Siamese, Oriental Shorthair or Balinese?

This is a leap into the world of the cat fancy. I was going to publish a picture by Helmi Flick of what I believed was a lynx point Oriental Shorthair with blue eyes. It is a head and shoulders shot (see below, the cat on the left). Then I questioned whether the cat was a Balinese; a semi-long haired Siamese with shortish hair around the head. Then maybe this cat was a Siamese or a Javanese….! Then I decided to do a post on telling the difference between these cat breeds just by reference to the head, shoulders and forelegs – the information that is presented in these photographs. Then I regretted the decision…:

Siamese oriental shorthair balinese cats

Siamese or Oriental Shorthair or Balinese cats? Photo copyright Helmi Flick

Both the Oriental Shorthair and Balinese cat breeds are part of the extensive Siamese family of cats. At one time there was ‘the Siamese cat’ – one cat. Now there are four types of Siamese cat and five cat breeds in the family of Siamese cats:

  1. Siamese  – four types
  2. Oriental Shorthair
  3. Balinese
  4. Javanese
  5. Thai

Also the types of pointing (the dark fur at the extremities of the cat) was expanded from dark brown/black (Seal) to all manner of different types some of which are very subtle. Lynx pointing as shown in the photo is tabby pointing. It is ‘broken up pointing’ as in the coat of a tabby cat. It gets complicated to outsiders.

The two featured cats on this page are modern type cats with slender ‘oriental’ body conformations; a result of breeding. You don’t see this sort of cat wandering around the streets.

From a head and shoulders shot it is difficult to tell the difference between the semi-long haired Balinese and the shorthaired Siamese because:

  • As mentioned, the hair is shorter around the head and on the legs. The major differentiating feature between Balinese and Siamese is the plumed (long haired) tail. We can’t see that in the Helmi picture;
  • The pointing is as extensive as that of the Siamese and includes lynx pointing (but not for the CFA by the way – another complication as they call the Balinese with new type pointing the Javanese).

Without going into a myriad of breed standards and tying myself into a knot of confusion, my conclusion is that the cat top right in the collage is a Balinese and the other cat is not a Balinese, despite looking very similar, because even though the hair is not long around the head it should be slightly longer than shown in the picture and we can see a bit more of the cat beyond the shoulders.

That means the other cat is either a lynx pointed Siamese or an Oriental Shorthair (OSH) with lynx pointing. The OSH is the same as the Siamese in body shape. The difference is in the coat, which extends to the widest range of coat types for the OSH.

That means that a lynx pointed OSH is the same as a lynx pointed Siamese cat. As it is the same, you have to call a lynx pointed OSH a Siamese cat. Also if a breeder is breeding a lynx pointed OSH they are actually breeding a Siamese cat. In fact I think you will find that the OSH breed standard excludes Siamese cat pointing so that would be conclusive and make sense.

I forgot but there is an Oriental Longhair as well; a rare cat breed because it is difficult to breed. It is identical to the OSH but for the length of coat. How does that differ from the Balinese other than for the range of coat types? Perhaps that is the only difference.

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Siamese, Oriental Shorthair or Balinese? — 6 Comments

  1. I really have a hard time telling all these breeds apart. I belong to a group of Facebook that has mostly these five breeds. It seems I never get them right, so I just guess. This info will help, but I wonder why we just can’t call them all Siamese. 🙂 <– joke, not serious, of course.

    • Hi Dan, I agree as you can see. I would like to see a simplification of some sort for people outside the cat fancy. Being an old fashioned type I prefer the traditional seal pointed Siamese cat. The original. 🙂

  2. Hi Michael, the cat on the left is exactly like my cat, Zuli. Vets here call him Lynx Point Siamese. My area has apparently had several Lynx Point breeding programs with mixed results. It is confusing but I agree that the deep blue eyes and the tabby pointing define LP Siamese. Other eye colors and usually not pointed coats are OSH. The line is pretty smudgy, however there is to me an indefinable ‘air’ about the Lynx Points that sets them apart.

  3. I appreciate your writing about this topic. I purchased a Balinese last summer. The cost for a Balinese is higher than for a Siamese (at least at this particular breeder). But, I was under the impression that a Balinese was a long-haired Siamese. My boy has shorter hair around his head and shoulders. He has a little longer fur on the back side of his back legs. His tail is thicker than a traditional Siamese. I was concerned that the breeder really sold a hybrid or something other than a true Balinese. Of course, my boy is totally cute and sweet so no matter what his breed really is, he is a keeper. I think from your description that Balinese may come in slightly different flavors, which indicates that my little Bandit really is a (totally cute and mischievous) Balinese.

    • I think you are correct in your assessment of the fur length of the Balinese. They are probably more expensive because they are rarer than the Siamese. The key feature of the Balinese in respect of fur length (for me) is the plumed tail compared to the whippy slender tail of the Siamese. Thanks for commenting Lisa.

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