two blue Persians at that Crystal Palace cat show. The Queen gave an aristocratic seal of approval to solid colored long coated cats, plus she inadvertently endorsed cat shows as a socially acceptable form of public entertainment. Harrison Weir had managed to create a forum and place of honor and respect for early pedigreed cats!
At that significant first Crystal Palace show, solid blue Persians were shown by the renowned Miss Frances Simpson. Miss Simpson founded the Blue Cat Society of England and wrote the standard in 1902, which is not much different than today’s interpretation in England. Miss Simpson also wrote The Book of the Cat, published in 1903. She stated that her first Persians – a pair of blue-eyed whites – were obtained in 1869, and are said to be the foundation for several catteries in the United States. NOTE: Accounts differ as to whether the first blues were shown by the Gresham sisters or by Miss Simpson; however, the first color classes for blues were offered in 1889. The following year the classes were split by gender. For many decades, blues were considered the standard bearers for the Persian breed. Blues were used in breeding programs for other divisions (even back then) to retain “type” and overall quality.
During the Victorian and Edwardian days, the British cat fancy had exhibitors with titles that were longer than their cats. HRH Princess Victoria of Schleswig Holstein was Patron of the National. The Lady Decies showed many fine longhairs. Lady Marcus Beresford was said to own over 150 cats and traveled to cat shows with an entourage of servants. Queen Victoria and the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) were regular attendees at later shows.
A “class” was created for “working class” citizens for lower entry fees. British “commoners” showed in the “pet classes” category. Pedigreed cats were known to be beyond the reach of the “working classes.” This is how Household Pet classes came to be.
Imagine the anticipation when the now famous and almost “royal” Solid longhairs finally made their way across the ocean to America! It is recorded that the first “high-bred” longhair imported into the United States was a highly awaited black. He came from Spain and was purchased by the influential Mrs. Edwin Brainard. The second import came to another future breeder of famed solid red Persians, Mrs. Clinton Locke of Chicago. She purchased “Wendell,” a white. Wendell was from Persia and he was imported to the United States around 1875. Wendell was the foundation for the world famous Lockehaven cattery. This cattery set precedents by producing Solid Persians and promoting them to eager new fanciers who had “royal” stars in their eyes.
Small cat shows were held in the New England states. The first widely attended show in America was held at Madison Square Garden in New York in May 1895. From that point on, cat shows took off across the United States as swiftly as the wind. Other cat fancy activity included shows in Chicago, where numerous white Persians were exhibited by well known breeders of the day including the above mentioned Mrs. Clinton Locke and Mrs. Josiah Cratty. The solid colors dominated, although shadeds, parti-colors and tabbies were seen at these shows in smaller numbers. Because of the public’s interest, the first longhair specialty club was organized in Buffalo in 1906 called the Blue Cat Society of America. It was founded to further solid blue Persians and to hold cat shows featuring solid blue Persians, which this club did for many years.
In the USA, early cat shows had fine examples of Solid Persians that were imported from England. Longhaired cats were very competitive by the time CFA was established in 1906. During this crucial period, breeders acknowledged longhairs as a group. As time went by, exhibitors refined their tastes for “breeds,” but kept moving forward with an emphasis on color as opposed to body or type.
The Persian Past…
1909 was a banner year when D.B. Champion penned Everybody’s Cat Book. This was a focused description of the acceptable pedigreed Persian show cat. The book inspired breeders in America to import many great bloodlines from England, which developed into the great Solid Persians of the 20th Century. In fact, most Solid Persians of today connect back to imported longhaired cats that came to America in the early part of the 20th Century from Britain. It was a great time for artistic growth with the pedigreed feline. As a result of our hurrying to keep up with our English cousins, by 1914 nine color classes were listed under the longhairs with the following colors accepted for Solid Persians by CFA’s Board: whites, blacks, blues, oranges and creams. Solid Persians were on their way. It was considered quite the honor to be sold a Solid Persian. Novices of the day were taught how to breed and were tutored regarding the value of Solid Persians.
Prior to World War I, cat clubs were dedicated to particular colors of longhairs. One advantage of being a member was that cat clubs enabled members to more easily locate breeding stock until the war years disrupted cat fancy progress. A trend of heavy emphasis on color did continue through the war years and even beyond that time. After World War I, many cat fancy associations in the United States, and even in a destroyed Europe, began the process of coming back like the phoenix from the ashes. Cat showing slowed down through World War I. Then, things became more active with fanciers displaying their felines in increasing numbers as the war closed. Persians assumed center stage. In fact, without Persians there might never have been cat shows. This breed was the “big draw” for both exhibitors and visitors during this period. The news during the 20s and 30s, however, was not the rebirth of cat shows. The news was that “color” as well as “type” were linked as motivating factors toward the improvement of the Solid Persian.
In the 30s and 40s, dedicated breeders painstakingly preserved records, writing out pedigrees in longhand (oh, for a typewriter – never mind a computer) and all registries produced stud books as error-free as they possibly could. In the 1930s, each class of Solid was given individual Standards of Points. Differences were noted for structure and type (but not breed), with the largest emphasis on color. Colorbred blues (again with thanks to Queen Victoria and royals) were still the most popular Solid color, passing by all the others to attain glory and renown. It is noted in the 1963 CFA Yearbook in articles written on white Persians by Mrs. John H. Revington and black Persians by Mr. Richard Gebhardt, respectively, that blues were the color of choice. This was particularly true when breeders were attempting to improve type for both the solid white and black.
In the United States during the 1940s, Bi-Colors and Calicos were included in studbooks but relegated to lower status in comparison to the far more popular Solids and Shadeds. The first Himalayans had not yet been born (1950s). Cat fanciers persevered but there was no antibiotic or vaccination that could spare kittens from fatal diseases that today are cured with a simple pill or shot. Bloodlines came and went during this period as people sought answers to preserve their stock. The work and suffering of these dedicated people and their urgency to help their cats brought about cures for common feline diseases and methods that stopped the pestilence of fleas. Cleaner catteries spurred on by these disasters brought about sanitary methods that are used today, as well as educated grooming and bathing techniques that aided in preventing disease. When longhairs were threatened with rack and ruin in the southern states, credit for their survival goes to those breeders of the greatest determination, who stubbornly held on and bred Persians in spite of all the obstacles. Indeed the Southern Region is still a stronghold for Solid Persians – a legacy to be honored.
When World War II broke out, it caused confusion, great disruption and heavy losses for the cat fancy. Who could take care of cats, much less a cattery? Those who did sacrificed tremendously to keep the breeds alive and thriving. Indeed, the miracle is that Persians came through the second World War healthier than some of the smaller breeds, and unbelievably dominated the field at cat shows to become the cat fancy’s brightest star at the end of the 40s and also the early 50s.
One good reason: until World War II, breeders of Persians in America profited from the experience and wisdom of their English counterparts. We all agreed, up until almost the end of the war, on a single standard for Persians. America and England worked for approximately 100 years together in perfect harmony. It was this harmony that preserved the Solid Persian.
When World War II broke out, change became inevitable for Persians in both countries. (This change was the cause of CFA in the United States, including lilacs and chocolates as Solid Persians later in the 20th century!) To explain, we have to realize that World War II was crueler to England than America. They were bombed continuously and lost many brave citizens and precious cats from once-prosperous breeding programs. With the loss of life, methods were used to preserve Persians which included taking whatever cats were available, including Siamese and Havana Browns, and breeding them to remaining Solid Persian stock, which preserved endangered catteries. New colors, and inevitably divisions, were the result. European fanciers became intrigued with the far-reaching possibilities long before America. So, it happened that British pedigrees contained other breeds of cats which were not from “pure Persian” bloodlines. This was a new direction. It presented problems for American cat fanciers who did not want to import British cats if the pedigrees included other breeds.
In America, breeders came to believe that expression should be extreme on Persians. They believed it should be the motivating factor for improvement. America’s Persians began “pushing the envelope” (so to speak) with head type, that inevitably altered structure (use of the peke-face reds). This structural alteration was not acceptable to British cat fanciers. The British had no intention of losing their look. They intended to continue with a style of Persian that harkened back to their “glory days.” Our cultural (breeding program) differences caused our countries to part company – never to return. As explained in The Life, History and Magic of the Cat by Mery, he stated the general feeling of the British fancier toward the American breeder and exhibitor:
In the United States a shortening of the face even more than is normal for the long-haired face, giving a really Pekinese-like look, has resulted in a special group being formed within this breed for show purposes. Breeders should, as a rule, however, conform strictly to the standards. It is the striving after sensational effects in breeding that produces those Persians that are just flabby balls of fur, with cheeks invading their eyes, colour that is washed out and legs that are bandy or too furry.
Not only did our cats look different, but the style of our exhibiting differed, as breeders and owners are not allowed in the same room when judging takes place at cat shows in England. Americans bring their cats directly to show rings for judges to view. Furthermore in the UK, the Persian was renamed. The British refer to Persians as the “Persian Longhair” to differentiate it from other longhaired cats. So even the very title of “Persian” was altered as our English brothers insisted that the word “longhair” must follow. This and other trends caused a gap between our two countries which has become as wide as the Atlantic.
The Move To The Present…
During the 1960s, breeding programs were gaining new methods for success. The late Lois Weston (Simbelair) was determined to use big-boned creams in her primarily white breeding program. Not only was the white coat unaffected (as was feared) but bone, eye color and type on the whites moved to new heights of glory. (This is when copper-eyed white Solids developed that deep dark eye color, breeding cream solids with whites). Mrs. Weston was vilified and then praised as a hero. Today she is a legend! However, it must be remembered that Mrs. Weston was breeding Solids-to-Solids and that worked, and it does now. It is, of course, a tried and true practice that ensures Solids stay solid. Other fanciers introduced Parti-Colors heavily to Solids from the 60s right up to today. Since Parti-Colors are a result of Solid color breeding programs, these coat colors preserved Solid coat color and eye color as well. Jadon is a cattery that is known for that kind of savvy breeding. Parti-Colors to Solids produced type, bone and great coat and eye color. Keeping their gene pool tight, Jadon did not not marr their great dilute color to any great extent. Catteries such as these took the time to work with their Solids. As a result, the entire cat fancy benefited. Dilute programs and dominant programs rarely blended. Keeping these coat colors separated produced sound even coat color, that simply could not be beat!
American Solid Persians were at their peak from the 60s through the 80s. Breeders opted for tight gene pools to produce stunning conformation, with glorious coat color in their Solid Persians. They did not care how long it took. They wanted quality and they produced it. Many famous bloodlines and legendary breeders during this period took their place in CFA’s history. Noted breeders with great expertise relied heavily on tried and true breeding techniques including: line-breeding (breeding within a family of related cats but included are other bloodlines); in-breeding (cats are judiciously bred to their immediate family members such as their parents, parents to offspring or brothers to sisters); color-bred breeding (seven generations or more using one color; example: color-bred blues); and, outcrossing (using completely different bloodlines).
A significant event occurred in the 1980s that altered Solid Persians dramatically. With the acceptance in America of lilacs, chocolates and CPCs as approved in 1984 by the CFA Board of Directors, a Pandora’s Box was opened. Now, what I am about to say, is NOT meant as a condemnation of the beautiful cats that were bred as a result of this acceptance. It certainly is not meant to downgrade the hard work and dedication of fanciers, who love and back these color classes and/or divisions. Rather, this is an explanation of what happened next and is based solely on the choices (shortcuts) some fanciers took after the board made this ruling.
NOTE: As of May 1, 1981, CFA awarded chocolates and lilacs championship recognition in the Solid Division of the Himalayan breed. Then in 1984, once Himalayans became a separate division of the Persian breed, solid chocolates and lilacs were given championship status in the OSCC (Other Solid Color Class) of the Solid Persian Division.
It was during the decade of the 1990s when good things happened for Colorpoint Carriers (CPCs). They were in the Nationals for the first time in CFA history. In 1990, GC, NW Catsafrats Ice Cube (BEW) was awarded 13th Best Cat and GC, GP, NW Mullodies Sundance (red) earned 22nd Best Cat.
Other catteries observed that both of these exquisite CPCs, a solid white and a solid red, had won national recognition. And why not? Colorpoint Carriers (Himmies with no points!) were fabulous. They had extraordinary type. They were as exciting as the established Solids and their Himmy cousins. You could breed these two divisions for one generation and get quick results.
It was obvious to newer exhibitors. You did not have to take time, make plans, exert great effort or learn the ropes. You could be a “one generation wonder” and produce National Winners. They said, “Why not use Himmies, Bi-Colors or those beautiful Shadeds or even brown Tabbies? What’s the harm? You win.” No one considered the credit for success was based on continuing to increase and preserve Solid bloodlines.
In fact, color became a distinct second cousin. Mature fanciers, whose cats were not receiving recognition, became discouraged. Most of these exhibitors have since left the fancy. Meanwhile, those who worked on “quick win” short-term programs for instantaneous gratification were taking over. They racked up national wins more easily than those who were working for quality pedigrees and long-lasting bloodlines.
What really happened? Exhibitors decided to break the rules. They were using strong, tight pedigrees (developed through the years by older breeders) but crossed in other divisions which traditional breeders would never do. This gave them their instant success. They eventually muddied their pedigrees. Thus, continued success with “quick win” formulas did not last. There was a price to be paid and we are seeing it today.
By the late 1990s, our once-vibrant Solids began to fade, turn funny colors or exhibit ghost patterns. After three or more generations (now we are up to the late 90s) the miracles ceased. Solid colors went backward. Breeders had been borrowing heavily from Himmies, Bi-Colors, Shadeds and brown Tabbies (for those ultra round heads). This is when eye color went whitish pale in the centers, with only the rims exhibiting color (particularly if Himmies or Bi-Colors were in the pedigree for several generations).
Additionally, when Solids were bred together for more than two generations with Shadeds or brown Tabbies, their coat texture would matt and fuzz. By creating a shortcut Persian for the quick win, maintenance became more difficult. NOTE: The introduction of the brown Tabby brought about a distinct change to coat texture and length. Brown Tabbies have a third type of hair (besides guard hair and cottony undercoat). The hair is a bristle or awn hair. This awn hair is a thicker shorter hair. The previously traditional long flowing coat of the Solid Persian (when brown tabbies have been introduced into a program) becomes shorter and heavier and exhibits a “rough” look.
As we reached the end of the 20th Century, Solids with strong Bi-Color influence were exhibiting uneven body size (the head and neck sometimes appeared smaller than the body). Eye size shrank. Domes were flatter. Additionally, ears sat higher on the head or too far to the side. The base of the ear appeared larger than had been seen previously. When this repeated itself in breeding programs, the fanciers responsible moved on to Exotics or other breeds.
And today? The fact is that cat fanciers continue to make a mishmosh of their pedigrees. Exhibitors do not know enough about breeding quality Solid Persians. This is because there are less and less good examples to follow. And, true – sometimes lighting in our showhalls is truly lousy. Still, even if the lighting is full spectrum, daylight or fluorescent, something awful has happened to color (and conformation). Our wonderful inbred, line-bred, color-bred Solid Persians have been watered down. There is little left to replace them. The tight genetics have diminished along with the breeders who did all the work. The genetic codes are disappearing deeper and deeper into pedigrees. So, where do we go from here?
The Numbers Go Down, Down, Down…
During the 1990s, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) was determined to be a serious problem for Persian cats. Research regarding this renal disease actually only began in earnest as of 1990.
According to Dr. Aura McConnell, Veterinary Researcher and Reproduction Specialist, this same condition can be found in dogs, rabbits, horses, humans (in fact, most mammals) and, for the great majority, is not fatal. She has stated that both she and her colleagues believe current testing techniques have proven to be, for the most part, inconclusive. So, it would appear there are various opinions regarding PKD floating around the scientific/veterinary community, (much as there are disagreements among scientists and medical specialists regarding the validity of cholesterol as the primary cause of heart disease.)
However, in CFA the fear pertaining to PKD reached incredible heights the moment PKD as a disease came to light. Heavy loss, as far as actual bloodlines of Solid Persians, was the result. Exhibitors stampeded their catteries to self-destruction and bloodlines were thrown out. Today, the number of Solid Persians in showhalls is but a tenth of what they used to be just ten short years ago.
A word of warning when reacting to the news that a cat in your cattery could be suspect: first, if you believe you should test, do so. No one is telling you not to. Second, these tests are not, in every single case, conclusive. (This is because the methods used are only ten years old. Usually laboratory testing is further advanced before it is released to the public.) Third, be prudent. Do not destroy ENTIRE bloodlines. Use sound judgment. Testing for disease is here to assist all affected animals – not wipe out everything in its path.
Remember! Cures that were once thought impossible are always around the corner. Disease, fleas and other plagues were once believed incurable. Today, they are all but gone. So, it will be true of PKD. One fine day the problem will be solved. A cure will land in all of our laps. Just keep the faith AND keep your Persians!
The Persian’s Future….Is YOU!!
Is there a hope for Solid Persians? That depends on you. CFA needs dedicated people; fanciers who will pull together and work on long-term breeding programs, with the thought of winning as a goal – as opposed to winning right now. So, if you ARE interested, there are lessons, methods and, believe it or not, bloodlines still available. Besides, once you are on the road with Solid Persians, you will win. It is inevitable. There will be rewards for your dedication. This is because the type is there already; it’s just the color that is in trouble.
P. M. Soderberg, the great writer of cats, gave his theory. He said that one cat will suddenly appear in a breeding program, possessing outstanding traits. This miraculous cat, when bred, will throw himself or herself thus improving color, type, boning, etc. Thus, a “prepotent” male (or female) and the succeeding generations will upgrade breeding programs everywhere. What IS gradual, however, is the plodding along of the program until you do find that certain cat within your breedings that does change the world.
Who can help and guide us? The successful old-time breeders can point the way. Their wonderful experiences will enlighten, inspire and educate us regarding techniques that can bring back good color for Solid Persians. But, if their stories don’t convince you, then read the judges’ opinions that follow. Their thoughts might be a sobering reminder as to why we need to correct the color issue.
More good news? Quite a few fanciers still possess many of the traditional bloodlines. They haven’t combined “other divisions” into their programs; but, they need friends. It might be YOU who will inspire these exhibitors to continue, if you decide you want to work together, that is. And, who knows what good can come of that? Perhaps Solid Persians will make a historic “comeback” and you will be part of the cure. (And we will be reading your name in the next story on Solid Persians in the not-too-distant future!)
NOTE: If you are interested in seeking information regarding valuable bloodlines, please refer to the previous article on Solid Persians, “Stargazing: A Historical View of Solid Persians” (breed article – CFA Almanac March, 1995), written by Greg and Judy Brocato.
In the end, we all need to be generous with the tricks of the trade and pull things back into perspective. We can have the finest division of Persians in the world. We just have to think our pedigrees through again and remember how to keep good color going. Phenotype (the look of a cat) is one thing but genotype (pedigrees) is a guideline we need to follow more seriously. And, above all, we must share with each other and not be petty. We cannot hold others back. Knowledge is a weapon that can be turned to the best advantage when used for good. So let’s share our bloodlines with good intentions and tutor novices so their breeding programs succeed. That way, we CAN look forward with pride to what the millennium will bring. The bottom line: we must decide to follow the past, which will improve the present and secure our future. A future that IS as solid as a rock!
Nancy M. Davis – Willow Glen – 1950s – 1980s
“The very first show I went to, Donna Jean Thompson was there and was cleaning up with a big blue male, Erman Theodocious of Jeannel. He won everything in sight. Of course, at first I thought like everyone else – I wanted a white cat. I got a Cats Magazine and got Marcena Myers name from it. The line I was working with to start with was what I like to call the ‘Castilia Sandy’ line. Lilas Bloem (Bloemhill) and the Sandy lines clicked very well. Marcena Myers (Castilia) was a great lady and was very generous with me. I was attracted to that big round head which she used to call ‘Poppy Eyes.’ It was a sweet look – round flat face straight line profile (no protruding muzzle), equal distance from eyes to top head and from eyes to chin. I think that GC Castilia Sandy, the cat I got from Marcena, was the root of my successful breeding (foundation cat). ‘Sandy’ was out of Klinkhammers Prince Valiant (CEW) and Nor-Mont Debbie of Castilia (blue-cream). What that line had was type to die for, even though it was weak on eye color. I worked through the years trying to improve on the eye color without losing the type. Marcena was instrumental in getting Lois Weston to sell me Simbelair Blue Chip. He was a proven male and a champion. This cat was pale blue with a head like a dinner plate but also pale eye color. When I crossed it with Lorraine Wiesemann’s line (Rustnik), it helped it a lot. Then, through my first cat club, I met a couple from Walton, Kentucky, who was getting out of cats. She had a blue-cream (Shawnee Felice) I was dying to get as well as a cream female, Shawnee Moon Haze. I bred ‘Felice’ to ‘Blue Chip,’ and got my first Willow Glen grand, Willow Glen’s Golden Image. I bred Felice back to her son and got GC, NW Willow Glen’s Golden Girl. ‘Golden Image’ was a big cat with nice pale color and a to-die-for head. Then, Marcena helped me get CH An-Ju St. Andrew of Ben-Mar, another ‘Sandy’ son. I had great success crossing all these lines. When I bought GC Woodkiff Fan Tan of Castilia from Marcena, he was eight years old. He clicked with that Rustnik-Sandy cross I had and produced Willow Glen Baccarat, DM and ‘Hit The Jackpot.’ Anyway, I bred GC, NW Willow Glen Golden Image to a red peke I bought from L. Wiesemann (CH Rustnik Jubilee of Willow Glen) and she had three kittens: Willow Glen Firefly, Willow Glen Kid Curry and Willow Glen’s Hannibal Hayes. All three became grands. When I started, I didn’t know about lines, just ‘The Look’ I liked and searched it out. I sold a ‘St. Andrew’ kitten to Jo Ann Cummings and Earl Sandefer; they made her the Northwest Region’s 5th Best Kitten, GC Willow Glen Checkmate. They used ‘Golden Image’ to breed a blue-cream they got from Marion Hall, that produced GC Sandef’s Big Dave of Jensen. When I bred to Marianne Byrne’s male, GC Lullaby Abracadabra of Midas, DM, it also improved the eye color. I think Marianne’s GC Lullabye Abracadabra of Midas, DM produced around 50 Grand Champions. FYI! At that time, we powdered the reds lightly with cream color talc to blur out the tabby. Not a solution to the color problem, you can see. Some of the creams from these lines were hot and some not. One of the palest creams I ever bred was GC Willow Glen Hit The Jackpot and she was a result of GC Woodkiff Fan Tan of Castilia (a cream male) and a tortie female that went back to the Rustnik tabbies (‘Jackie’ was a full sister to ‘Baccarat’). Baccarat was one of the first DMs and he sired 22 grands. After I started using ‘Baccarat’ I really had more blacks and torties, so I guess I quit pursuing the pale creams that I was looking for when I first started. In the meantime, I had come to learn of Nikki Horner and her fabulous Shawnee cattery. When I first started showing, the colorbred blues were very much in evidence. Olive Klotz (Ol-Ray cattery) was showing two females: Vi-Jon Peachie’s Girl of Ol-Ray and Vi-Jon Lisette. ‘Peachie’s Girl’ had a sweet open look and ‘Lisette’ was much more extreme. Undoubtedly, my most bittersweet memory is of the colorbred blues fading from popularity, as people were anxious to get that type and started using them with their other solid color cats in their breeding programs. Too bad. People started buying the colorbred blues at the height of their popularity to use that blue color type for breeding into their own other solid color programs. The colorbred blues popularity faded as they did. By the time I quit showing in 1985, they were almost a thing of the past.”
Donna Cook and her daughter Susan Cook Henry – Jadon 1960s – Today
“We must give credit to our foundation cats: GC Hadleigh Sundancer of Jadon (cream son of Widdington English imports) and GC Misty Mornin’ Maria of Jadon (blue-cream double great-granddaughter of GC Beamsley Sunshine of Gaylands, Imp – a cream of inestimable importance to early cream lines). These two cats produced Jadon’s first homebred CFA grand champion in 1970 – GC Jadon Sunup. ‘Sunny’s’ color was not bad, but when she was bred to GC Tra-Mar’s Karmel is Kid of Abbey Road is (Susan’s old cattery name when she thought she’d branch out on her own one day…not!) – a son of Hadleigh Karmel of Misty Mornin’ (sire of at least 24 grand champions years before the title of ‘DM’), and a Dunhowa female from maternal colorbred blue Skyway lines, as well as a paternal granddaughter of GC Beamsley Sunshine of Gaylands, Imp. and GC Shawnee White Wash! – we were blessed with our first National Winner: Jadon Karmelle Sundae of Kastlekats. ‘Kasey’ was the first in the long line of ‘ice-cream’ creams, who all shared a common feature – beautiful, pale cream color and exceptional eye color. We had successfully locked in the gene for good cream color and we cannot fail to pay tribute to our close friends and ‘mentors,’ Marion and Dayle Hall of Tra-Mar. In addition to sharing a working relationship with Charles Milwain of ‘Misty Mornin’,’ Marion and Dayle gave to us not only ‘Karmel Kid,’ but also CH Tra-Mar’s Sky Mist of Jadon, a blue male sired by ‘Hadleigh Karmel’ and out of a Skyway colorbred blue female. ‘Misty’ worked very well with our girls and produced a number of grands himself (including a blue-cream mentioned later who would become great grandmother to ‘Baskin-Robbins.’) Marion and Dayle were true supporters of dilute solids and tried very hard to preserve colorbred blue lines of old. These two half-brothers undoubtedly contributed the lion’s share to our early and continued success, and we were so fortunate to have had them. And the ice-cream cats kept coming: Kasey’s son (bred to Misty), GC, NW Jadon Sundae Kid (‘Frizzy’ sired 13 grands), his daughter, GC Jadon Irish Cream (whose mother was an ultra-pale Kohinoor cream) and her daughter, CH Jadon Vanilla Sundae. ‘Vanilla Sundae’ was then bred to GC Shimea High Voltage, DM (‘Volts’), producing CH Jadon Fried Ice Cream, DM. Volts had Bar-B parents: a red sire and a cream dam – out of two reds!! But he had such fabulous pale, clear color himself! Go figure. That is why we stress that in our experience good dilute color is indeed possible coming down from dominant background. Frito (CH Jadon Fried Ice Cream, DM) was the mother of our dear GC, GP, NW Jadon Baskin-Robbins, and his father is an interesting story: a quick look at his sire’s name is misleading at first…GC Marhei’s Maximilian of Jadon. ‘Max’ was a gift from Sue (Heitman) Helmke, to whom we had given a cream girl as well as her blue litter brother. These littermates were from a complete outcross – GC Bryn Mawr Benji of Oakway, DM, bred to GC Jadon Somethin’ Sundae (a blue-cream ‘Karmel Sundae’ daughter). ‘Benji’ was a combination of (paternal) Ol-Ray, Vi-Jon and Ben-Mar, mostly colorbred blue and (maternal) Ben-Mar. Of course, Ben and Margaret Ehrhardt’s dilute cats have always been known for their lovely, pale color and ‘Benji’s’ pedigree was vintage dilute. Sue bred the littermates and ‘Max’ was in their only litter. Needless to say, we were grateful to Sue for letting us have Max. We had tried for a few years to color breed creams, and while preserving the color was not a challenge, preserving the type was. We felt compelled eventually to branch out, and bred one of our cream girls (an older sister of ‘Baskin-Robbins’) to a prepotent black, GC Mystichill On The Marque of Marhei, DM. Around the same time we acquired a lovely tortie from Mark Hannon. She was a daughter of GC, NW Marhei’s Epitome, DM, (down from old Flo-Sher cream lines through Bar-B) and going back to Currle Cats, Prim-Pet, Bar-B and again Flo-Sher on her mother’s side. We had been encouraged once by the ‘grand dame’ of creams, Mary Kate Carroll (Kohinoor) to use a tortie, as she felt that no cream breeding program should be without one! This girl, Bajonga’s Striped Tease of Jadon, DM, when bred to Baskin-Robbins (‘Bubba’), produced one of our finest cats, GC, BW, NW Jadon Geoffrey Beene, DM. He may have been black but we repeated the breeding and got a lovely cream girl, GC, GP, RW Jadon Mary Quant who (bred to a Toshika black owned by Stan Barnaby and Wayne Trevathan) produced a tortie, GC Jadon Tortola (‘Potomac’s’ mother). As for color in the dilutes and creams in particular, we point to GC, RW Jadon Katie Couric of Amabilis. Without a doubt, she has the best color of any cream we have produced, much like that of her father, GC Jadon Shenandoah of Croshka. ‘Shandy’ is a gorgeous boy – born within days of Potomac. Both of these boys were ‘only children’ from single-kitten litters, and as spectacular as Shandy was as he matured, he had to defer to his half-brother ‘Mac’s’ show career, as that kitten was more together at an earlier age. Shandy is a cat that we regret we no longer have, as we are certain he would have been an asset to our cream breeding plans as his pedigree is truly golden. Our opinion is that the color of dilutes today – good representatives of which many would say are gone forever – is still heavily dependent on pedigree and exceptional color being present for a few, if not many, past generations. And that color need not always be good dilute color – it can be a dominant color as well, as long as those cats themselves also have good, preferably CLEAR, color. There are always exceptions, as we know, but breeding has never been an exact science, no matter how hard we have tried. But over the course of many years, you can see how trends have developed and been maintained. Back to Shandy and ‘Katie Couric’…‘Katie’ was the result of the first time we doubled on GC Quin-Jo Just Cause of Jadon, DM (‘Dabby’ is a valuable, prepotent boy and we are so lucky to have gotten him from our friend, Becky Jones). Katie had a brother, ‘Matt Lauer’ (also cream), with equally spectacular color if not type. Their mother, GC Marcus Merry Merry of Teahs (cream), is a ‘Dabby’ daughter out of GC, RW Marcus Roxanne of Anz, DM (a calico). ‘Roxanne,’ you may remember, is sired by GC, BW, NW Jadon Geoffrey Beene, DM x GC, RW Anz Maggie The Cat, DM. While ‘Merry Merry’s’ color was okay, she was not ultra-pale; but, when bred her to her paternal half-brother, Shandy, color results were wonderful. The credit is primarily due to, I believe, Shandy’s dam line: his mother, CH Pironti Dahlia of Jadon, was a product of a red tabby sire (GC Pironti T K O) and a blue-cream dam (Ben-Mar Daisy of Pironti). Both parents have heavy dominant colors in their pedigrees; however, the common denominator seems to be CLEAR and/or VIBRANT color coming from established Persian lines, where many of the solid colors have been exceptional in the past – Ben-Mar, Marhei, Q-T Cats and Sierra to mention a few. As for the paternal common denominator, Dabby, he is the product of a red father, GC, NW Quin-Jo’s Bravo, DM, and a blue-cream mother. Both of those cats are heavily Ronlyn – a line remembered for exciting color (mostly dominant) as well as fabulous coats. Thus, the combination of Shandy and Merry Merry had the possibility of bringing two very positive attributes (color AND coat) together, and BINGO, it did. Katie’s type was the icing on the cake. Exact science, huh? We also feel very strongly that good eye color is much a part of the heritage we have described above. Not all of these individual cats might possess vibrant deep copper eyes themselves, but that eye color is in the pedigree. It has survived by sometimes skipping a generation, or two or several. We currently have some cats whose eye color is outstanding, but whose parents have so-called ‘adequate’ eye color. Once again, it is going back another generation or two to those cats who still do have blazing copper eyes – that seems to be the key. We have been very fortunate in the past, as well as in recent years, to have been able to acquire outcross cats – either total or mostly – from friends, which have allowed our breeding program to reach new levels. All of those bloodlines are truly appreciated!”
Charmayne Phillips – Char-O – 1970s – Today
Assorted notes from Charmayne… “I started with Wimauma and Vi-Jon colorbred blues 30 years ago. They had the type then that we have today in our Persians, and if you get a Persian that has that look (I called it the ‘Zoda’ look), you will have creams so pale they look white as babies with no tabby markings.
This is where it all came from – England, Wimauma, Zoda, Flo-Sher, myself, Bar-B, Marhei, Mystic Hill and now dispersed throughout the world. I have original pedigrees of the cats that came from England and also Wimauma pedigrees (Mrs. Olin was from Westerly, RI). Also, I have pedigrees from Mrs. Connie Bean from Connecticut. I purchased several blues from Mrs. Bean and when she passed away, her husband gave me six Wimauma blues.
I had a blue male called Char-O’s Caper, and he was out of CH Dior’s Fuzzy Pants of Devine (the dam) and a Zoda male that belonged to a friend of mine; both were colorbred blues. Also, I had a cream female called CH Char-O’s Lorette of Zilbar in 1979, with great color.
The silver pale blue color came from England about 60 years ago. The breeders from England worked on the whole cat and not just type, i.e., very pale color. A few of us in the states worked very hard to keep the color on the dilutes but as years went by, more and more breeders needed everything the colorbred blues were carrying (color, coat, bone, large head, little ears, eye color, etc.). They started to breed them into all the dominant colors as they had awful everything. Take a look at the reds, blacks, etc. back 30 years ago; that’s when we started to lose our pale blue color. You still can pull that pale color out if you use the Bar-B lines, as her line was very heavy Flo-Sher. Most of the time though, the color won’t breed true and you will have to keep working on it. One of the most famous cats was CH Zoda Music Man of Flo-Sher. He was behind all of my color bredblues and Flo-Sher’s too. People today have no idea what a colorbred blue is and I guess that’s progress. Mike and Nancy Petersen, Doris Taylor, Vi Smail (Vi-Jon), myself and Dior (GC Dior Napoleon of Mirza) all had colorbred blues up until about 12 to 15 years ago, and then we had nothing to breed them to. I think it is gone forever, and what a shame as they were so beautiful. A few of my pedigrees still have my colorbred blues back in the fourth generation. The darker the coat, the more unsound the color will be. With the dominants in the pedigree, you will get black guard hairs. This also makes them very dark and you will have hours of hard work. The judges set the tone for what the breeders will breed. Now that has become type over color. The breeders no longer work on the color and many other things like eye color. The old lines had copper penny eye color, and it still shows up using the old lines. The standard calls for 20 points just for color alone. Then they say it is more important for the head with 30 points. Well, that head is many things, not just one (ear size, top head with dome, size of eyes, nose and break). Then, they changed the eye color to five points. Well, that made the breeders stop working on eye color because it didn’t matter if you had a great black in every way, and he had yellow eyes (how awful). I think breeding the solids into the tabbies ruined the tabby pattern and also put tabby barring on the solids (that we worked so hard to get rid of). The tabbies had no type so in order to get it, they used the dilutes. This is true with the dominants too. If the judges put more emphasis on the color and eye color, breeders would start working on it. Some of the best eye color I have ever seen was on the Jadon creams. They worked on colorbred creams. You ask how we can improve the mix and bring back terrific solid color yet preserve type; very hard work and dedication, using old lines, keeping dilutes with dilutes and dominants with dominants. Do not mix the two once you get the color.”
Michael and Nancy Petersen – Goliada – 1970s – Today
“Nancy and I got married in 1968. Nancy had always wanted a blue Persian, so almost immediately we got our first Persian, a distinctly pet blue female (spay) with decent color but lemon yellow eyes. We moved to Cambridge, England in 1974, but because of quarantine restrictions, we could not take our Persian female, CH Goliada Gabrielle. She stayed behind in Iowa with a friend. In no time at all, we had bought an odd-eyed white Persian in England, and, as luck would have it, she was already entered in the big London show at the Olympia (there were over 2,000 entries). Her breeder asked us if we wanted to show her. We said we’d give it a try, so she gave Nancy lessons on how to groom her and we took her to the show. Before the judging began, we had picked out our favorite white male kitten, out of the 40 or 50 that were entered. When that kitten actually came in first and we found out he was available, we now had a mate for our female. For the 1974-75 and 1975-76 show seasons, I don’t think anyone showed more heavily than we did, from Durham in the north to Bournemouth in the south. All the time we kept studying show reports, trying to find that perfect blue, which was what we had decided we really wanted to work with. We looked for show reports that described the best or second best blue male kitten as being very beautiful, with good coat color, but a bit too extreme in head type. Of course it had to be a ‘pure’ blue (a blue Persian with nothing but blues in its pedigree, as far as you could trace). We had never even attended an American show, but this is what we had been told we would need in the US, and the ‘pure’ blue part was just a given in England. In England at that time, good breeders would pet out any blue that wasn’t ‘pure’ blue, and any properly bred white Persian had only one white per generation in its pedigree – all the rest were pure blues. We finally found the kitten we had been dreaming of and got up the nerve to speak to his breeder about him at the Blue Persian Cat Club show. This club holds an annual show in London for blue Persians only. At that time, it was a very small show for England, with usually about 150 blue Persians in attendance. It turned out that a lot of other breeders had been trying to buy the kitten we were interested in, but he was tentatively sold to a breeder on the continent. His breeder, Mrs. Percival, had just received yet one more request for photos and an explanation of why he was not placing better at the shows. We asked at just the right time and he went home with us. We showed him to several kitten awards in England, but then it was time to bring him home to the US and see how we had done. That little blue boy was GC Ariane Ambrose of Goliada, DM. He was CFA’s first blue male Persian DM, and he was the sire of four of the five grands for CFA’s first blue Persian female DM, CH Divees Baby Tarka of Goliada, DM, also a ‘pure’ blue. Not only that but ‘Ambrose’ produced two national winners: GC, NW Goliada Melissa (CFA’s 4th Best Cat in 1980) and GC, NW Goliada Merissa (CFA’s 6th Best Cat in 1983). Ambrose is also behind our new blue DM, GC Goliada Oh! Susanna, DM, the mother of our two most recent blue national winners, GC, NW Goliada Godric Gryffindor of Jadon (CFA’s 20th Best Kitten in 2000) and GC, NW Goliada Hermione (CFA’s 17th Best Cat in 2002). He’s also behind CFA’s Best Kitten of this year, GC, NW Jadon Comefly With Me of Kenkat and is Godric’s first-born daughter. We lost our last ‘pure’ blue five years ago. In the last 15 years or so, the ‘pure’ blue or true colorbred blue has essentially disappeared. I know of a few left in England but, given the head structure now required by the GCCF, they have not progressed beyond the type exhibited by Ambrose all those years ago. However, you still get sound pale color much more consistently when you breed dilutes of excellent color to each other. As a result, we have never owned a non-dilute Persian; however, should someone happen to get really wonderful blue color from two blacks, for example, feel free to incorporate that cat into your dilute breeding program. Make sure you know what you are looking for though. Sometimes cats that are going to be very dark may have a wonderfully pale kitten coat. Check out the color of the face, the extremities and the saddle (the area of slightly shorter hair across the shoulders) that’s the color the cat most likely will be as a mature adult. It has been our experience that a cat of good blue color out of non-dilutes, is capable of producing good color when bred to a properly colored cat. Don’t expect, though, that the non-dilute parents will necessarily repeat this phenomenon. The odds really do seem to be against it.”
Randy Primmer – Boberan – 1990s – Today
“CH Blueskyeyes Falcon of Boberan, DM had a huge impact on my breeding program. I have Linda Berg and Gabriella Gorini to thank for being able to import him from Italy in fall of 1996. The previous spring, Linda was showing the red male, GC, NW Blueskyeyes Fiammifero of Oakhaven, as a kitten. At the time, I was shifting my breeding program from mostly Bi-Colors to Solids, and when I saw ‘Fiam,’ I told Linda I wanted one just like him but in black. The repeat breeding arrived about a month later and there was a black male. ‘Falcon’s’ pedigree, a Cattrax male to a Vickits female, was exactly what I needed. I had enough females with good cats behind them – Bolo, Agonistes, Marhei, Jadon and Marcus/Bajonga through Bastis – that I knew a boy with Falcon’s head style and expression would match up well. It did – in Falcon’s second litter, I had GC, NW Boberan’s Dark Lady, a black female, who was CFA’s 6th Best Kitten for the 1998-1999 show season. ‘Cher’ was Falcon’s first grand at the CFA International Cat Show in November 1998, and his 15th grand came in April 2000. In all, Falcon sired almost 20 grands, three national winners and seven regional winners. One tortoiseshell Falcon daughter has earned her DM title, and Falcon sons have produced well for Mark Hannon (Marcus) and Linda Acomb (Scrimshaw). Another male who has made a significant contribution to my breeding program is GC, RW Jolee’s Dune of Boberan, DM, who Wain Harding allowed me to acquire in 1999. ‘Dune’ is a cream which was an adjustment for me since I prefer the non-dilute colors, but he has worked well with many of my females, particularly my Falcon daughters. His offspring have consistently had rounder, smoother heads and extreme yet open expressions with large eyes. Dune has sired 29 grands so far and several of his newest kittens look promising. Mark Hannon had a major role in helping Dune achieve a DM award, granding most of the first fifteen, including cream male kitten, GC, NW Marcus Nathaniel. Dune also is behind Jadon, Kenkat (Leah Fowler’s recent national winners were out of Dune daughters) and now Nile Lotus Solid Persians. This year looks to be an exciting one for me as I have two beautiful solid boys that should begin breeding soon. One is a black male, GC, RW Boberan’s Dark Knight is my first line-bred black, a son of ‘Cher’ and a double up on Falcon. GC, RW Boberan’s Rusty’s Spirit is a red Dune son of out of a Falcon daughter, and doubled on GC, NW Bajonga’s Rusty Knockers, DM. I’ve also added some new lines to my breeding program this season,including two black Australian imports for outcross. For the future, I’d like to get back the pumpkin orange eye color that seems to have been lost in the blacks. I’m also striving to keep dark black coat color on my blacks. Tabby marks on the reds have been an ongoing struggle in my lines as well, though that seems to ‘clear’ as the cats mature and grow an adult coat.”
Jeanie McPhee – Co-Mc
White Persians: “I don’t believe that white has an effect on other colors. I think of white as a mask. I would not use a white to alter color because it would take test breeding to reveal what is underneath.”
Blue Persians: “There was a time when color was so important, but so was bone, body and head. The male that I kept as a foundation was a pale blue but not the silver blue. I use the term silver in an entirely different context from what breeders understand it to mean today. It was a shimmering almost electric blue and I use it to differentiate from a pale blue. This was a blue so ethereal that it shimmered. Pale blues were pale but duller, without the electricity or refraction of light. In recent years, I do not remember seeing it at all, even in the lines known for paleness. As to ‘imported’ cats: CH Mair of Allington (‘Mair’ was out of Wanda of Dunesk x Foxborrow Frivolousi) had a very desirable head even for today’s cats, with an open and sweet expression. She was also very pale with deep copper eyes and was the dam of several cats brought into US both by Wimauma and Dixie-Land. Three cats imported from Dunesk (England) were sold in the upper Midwest and had a tremendous impact on improving head type: June Rose Bear of Dunesk, Dear Donald of Dunesk and Dear David of Dunesk. They were ALL produced by CH Dylan of Allington x Wildviolet of Dunesk. ‘June’ was the best of all; the boys had lanky bodies and marvelous heads but only a head-hunter judge would use them. They either went Best Cat or nothing.”
Black Persians: “The standard calls for a dense ‘coal’ black; however, I remember seeing pieces of coal as a kid and they did not have the dead lifeless quality of a cat bathed in a color shampoo. Once when judging a class of black Persians, the best one had this poor color quality. The exhibitor asked me how I faulted the cat and I told him to try a shampoo without coloring agents. He took his cat home Saturday night, rebathed the cat and on Sunday, the cat’s performance in other rings improved. He brought the cat by my ring and thanked me, commenting that he himself could see the difference.”
Red Persians: “I believe the orange sherbet color was introduced through Himalayan. Cameos introduced a similar but not as bland color as the Himmies. Cameos brought in a bright glowing color. Also, I noticed that cats with the cream/red gene carried more extreme head type. I believe that the cream/red gene may somehow be distantly connected to the peke gene.”
Red Peke Persians: “There was so much bad that came with the pekes: large, prominent ears, light leg bone, entropion, long bodies, wry mouths, undershot chins, etc. It makes me fear what new fanciers will do when thinking that going to the old peke gene will improve head type.”
Cream Persians: “The creams were modified by an unreal pale color, not native to Persians. When silvers were used with creams they had a modifying effect.”
Solid chocolate and Solid lilac Persians: “The deepest, most sound chocolate I ever saw was derived from a Havana Brown. This was long before the colors were recognized in Persians. The coat texture was harder than what we have today. I think the direction changed. The only lilacs I remember were being shown and granded as blue or blue-white.”
Betty White – Angkor Rose
“There are breeds of cats, of course, where color is of less importance than type; however, it seems to me that even in those breeds, one needs to be concerned with the proper hue and pattern, if for no other reason than to be able to classify it! I would also think that good sense would dictate, as responsible breeders promoting our breeds, that we select for the prettiest possible paint job. It seems to me that one of the biggest fallacies in the cat fancy is that one can somehow concentrate on selecting for type and, like Miss Scarlett, leave color for another day. I think that this notion is at the root of the decline of coat and eye color in some breeds over the past 30 years, along with a tendency to overlook color faults in rewarding type on the show bench. Breeders, being human beings, work harder to achieve perfection when they are required to do so. For more years than many of our present breeders have been alive, Solid Persians were the benchmark by which the entire breed was measured. Breeding programs were based on specific colors, with care given to the quality of that color as well as type. This is now the rare exception. One also suspects that many breeding programs are laced with CPCs, not necessarily a fatal problem for color, provided the breeders are well-versed in color genetics and equally knowledgeable about their pedigrees, and accept the fact that color problems will increase and practice rigid selection. That is a tall order, given the pressure of the show ring and the time necessary to gain the required experience. The great difficulty with the CPC addition to the genetic mix is that careful culling is clouded by the tendency for the genetic rules to misbehave. As we often say, ‘We’ve read the rules, but the cats haven’t.’ Years ago, Jane Martinke coined the term, ‘neither/nors,’ a description we all know to mean a cat exhibiting such a combination of colors that it meets neither one color description nor another. While this may be less of a problem in the solid colors, it underscores the problem of accepting color genetics at face value. Is a discussion of CPCs valid? I’ll never forget one of my first longhair judging assignments. A long-time Persian breeder judge was also judging the show. Upon leaving the showhall, she asked me how I hung the award for Best Solid Persian. I told her, while complaining about the pale red color yet lovely type. She looked at me and said, ‘That was a CPC.’ She was right, of course, and could spot it from her years of experience. This discussion has now come full circle; we are back to the problem of breeding primarily for type, with too little thought to color. The solution is obvious – for breeders and for judges.”
Diane Dunn – Talisman
“I see a change in the judges’ ability to discern color of both eye and coat, due to the excellent quality of lighting now available. I’m sure you’ve noticed where some clubs do not have color- corrected to daylight lighting, which does not show cats to their full advantage. The only comment I make to that is that all the cats in that show suffer the same ‘dimness’ of lighting. When we have true daylight the effect is superb. Over time, I also have noticed more bars/stripes appearing on solids, shadeds and smokes. There is the whole gamut of deep to pale color also that has always been so. There has been improvement in type; NOW is the time to concentrate on color. Selection of breedings should be emphasized as to phenotype (for color) rather than pedigree. I see the gene pool suffering from the depredations of PKD and hope that the breed is pulling out of its bottleneck. We also need more breeders to pass on their knowledge to newcomers, to carefully guide new breeders in the selection process. Changes take time, and we need dedicated people to have patience for the future of the Persian breed.”
Gary Powell – Red Sky
“I can’t say that I have ever heard or noticed that tabbies of whatever color have influenced in a positive way, other colors. I remember years ago, while being mentored by Evelyn Prather, that she always found the Stoneybrook lines to have good color. I am sure they are WAY back there somewhere. No longer do we find large numbers of individuals doing ‘colorbred’ breedings. In an effort to produce cats that meet the standard we have created for them, I think many individuals look at the physical merits of the cats in their breeding programs and try to create a physical creature that meets the standard. Color often takes a back seat. Once we have created the proper structure, then we try and work out the coloration part. Perhaps in an effort to build the house first, sometimes the painting part didn’t come out just right. But, we built this beautiful house and we want to show it off, but what the heck color did we paint it? Do we pick a recognized color that looks close enough and try to pawn it off as that? Probably we should not show the cat; just leave it at home, but heck, I worked so hard to get the house part right, I feel the need to show it off…and on and on it goes…”
Vicki Nye – Windborne
“It’s the same old story. There are breeders and there are exhibitors. A breeder is a valued asset to the cat fancy who is in for the long run. [It is] a person who has a plan [and] a goal and attempts to achieve it over several years of planned breedings. An exhibitor is there for the quick thrill of winning, with no intent to establish a breeding program, or to actually improve any single aspect of our beautiful Persian. On the dominant side of color, I think Linda Acomb produces the soundest blacks I have EVER seen in 30 years of the cat fancy. This is not just great grooming; it is genetic in the coat texture and depth of pigment in each hair. Shine helps too. Reds are tough, as with depth of color you tend to get intense markings also. Terry Hyde (TEHY) has had some great solid reds with lots of coat and deep rich color. EVEN EYE COLOR! Now that you’ve gotten me started, I get to talk about my all-time love – the white Persian. Does a white have color problems? More than ever. I have seen so many fluorescent whites in the ring the last five years, I think I’m at a DISCO. SHAME on those exhibitors who think the everyday labor of love of keeping a white can be replaced with a bath in Crystal White. Besides giving the coat an eerie fluorescent cast, it makes any yellow staining on the face, britches and legs pop out. As with any other color cat, the whites have their spectrum of coat textures, from mostly guard hairs to all undercoat. The guard hair cats will be crisp and shiny, while the undercoat whites will tend to be a duller/cottony, but no less white, white. I’ve heard of blue whites, paper whites (other than narcissus) and yellow whites. There is no such thing as a yellow white, except as a product of poor maintenance and presentation. Now, with the blue eye color you have another topic. You have to keep in mind that a number of the BEWs you see are actually pointed Himalayans (with Himalayan eye color) being masked by a white coat. These cats are typically not deaf. I worked with the solid (not Himalayan) blue-eyed gene and found them a tremendous challenge. Deaf females had a difficult if not impossible, time raising kittens. Deaf males could not hear the females calling and encouraging them to breed. Two sound-of-hearing cats could produce deaf progeny. All my BEWs and OEWs were the product of a sound-of-hearing CEW male and a red female. Seventy-five percent of BEWs are deaf and 50% of OEWs are deaf. Eye color ranges from Bank-of-America-blue (which I’m partial to) to milky white-blue. My best eye color came on the OEWs, where one eye was dark-blue-jean blue and the other old copper penny. I also had not so great (mediocre) copper eye color, in my opinion; however, the standard sees differently. The standard calls for brilliant copper now. In prior years, the standard described it “like a new shinny penny.” A new shiny penny would be an ugly color. Judges typically reward for deep eye color, leaning toward brown. I still see the ‘blazing’ copper eyes on blues (that have actual crackles in them) and chocolate brown eyes on some creams. You will also see lots of deterioration in eye color from using pointed cats.”
Larry Adkison – Tan-Tara
“I think the board’s decision in 1984 to make the Himalayan breed a division of the Persian breed was detrimental to the Solid Persian. It brought colors into the Persian that theretofore were not there: chocolate, lilac, a totally different color of red et al. Certainly there are innumerable people that maintained pure Persian bloodlines. Many new people that have entered the cat fancy since then aren’t even aware of the meaning of a 3000 Persian. Over the years, we’ve also lost many top Solid breeders for whatever reason (remember the Bar-B, Mystichill, Southpaw, Marhei catteries, just to name a few). Those that have replaced them have not been as judiciously dedicated to producing top solids, or paying heed to good color regardless (look at the preponderance of navy blue-creams, tabbies that aren’t tabbies, etc.). I am certain that poor eye color (although not always the case) in Solid Persians stems from the influx of the Himalayan gene as well. When I first started showing cats many years ago, Solid Persians reigned supreme; but, that was many years ago and the options in terms of available breeds have at least tripled since then. It saddens me when I judge a show and you can bring up your solid color kittens and your solid color adults in one ring or less. Give people more choices and they’ll invariably make them. I feel the 20 points for color is oftentimes overlooked by many judges as well, and after all, we do have a tendency to direct the standards based upon what we final. More attention needs to be made to this fact as color is one-fifth of the weight we are to attribute to the total Solid Persian. When people show reds that are neither red nor tabby and the cat wins, who can blame the owner for not really caring about the color?”
References Or Information Please…
First! A personal “thank you” to Susan Cook Henry for her great suggestions and eagle eye. To Mark Hannon: many thanks for helping me see what I didn’t need for this article. And, to Jeanie McPhee, I am grateful for her wisdom and unselfishness. It was a privilege to exchange information with such a great lady of the cat fancy. Plus, I’m grateful to Melisa French and Melanie French whose cheerleading and proofreading were invaluable to me, as I completed this challenging project. Combined…all of their experience, wisdom, advice and great tips (what sharp memories) were invaluable to me.
1. “Colors and Patterns in the Pedigreed Cat,” Jacobberger, P. Judges’ Workshop, 2002, Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc.
2. “The Blacks,” Richard Gebhardt, CFA Yearbook 1963, p. 126.
3. “Birth of the Blues,” Jeanie McPhee, CFA Yearbook 1962, p.123.
4. “Beautiful, Beautiful Creams,” Marcena Myers, CFA Yearbook 1969, p. 338.
5. “White Longhairs,” Mrs. John H. Revington, CFA Yearbook 1963, p. 124.
6. “Seven Decades of Blue-Eyed Whites,” Blanche V. Smith CFA Yearbook 1970, p. 361.
7. “A Grand Salute to Prim Pet,” Christine Gill, CFA Yearbook p. 704.
8. “The White Persian – A Ball of Fluff,” Vicki Dickerson, CFA Yearbook p. 193.
9. “Red Tabbies and Tortoiseshells,” Julia M. Hunter, CFA Yearbook 1958.
CFA has provided us with a link to the Persian Breed Council. At this website you will find information on breed council reports related to the Persian breed; a breed profile, color charts, health and history, to name just a few of the subjects available for a quick brush-up on the subject. In fact, I referred to the historical article by Anna Sadler myself. Also, grooming articles are available (I’ve even written a self-help on grooming white Persians).
For books about the Persian breed, they are available for purchase online:
* Guide to Owning a Persian Cat: Feeding, Grooming, Exhibition, Temperament, Health, Breeding by Juliet Seymour
* Persian Cats: Everything About Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Disease, and Behavior (Special Chapter: Understanding Persian Cats) by Ulrike Muller, Matther M. Phd Vrieds (Editor)
* Persian Cats by Edward Esarde
* Persian Cats by Jeanne Alice Ramsdale