Persian Cat Breeders Got Confused

The breeders of what is called the flat-faced Persian, ultra Persian, punch face Persian (India), smushed Persian etc. got a bit mixed up way back in the 1950s when they decided to transform the face of the sweet traditional Persian, called the doll-face Persian to something more appropriate for the modern age, something less normal and more “exotic”.



They had to decide on a new breed standard. What would look more interesting, more refined? How can we make the Persian cat more attractive, they asked themselves? They decided to model the new cat on the owl. The owl is a very popular bird. It has a sweet face and they can be very amusing.

The owl has large copper/orange colored and round eyes. The face is nice and flat with all the facial elements in a vertical line, like a cliff-face. The subspecies of owl they chose had a tabby coat and small ears. Sure, the beak was a bit of a problem but they found a way of moulding the mouth and nose of the New Persian to give the appearance of a beak.

To be honest, I think they did a wonderful job. It took them about 50 years of intensive selective breeding but they achieved their goal:

Persian cats and owl

Modeling the new Persian cat on the owl.

What do you think? The trouble is they got a bit confused about what a cat should look like. You see, a cat should look like a cat!


Note: my thanks to Elena for finding the picture which I presume and hope is in the public domain. If not please tell me.

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Persian Cat Breeders Got Confused — 14 Comments

  1. I feel sad that the original “TRADITIONAL PERSIAN CAT” is today considered as not specific to breed standards shown under “PERSIAN CATS” in “CAT SHOWS”.Hope the “Cat Shows” re-introduce the “Traditional Persian Cat” under a different standard of show breed standards of the breed along with the “Ultra-Faced Persian Cat”. “Ultra-Faced Persian cats” are difficult to breed in warm humid climates unlike “Traditional Persian cats”.

    • Well said Rudolph. As you can see I am making a joke about the breeding and breed standard of the Persian cat. The breed standard demands that the face be flat! It is extraordinary really because no cat on this planet has ever had a totally flat face. It is totally artificial and man-made (actually usually woman-made, to be honest, as it is mainly women who run the cat fancy).

  2. Michael, it is an extreme example of a tendency that seems to happen in breeding where people take something that is part of breed type and think if a little is good, a whole lot more must be better, and breed eventually an extremely exaggerated version. Thus the Persian did have a rounded head and rather short face and short nose — so they turned it into an absolutely flat face and hardly any nose with a sharp crease. Just like in the opposite way, with the Siamese they had a cat that was more elongated than the average cats, and had a wedgy looking muzzle they called 100 years ago “marten faced”, and rather large ears by comparison to the average cats of Western European origin — and they took that to an extreme with a very very elongated, tubular fine boned, angular (with the whole head wedge shaped head instead of just the face/ muzzle) , huge eared cat.

    Rudolph , I agree , it would be nice to see the old type of Persian shown under its own standard, but it would not happen because a cat association just decides suddenly on their own to do that; the impetus would have to come from breeders & fanciers of that type of Persian becoming organized and working to get them recognized, like some of the Old Style Siamese breeders in USA and Europe, with input of breeders in Thailand, did to get the moderate Siamese cats breed recognition as the “Thai” in The International Cat Association.
    Perhaps Traditional Persian breeders could possibly connect with those promoting a similar type cat from the breed’s region of origin, such as the “Shirazi Persian” / “Shirazi Cats” and approach breed recognition from a major international show-sanctioning cat association from that angle ( similar as the Thai being a breed to preserve the Old Style Siamese of the West AND the native pointed breed of Thailand, the Wichienmaat.)
    But I don’t know if there are enough ‘Traditional Persian’ breeders and fanciers who are willing to put in the work and expense and cooperation for the breed . I would love to see it happen.

    • Cheri, thanks for the good comment. It actually shocks me. Breeders in a naive and rather silly way think that an extreme version of something nice is better! Very odd and very crude thinking. It is a typical form of shallow human thinking that can bee seen in other aspects of life. What makes it all the more idiotic is that the general public overwhelmingly prefer the old style cats because they are healthier and better looking. Breeders bred as a hobby for themselves. And this little clique of cat breeders have lost their compass. And this sort of breeding is immoral. I know that is a strong statement but it is true because it affects health. If you breed to extreme you are more likely to ‘create’ a sad cat because that cat has a greater chance of developing an illness that causes discomfort and possibly pain. But can we change it? Will they change? No.

      • I don’t see how anyone can look at the radiographs of bracylocephalic Persians and NOT see the immorality.
        but people are in denial. & pretend that breeding for wider nostrils solves the issue of all that bone & tissue smashed up into too small an area.

  3. Luna, the Fashion Kitty: https://www.facebook.com/the.fashion.kitty

    Above is a great example of beautiful Persian cat named Luna. Her tongue is almost always out, probably due to her maw shape. Her teeth aren’t in the right place to hold her tongue in most situations. She probably has a wheeze and snores due to her bracylocephalia. Worse yet, if she was a show cat (as we all know, a ton of them are) she would probably scratch and howl as she was first degreased with waterless handcleaner (the stuff mechanics use). Then she would have to be shampooed with a heavy duty shampoo to get the goop off. Finally, she’d get real cat shampoo, followed by a long session of blow drying.

    I mention this, because it all ties together. Selective breeding produces cats that are than shown by obsessive owners. It’s just a sad life for those cats. I know not all show cats are treated so poorly. The drive to create the cash-kitty (a play on cash-cow) is what makes me maddest. There are some new breeds being created with the input of geneticist, by people who love their cats and want to leave their mark on the world.

    Look at all the new hairless breeds. They all have health issues. It’s jus sad.

  4. PS: I love Luna, and feel she is not abused. She loves to be pampered, (her mom takes her everywhere in a gold purse/carrier) and fawned over everywhere she travels in the city. I am sad that she has disabilities, but she is otherwise a healthy and very happy cat. Had to show off one of our local beauties. 😉

  5. Hi Dan, thanks for sharing the Luna link.
    Now I actually don’t agree about show cats in general. & I do show cats. ( but not a breed with extreme conformation)

    As you say the lovely Ms. Luna likes being pampered and fawned over. It’s the same thing. some people would say Luna is exploited and abused because she is dressed up and carried around. but if she’s OK with it that’s what counts.
    Maybe you know some show cats that are badly treated and have a miserable life, and that is disgusting. But I sure know some Persians who look like they are having a blast at shows. and I know they’re very much loved. & other breeds.

    Cats just are not going to do well showing if they hate it, so that would take away a lot of the motivation to show that cat much even if the exhibitor is just selfish.

    But some cats are just total hams.
    and many cats seem to enjoy going somewhere and hanging out with their people & getting a lot of individual attention. Like Luna riding around town. but they go stay at hotels etc.

    My cat Sam’s main complaint was that the judges should each have to spend half an hour playing with HIM.

    (and it’s not just pedigreed cats. There are Household Pet classes. which is fun to watch. )

    I do agree about all the new mutation breeds; I’m more bothered by those with structural mutations for example Scottish Fold and Munchkin. Then people start combining all these mutations as if trying to see how they can make the freakiest looking cat possible.

    Or theres some people who want to get a breed accepted of cats that weigh like 2 pounds as adults!
    Every time there is some mutation for a deformity or growth defect, why do people feel they have to go out of their way to preserve it and nurture it and inbreed it and make it a breed?

  6. The flat face (brachiocephalic) also stems from a mutation, unlike the wedge face Siamese. The persian extreme stems from a mutation that was nurtured and line bred then exported all over the world. Much to the detriment of the cats involved.
    It is very very hard to buy a traditional persian in Australia.

    • Thanks Jade. It is a shame and shameful (for breeders) that you find it difficult to buy a traditional Persian in Australia. Trad Persians are lovely cats. Contemporary Persians are a mistake; it is as simple as that.

  7. I second jades point that it’s virtually impossible to get a traditional cat in Australia
    The only Persian cats I could find were the ultra typed Persians which I won’t purchase as I think it is a cruel existence for a cat whose original fore fathers were beautiful traditional Persians
    Also I too think the current ultra typed Persians look more like owls than cats

    • It is a shame and worrying that you are unable to adopt a traditional Persian in Australia. They are far better cats. The ultra should not be in existence. Thank for sharing Natasha.

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