Scottish Folds

by Grace Sutton

Here’s a quick pop quiz for you. What breed of pedigreed cat can trace its lineage back to the one common ancestor of all present day cats in this breed – and we know her name? What cat has been likened to an owl, a Teddy Bear and a breed of rabbit? And finally, what breed of cat recently had a member receive a full page tribute in People magazine? The wonderful, lovable Scottish Fold, of course!

Scottish FoldThe first documented and recognized ancestor of all Scottish Folds is “Susie,” a folded-ear barn cat found on the McRae farm at Coupar Angus in the Tayside Region of Scotland. There are earlier references to folded-ear cats, however. Recently there was a beautiful antique Oriental wall hanging depicting a folded-ear cat and her kittens on an internet auction site. While Jean Grimm was doing research for an upcoming article on Folds, she found the following information which I thought was so interesting that I asked if I could include it here. The 1975 Guide to the Cats of the World by Loxton includes the statement, “The idea of a drop-eared Chinese breed was a persistent one.” The first known written reference to these cats appears in 1796 in the Universal Magazine of Knowledge in which folded-ear cats were mentioned as wild cats in China. Guide to the Cats of the World continues, “A century later a sailor returned from China with a drop-eared cat….” There is no more documented evidence of these cats until 1938 when a second cat was found with these characteristics. At that time the rare mutation was thought to be restricted to white longhaired cats.

Is it just coincidence that the first Folds in Scotland were white as the previously mentioned ones were and that the Oriental art also depicts white drop-eared cats? We cannot be certain, but sailors did roam the seas. These stories do persist and the idea of a natural mutation appearing from time to time is not without merit.

Scottish FoldThe pedigrees of all Scottish Fold cats today can be traced back to the McRae’s Susie, a unique fact in the pedigreed cat world. Mary and William Ross, British Shorthair breeders who fell in love with Susie, were promised one of her kittens. In 1963 the Rosses were given a folded-ear (Fd) white female they named “Snooks,” who was bred with an unknown red tabby male. Her first litter produced one male kitten, “Snowball,” who was bred to a white British Shorthair, “Lady May,” and their litter produced five Fd kittens. Thus begins the lineage of the Folds.

In 1969 Snooks delivered her third litter of two Fd kittens – Denisla Hester and Denisla Hector, which, along with Snowball and Lady May’s kittens, became the foundation for the future. The Rosses registered their cattery as Denisla (a combination of the two rivers, the Den and the Isla, which flowed by their cottage). With the help of English geneticist Peter Dyte, they started a breeding program using British Shorthairs and farm cats. Originally called “lops” after the lop-ear rabbits, this new breed became known as Scottish Folds in 1966. They were bred in Europe for one purpose – to preserve a rare mutation. While several people became interested in developing and preserving Scottish Folds, some problems were beginning to concern the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in England. Accepted for showing originally in 1966, by 1971 registration of Scottish Folds was closed. Concerned over the possible increase in ear mite infestation and deafness (both concerns later proved to be unfounded), the GCCF also became concerned about possible genetic difficulties. With this growing concern, the GCCF decided to ban further registration of Scottish Folds in England. The last Fold to be registered there was Denisla Morag.

Scottish FoldNo longer popular in the European/English cat fancy, the Scottish Fold “set sail for the Colonies.” In 1970 Dr. Neil Todd, a New England geneticist, brought three Scottish Folds to The Carnivore Genetics Research Center in Newtownville, MA: Denisla Judy, Denisla Joey, and Denisla Hester (three of Snooks’s daughters). Dr. Todd was assembling a colony of cats for “scientific inspection of mutations,” and these cats were never intended for the cat fancy. Under his care Joey and Judy produced two litters. When Dr. Todd discontinued the Fold research project shortly thereafter, the cats went to various homes.

Salle Wolf Peters, a well-known Manx breeder, acquired Hester from Lynn Lamoreux, a doctoral student of Dr. Todd’s. Thus, the first Scottish Fold breeder started her long involvement with the Folds. In 1972 one of her kittens went to an English couple in Utah where the female Fold Martina Shona was first shown. At that CFA show, Briony Sivewright (owner of Martina Shona) met Ann Kimball and Karen Votava. Martina Shona eventually made her way to Salle and produced more lovely Scottish Folds.

Karen Votava acquired Mr. Morgan LeFaye, a handsome cameo tabby male who, with Doonie Lugs, became the foundation stock for Bryric Cattery. Bryric is one of the earliest catteries on any Fold pedigree, and until recently was still producing wonderful cats.

As more and more breeders became interested in this charming cat, the move to have them recognized by CFA began. In 1974 Bobbie Graham (Bobette), Salle Wolf Peters (Wyola), Karen Votava (Bryric) and others set about meeting the requirements for what was then called “experimental registration.” These requirements were met after many questionnaires were completed by veterinarians and scientists studying Folds. Careful records were kept and reported on each cat and litter of kittens.

Little was known at this time about the natural mutation which results in the folded ear. In the early 1970s Dr. Oliphant Jackson, an English geneticist, released a report stating that the breed carried a bone problem. The decision was made, the report stated, that changes and the vital use of outcrosses were needed to restore the original health of Folds. About this time, x-rays of Folds started showing bone lesions. According to Dr. Jackson’s report, there had been no previous mention of associated skeletal deformity before the ’70s. Scientists and breeders wondered whether these were being caused by in-breeding early in the history of the Folds rather than by the Fd gene itself.

Scottish FoldOriginally, many Folds had foreshortened tails which were inflexible. Dr. Rosemond Peltz, who served as the first genetic consultant for the American Scottish Fold breeders, offered the opinion that “in generations to come the undesirable defect may be diminished by extremely careful breeding.” With the knowledge from the Jackson study, breeders began to use more outcrossing and the gene pool increased. This produced longer, more flexible tails and the bone lesions and foreshortened tails began to disappear. In January 1976 the stud book closed to all outcrosses except the American Shorthair and the British Shorthair.

Today outcrossing remains a fundamental part of Scottish Fold breeding programs. Without the help and generosity of American and British Shorthair breeders who share their beautiful cats with Fold breeders, this breed might well be lost to the cat fancy and all those who love the “Foldie.” More points are placed on the tail of the Fold than in any other breed’s standard. Our standard reads that the tail must be flexible, with long and tapering preferred. One of the first questions a prospective owner should ask a breeder is “is the tail flexible?” Careful breeding practices, Fold Ears (Fd) to Straight Ears (fd) or to an allowed outcross, virtually eliminates the stiff tail. It is believed that the gene which causes folding of the ears is an incomplete dominant. From the time of the first study done by Oliphant Jackson, Ph.D., the mandate to breed only Fd to fd or outcrosses has been strongly stressed, and this remains true today.

With the problems arising from the GCCF ban and Dr. Jackson’s study in 1975, the Scottish Fold breeding program was rapidly declining in England. Mary Ross sent a plea to ISFA (International Scottish Fold Association) saying only one other cat lover beside herself was actually breeding them. Folds were in danger of being lost in England and Mrs. Ross asked for help from breeders in the United States. The response was quick and in the late 1970s, several people took up the cause of the Folds. Jean Grimm (Furrytails), Lois and Clark Jensen (Jensen), Pat Dreifuss (Beachmor), Shirley Norquist (Kangaroo), to name a few, started working on breeding programs.

Scottish FoldIn May 1977 Scottish Folds were given provisional status in CFA. A look at those early pedigrees shows that several breeds were originally used to increase the gene pool and return the cats to their original barn cat “hale and hearty” state. The Scottish Folds of today lead long, healthy lives, often up to and past the age of 19 years, and several Folds have been active in the ring over the age of ten. The popular misconception that Folds become crippled as they age is just that – a misconception. The year 1978 was a banner year for Folds – they received Championship status! Jensen Minnie Pearl became the first Scottish Fold Grand Champion in 1979. “Minnie” was the first Scottish Fold to make it into the top 20 and was, of course, also the first Best of Breed.

When Kitty Angell acquired two females from Karen Votava, Bryric Fanny Folderol of Kitjim and CH Bryric Patchwork, DM, more groundbreaking followed. “Patchwork” was the first Fold to become a CFA Distinguished Merit cat in 1985, and Patchwork’s daughter, GC, NW Kitjim’s Briarpatch, DM, became the second. Patchwork appears on the pedigree of over 3,600 Scottish Folds.

In 1993 Scottish Fold Longhairs were recognized for Championship status. This effort was successful in large part due to the diligent work of Sue Thompson, Scottish Fold Breed Secretary, and her husband Bruce. Two years later in 1995, Junerose Wilkerson showed a beautiful white Longhair, GC, NW B4 Snow B-Ear-Y of Sweetums. Bred by Sharon Knight and Ken Burke and owned by Sharon Knight, Ken Burke and Junerose Wilkerson, he placed as 10th Best Cat nationally. Another cat belonging to Junerose has an impressive legacy. GC, GP Kitjim’s Buckwheat of Sweetums, a sire for three years, produced 20 CFA registered cats, and of those only 12 were placed in breeding programs. Within three generations his offspring produced 57 Grand Champions and Grand Premiers, 112 Champions and Premiers, 15 Regional Winners and two National Winners. Bred by Kitty Angell, “Buckwheat” can certainly be counted among the foundation cats of this breed.

The year 1999 saw another first for a descendant of Kitjim Cattery. GC, RW Beebop Duke of Earle of Beepafold became the first Scottish Fold male Distinguished Merit cat. “Beeper” was bred by Becky Enzor (Beebop) and is owned by Patricia Garrighan (Beepafold). Kitjim has been in the forefront of groundbreaking from the first. In 1991 GC, NW Kitjim’s Bonny Too of Q-T Cats, owned by Marcia and Leon Samuels, became the first Fold to earn two national wins in one year.

The list of dedicated breeders who took this beautiful cat from the first examples sent to this country for research to the seventh most popular cat in CFA contains names known throughout the cat fancy. Salle Wolfe Peters, Lois and Clark Jensen, Karen Votava, Kitty Angell, Gay Turner (Scottish), Nancey Abbott (Catquea), and Jean Grimm (Furrytails) are some of the early ones. Bill and Patti Brubaker (LaPlume), Junerose Wilkerson (Sweetums), Mary Auth and Chuck Payne (Whiteiron) and Donna Jean Thompson (Jeanel) – the list goes on and there are many more who come to mind. Without these dedicated cat lovers and their persistence and faith in Scottish Folds we, the current breeders and exhibitors, would be hard pressed to show and produce the beautiful cats we proudly place in the show ring. Thank you one and all.

Scottish FoldBreeding and showing Folds is not for those who covet rosettes. Since one of a breeding pair must not have folded ears (Fd), the chances of producing a Fd kitten in a litter is 50% over a period of time. That is to say, not every litter will produce 50% Fd kittens. Some are all straight ears (fd) or perhaps only one will fold and then be a single fold and really not suitable for the show ring. This is not a breed for the impatient either. After the litter is born it takes 21 days for the ears to fold – or not. Sometimes the ears will look as though they are going to fold, only to go “up.” We now recognize that these kittens must be treated as though the ears had folded. This phenomenon is becoming more widely accepted as contributing to possible skeletal malformations. In the past, these kittens were labeled straight ears (fd) if that is the way the ear tip pointed. We are now looking to the day when we will identify the genetic marker for the Fold (Fd) gene and be able, with a simple blood or saliva test, to identify once and for all the Fd gene. The straight ears play an important part in any breeding program, make wonderful pets and are goodwill ambassadors for the breed. This is a breed for those who love the gentle open look, sweet disposition and gentle calm nature of the Scottish Fold.

Oh, yes, let’s not forget the tribute in People magazine. In the May 31, 1999 issue there is a full page tribute to “Norton,” the most famous Scottish Fold yet. Norton was the constant companion of Peter Gathiers, author of two best selling books about their travels in Europe (The Cat Who Went to Paris and Cat Abroad). I had the privilege of meeting Peter at a book signing along with his “owner” Norton, a wonderful cat and a top-notch advertisment for our breed – not bad for a kitty whose ancestors were barn cats.

1. Guide to the Cats of the World, Loxton, 1975.
2. “‘Ears to 25 Years: The Scottish Fold,” Kitty Angell, reprint from Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. Yearbook 1986.
3. “The Scottish Fold 1961-1991,” compiled by Louise Becker, Editor and Secretary for the International Scottish Fold Association.
4. “The Genetic Engineering of Scottish Folds,” Kitty Angell, reprint from Catbytes Collector Series, Part III, September 1991.
5. “Scottish Fold…The Beginning,” Kitty Angell, reprint from Catbytes Collector Series, August 1991.

Many, many thanks to members of the Scottish Fold Breed Council for your generous support of this project. This project truly was a joint effort by all members of the Scottish Fold Breed Council.