Persian Cat is Entirely American and European

Persian cat 1880s

Persian cat 1880s. Drawing by Harrison Weir

With the name “Persian” you would have thought that this long established cat breed came from Persia, now Iran, or at least somewhere east of Europe. However, on the basis of “DNA microsatellite evidence” the Persian cat belongs to the random bred cats of Europe and America. For the record, I am not going to try and explain what “DNA microsatellite evidence” means except that it is a form of DNA testing which is much more accurate in respect of tracing the origin of cat breeds than any other method to date.

So, we can conclusively say that the Persian cat is a European/American creation, can we? It seems that way.

The CFA Persian Breed Council describes the origin of this cat very well, I think. The author says the origins are “muddled” but most experts agree that “longhaired cats were brought into Europe from points East”, whereupon they were cross bred with cat breeds such as the British Shorthair and Turkish Angora. If that is the case shouldn’t there be some DNA in the modern Persian that links it with areas east of Europe such as Iran, Turkey and Russia? Apparently not.

Perhaps all traces of the original Persian cats have been selectively bred away over 150 years of intense breeding. However, I am not sure that it is possible to erase all traces of DNA from long haired cats from the Near East if that is where they came from.

On the basis that the DNA testing is correct, all I can say is, “what a shame”. One of the most important factors in distinguishing cat breeds is their history and origin. A good history based on a verifiable origin helps to make a cat breed more popular. The cat fancy likes cat breed histories particularly for the so called “natural breeds”  – breeds that evolved in a geographical area.

If all we can say is that the famous Persian cat is a European and American moggie at the molecular level, it takes some of the glamour away from the cat.

Associated page: Persian cat history.

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Persian Cat is Entirely American and European — 4 Comments

  1. What they did is got volunteers to send take swabs of cats from all over the world and then mail them in to a central location. From here they compared all the dna. I question who decided what breed these cats were. With so many hands taking samples (a simple swab of the cats mouth) couldn’t of some of the info provided of been incorrect?

    I’ll be real busy with my new class load. Only 11 weeks to go. Then six weeks off! Drop by when I can.
    Dan

  2. Hi all,

    Michael you write a lot and we barely have enough time to read all these great articles.

    About the Persian cat..

    It didn’t come out as a surprise at all – most of cat breeds were created from cats which were most available for cat breeders to work with. Think about how hard it would be to maintain diverse gene pool with imported cats which come from somewhere of Middle East. A breeder is NOT interested to get most representative cats of a natural breed, as it is a breeder and cat fancy define how they want to see ”THEİR” breeds and if random bred cats from Europe and America were enough to achieve the look breeders aim for, there was nothing wrong to use them for breeding.

    And breed histories most of time are MYTHS not facts. The deeper we research one breed the clearer it becomes that almost everything about it is false. Cat fancy wants a show, different looking cats. It doesn’t care about the accuracy, truth ”natural breeds” or something else…

    Dan in Temple: The people who sent samples for DNA study were Persian breeders. Same goes for almost all cats in those studies. There is no reason to think that there was a mistake. Many cat breeds including Japanese Bobtail, Egyptian Mau, so called ”The Turkish Angora” (different from Turkish cats) and many others were created from European and American random bred cats. We should get use to this: Persian history is FALSE. The cat is man made and has nothing to do with İranian or Middle Eastern cats!

    • As usual I agree with you. Wouldn’t it be nice if all Persian cats really were from Persia? The fact is that most if not all the cat breeds in the West are a “mash up”. What I mean is they are a mixture of breeds and random bred cats selectively breed to look different to any other breed. It is a bit like cooking using a recipe 😉

      I guess all the world’s random bred cats are the same so to make a cat look different you have to use a recipe and cook slowly.

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