Types of Siamese Cat with Pictures

This is an attempt to explain the different types of Siamese cat with the help of illustrations that show the subtle differences. What do I mean by ‘type’ of Siamese cat? I am referring to the body conformation, the shape of the cat’s body, head, ears, tail etc. For the purposes of this article, I am not referring to the different types of pointing color or patterns etc. This article is about the shape of the Siamese cat. This is the area that causes the most controversy.

I believe that you cannot compare the different types of Siamese solely by reference to the various breed standards because the language is rather imprecise and technical. Also, there are no pictures illustrating breed standards and there is leeway built into breed standards. Through language alone (and breed standards are just words) the cat fancy has not created enough precision in describing a cat’s appearance.

Unfortunately, for me, whereas once upon a time there was one sort of Siamese cat – the Siamese cat that wandered around Siam (Thailand) in the 1800s and before that – today (2012) there are probably five types (excluding the original), one of which is not, in fact, even called a Siamese cat. The truth, though, is that there is a continuous spectrum of types of Siamese built around the five distinct types.

Although there are five types, or if you disagree with me, several types or an endless range of types, only one is true to the original and the breeders of each type think their cat is true to the original. Or perhaps they don’t really think that. They just like to create a pointed cat that they like the look of.

A surprising aspect of the story of the creation of five different types of Siamese cat is that there are photographs and drawings of Siamese cats from the time they were first imported from Siam as it was then (late 1800s). So we know what the original Siamese cats looked like. How can one group of breeders claim that their cat has the original appearance? One complication is that it is likely that there was a variety of Siamese cat types for thousands of years, in Asia, before the West imported the cat. In short, the body conformation may have originally varied. Also there is no reason why a pointed cat in Asia should only be found in Siam. It is highly likely that there were (and are) pointed random bred cats all over Asia, many of which have abnormal tails – kinked or shortened. Perhaps the pointed cats of Siam (over and above other pointed cats in Asia) were chosen for importation to England because the King of Siam liked them. They were special and rare. Note: the kinked tail has been assiduously bred out over decades.

I’d first like to present a collage of pictures of the five different types of Siamese cat, below which I discuss the various conformations.

Siamese cat types

Range of Siamese cat types (body conformations).

Collage above, photo credits in descending order from top to bottom: Drawing by Louis Wain (public domain), drawing by Harrison Weir (1889), The Book of Cats 1903, Old-style Siamese cat website, Thai cat copyright Helmi Flick, Appleheads and Modern Siamese copyright Marie Clements.


“Original Siamese”

This means the cat or direct offspring of the cats imported from Siam in the late 1800s. As expected you can see that they are regular looking cats. The drawing by Louis Wain (1897) shows a cobby Siamese cart. This was drawn from life I expect. The same goes for the drawing by Harrison Weir who is the founder of the cat fancy worldwide and the number cat fancier of his time. The face of these cats and the 1903 cat are similar to the 1947 Old-style Siamese cat.

Old-style Siamese

The Old-style Siamese Cat Club do not specify what an old-style Siamese cat should look like except by reference to their breed standard, which as argued above is not ideal. Fortunately they do provide photographs. I have taken the liberty of reproducing the photograph of Inwood Shadow (1947 old-style Siamese), which the club says is possibly ‘the most beautiful Siamese ever bred”. If that is true it is because the cat is completely balanced, neither too slender nor too cobby. Also Inwood Shadow closely matches the appearance of the 1903 Siamese and the 1889 Siamese.

Thai Cats

I feel that the Thai was another attempt to go back to basics and try and straighten out the mess caused by breeders in creating a range of Siamese cats; breeders working against each other rather than together in the interests of the cat. I also feel that the attempt failed as it added to the confusion. Thai cat breeders say this is not a Siamese cat. It looks like one. This is a Siamese cat that falls on the slender side of normal being slightly more slender than the Old-style Siamese. That body conformation is how the Thai breeders see the original Siamese. Also they wanted to get away from the extreme breeding of the Modern Siamese and breed cat that was not extreme in any way. They succeeded in that goal. Note: the picture shows one example of pointing color (blue). There are other colors.

Applehead Siamese

There was a time when I thought that the Applehead was a name given by Modern Siamese cat breeders to breeders of traditional Siamese cats. It has a derogatory feel about it. However, the Old-style Siamese cat breeders say it is intended to be more cobby than the original, something akin to the British Shorthair with a pointed coat. However, it does have a similarity to the 1897 drawing by Louis Wain and is within the range of original Siamese cat conformations.

Traditional Classic Siamese

I had referred to this cat as the ‘Classic Siamese’ meaning mid-way between the traditional and the Modern. This cat is a slightly slender Applehead Siamese. It is similar to the original Siamese cat.

Modern Siamese

The Modern Siamese is an example of out of control cat breeding by well-intentioned cat breeders who believed they were ‘refining’ the appearance of the original cat that they saw as being slender. It is a cat bred to extreme that bears no resemblance to a cat never mind a Siamese cat and is a failure but continues to be supported by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) as the only Siamese cat. The public does not like it. The CFA should change their mind.

Conclusion

The Old-style Siamese are closest to the original Siamese cat and deserve greater recognition. The CFA should adopt their breed standard.


Comments

Types of Siamese Cat with Pictures — 17 Comments

  1. An excellent description of the evolution of the Siameses cat through the decades.Seems the Siameese and Persian cats have identical parallel transformations in their physical characteristics by cat breeders wanting to improve the breed.Akin to the “Modern Siamese(2010)” cat , the present day “Ultra-Faced Persian Cat” is totally different in facial and physical form from its original ancestors.Speculating as to the further difference in these breeds in another few decades, or, will breeders revert to the traditional cats of this breed?

    • Hi Rudolph, My belief is that, eventually, there will be a change back to the more natural appearance. I think the extreme breeding happened over the late 1950s to 2000 period as the cat fancy evolved and the number of breeds grew. The number of breeds has stabilised and the people who run the cat associations will see the sense of breeding healthy and better looking (natural) cats. There is the possibility that they may be forced to do it if animal welfare laws change because extreme breeding breeds less healthy cats. There is an animal welfare dimension to the extreme breeding of cats that has so far been overlooked in the UK and USA. In the UK extreme breeding of dogs was attacked by the media which shook them up a bit.

  2. Well the first one isn’t that good a picture. ( but there are worse! you should see some of the other early illustrations)
    But I always liked this other Harrison Weir illustration, that you put on your blog earlier
    http://cat-chitchat.pictures-of-cats.org/2012/06/first-siamese-cats-in-western-world.html
    though I don’t understand you saying it doesnt look like a Thai. I have seen Thais look like that. In fact that is one of the sketches used in the breed seminar. See page 7 http://www.emrys-siamese.co.uk/Thai-Breed-Seminar.pdf

    Then there are these sketches of Mrs Vyvyan’s cat
    the way it curves from the cheek into the wedge looks rather like a lot of the Siamese shown as Thais in TICA . the “marten face” they talked about in the 1800s.

    and
    ( in that one , one can kind of see the flat forehead that Weir described in this same 1889 book, in the first breed standard)

    The cat in his drawing you posted here is a different cat, looks like “Mrs Lees” It’s got the long flat forehead, then sort of looks like a bump at the eye level then the nose has a sharper curve than the other 2(?) cats he drew . — but when I look closer at it now I think part of the reason it looks like a sharper nose break is that it’s really an angle view? Anyway just goes to show there was a variety of cats.

    I’ve looked at sites of some Old Style Siamese Club breeders & thought those cats would do very well in TICA shown as Thais. and in fact a few UK Old Style Siamese breeders have recently started doing that. The OSSC historically has bred to their own interpretation of the GCCF standard, which I agree much more with than the way the modern breeders interpret it. like those extremely wide set ears!

    & yes Applehead started out as an insult against cats with less extremely wedge shaped heads. But some breeders now seem to use it as a blueprint, they want to breed a cat like a pointed British Shorthair.

    • Hi Cheri, I agree that the other Harrison Weir drawing of a Siamese cat head from the 1880s does look like a Thai. I just felt that the 2 drawings on this page showed a more cobby general appearance, which I think points to the fact that it is probably not that helpful getting bogged down in what the original appearance was. It was bound to be fairly normal (regular) because the original Siamese cat evolved as a moggie which automatically leads to classic cat lines and conformation. You can get some normal variation all of which should be acceptable. Thanks for your useful comment. Very helpful.

      • Thanks Michael. You’re right that cat does look somewhat cobbier; of course she is sort of crouched so it’s hard to say. and that sketch of Mr Weir’s looks like perhaps more quickly executed than those of Mrs Vyvyans and the angle head study we just mentioned.
        I think we are agreeing there is some variation in type in every cat population.
        But classic cat lines are not identical all over the world. Moggies in Thailand are not just like moggies in England for example. And I have noticed in some other hot climates, the cats generally tend to be a bit more elongated and slender — not to an extreme but it was something noticeable. Also the coats tend to be shorter and less undercoat or no undercoat. Whereas cats that evolved in colder climates generally tend to be heavier boned, thicker coated.
        Which makes sense. It’s no surprise there are similarities in Siberian, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat, all cats that developed as natural breeds in northern climates.
        So just because cats are random bred and not ultra extreme, doesn’t mean there isn’t regional variation.

        One thing very interesting is that genetic researchers found within the last couple years that the cats in Thailand represent a population so genetically unique, very different from the rest of the world’s cats, so much so that they represent a pristine population unlikely to have changed much at all for centuries.

        Of course when you write a breed standard you have to choose something. You don’t want to make it so vague that it could be interpreted to mean something very different. ( which basically happened with the Thai in WCF, plus they left registration wide open, and a bunch of people apparently hurried to throw together whatever cats they could of different breeds and moggies from various European countries, to create some sort of rounded pointed cat. )
        But I don’t want to see it interpreted / aimed at so narrowly that one ends up with cookie cutter cats (when that happens it means usually a very diminished gene pool). I hope there will stay some healthy amount of variation within the general parameters of type. & I hope breeders will continue to emphasize health and temperament not just beauty. Not that I mind the beauty.
        & I do love Inwood Shadow.

        • Yes, Cheri, I agree with you completely. And, yes, cats in warmer climates are more slender and possibly a bit smaller etc. which points to the original Siamese being a little on the slender side of average cats in the West or Northern Europe which may have been the motivation for the extreme breeding of Modern Siamese cats. If you are right about the Thailand cats having a unique genotype it would encourage me to import more Siamese from Thailand and get back to the original. Perhaps the pointed cats there now are the same as the original cats imported to England in the lat 1800s? We don’t hear about that – Siamese cats in Thailand. Has anyone seen them wandering around the streets in 2012 :) ?

          Despite the confusion and overbreeding, the Siamese cat is still very popular, in the top 3, with the public. It is an iconic cat breed. It could do even better.

  3. We had a gorgeous Siamese cat named Tippy. He had the classic head shape and stunning blue eyes. He was a moggie and meowed so loud it would hurt my ears at close quarters (I had ear problems). His mother woke us up when she smelled an electrical fire in the wall next to where my mom was sleeping one cold night and the next afternoon I found Tippy dead in the breezeway below where the attic entrance was. He had died in the fire, but I didn’t get that for many years. Anyway…

    I love the drawings! And I’m sorry, but I like the look of the Moderns. It appeals to my artistic-side. With that said… The modern is such a dramatic change from what a Siamese cat has looked like in the past that I vote we rename the Moderns. You cut away at the clay that had nothing wrong with it in the first place and come up with something completely different. I have to ask, why change what was perfect to begin with?

  4. Dan , Don’t be sorry. I myself like some of the modern meezers though it does seem they should be the ones with another name.
    I don’t like it when they are extremely miniaturized. and aesthetically I just can’t deal with the totally horizontal ear thing that some of them have especially in Europe ( there are some in North America like that too but not as many.) Here is extreme example

    But I do like the look of some modern Siamese even though I tend to prefer the ones from the 60s or 70s. and even more so the pre 1950 Siamese.
    What I really love is the personality and intelligence that is shared by most the real Siamese

    Here are a couple modern type meezers I find nice looking.
    http://nationalsiamese.com/photo_lg.php?pic=/FairydustChocolateCappuccin.jpg

    http://nationalsiamese.com/photo_lg.php?pic=/MinghouDancingSlippers.jpg

    • Cheri, why does the Siamese have such a loud voice!? It is a very particular kind of voice. I wonder how it developed. My black moggie has a Siamese voice. I say he is a Siamese without the white bit in the middle. He has the ‘Siamese face’ – elongated.

      The Modern Siamese is elegant but so obviously artificial and ‘man made’. The ears can look ridiculous. I prefer nature’s work myself.

      • I don’t know why that voice turned out as it did. They must have something different and perhaps more complex going on with their vocal chords. It’s very distinctive, and I think your black moggy is indeed likely a Siamese mix and may have a fairly recent Siamese (or Oriental which is 99% Siamese) ancestor.

        In general the cats in Thailand are more vocal/ communicative than in most places….. This is just fanciful, but it could have something to do with their very long history of close association with humans. Maybe it is even a sort of feline imitation of Thai human speech! or people have often compared the sound to a human baby. so maybe cats who made such sounds were more likely to get attention from humans. And they are certainly cats that tend to want attention.

        Actually, not 100% of Siamese or Wichienmaat or other cats in Thailand have the typical Siamese voice. There are some who have more a “regular” cat voice.
        But it seems quite a few cats from that region at least have a voice that is unusual compared to cats from most places — in some it is the really deep pitched, nasal sound that can be very loud at times, others similar but a medium pitch with a very distinctive timbre and variety of vocalizations) ; others higher but with an odd scratchy sound ( I have heard that from some Burmese and Khaomanees).

        • Thanks for taking the time to explain that Cheri. One aspect of the Siamese voice is that it can sound demanding. It is a voice that says, ‘listen to me’. Maybe they acquired this from living amongst the early Siamese communities. Perhaps the environment where they lived was noisy. They learned to speak more loudly. That begs the question why the environment might have been more noisy. Or (and I prefer this theory) there was a tendency to ignore them and they learned to speak up. To make themselves noticed. That reaction could have been because they are smarter than average cats. The special Siamese voice may be part of being smart and being better able to learn. Although, as you say, we should not brand all Siamese as being the same.

  5. Dear Michael,

    i just found your most excellent posting. I loved it. I am a biology research PhD and I have been working on the origins of the western Korat, Siamese, and Burmese. I wish I could say it was for a work project. Its just something I am working on myself. At the same time, I am importing cats from Thailand to create an approximate cat to that which you might find in Thailand. Anyhow, I loved what you had to write and would love to send you the articles I have been writing to get your opinion. The first is “the personality of the thai mutation cats”, the second is “genesis of the American Burmese” , and more. Anyhow, I dont know how this works or if you will get this, but, loved your piece and would love to share mine with you.

    Doug

    • Hi Doug, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. The subject interests me and I’d love to publish your articles my site or you can write post or do as you please. I’ll contact you by email and we can go from there.

  6. Hi Michael, I always thought applehead and classic were the same, but after Reading this article I think my cat Budín is a classic, since is a bit more slender, “longer” legs, ears more like a V than other Siamese I had. She is also more talkative and trouble maker. She shatters everything around the house, and likes eating wool, scrunchies, thread, plastic, you name it. Basically I can’t take my eyes off her or else I think I may find her dead. Thankfully we work at home and don’t have any children. Siamese cats are so loving but such a handful, people be warned!

    • Thanks for sharing Lola. Siamese are known to be prone to pica – eating wool etc. This is said to be due to early weaning but it may made worse because of the natural character of the Siamese cat. They are talkers too.

      The applehead Siamese is said by the mainstream Siamese breeders to be wrong. Too rounded and not elegant enough although they look pretty normal to me and like the orginal. The old-style Siamese is nearer the original in Siam some say. There is a lot of argument about what is the right shape! There are photos so there shouldn’t be a problem.

      See Siamese cat history.

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