Old Fashioned and Modern Persian Cats Compared

I love to look at the historical development and evolution of the cat breeds. I nearly always prefer the older versions of the same breed because I always think they look more natural and I like nature. However, I respect other people’s views, ideas and preferences. Lots of people prefer the modern Persian. But there is quite a strong divide between those who favour the traditional and the people who favour the ‘ultra’ or extreme Persian cat.

I have amalgamated the two cats in this montage. The bigger color picture by the famous Helmi Flick is of Evangeline, a pointed Persian or Himalayan. She appears to be lynx (tabby) pointed but I am not sure. You can see another picture of her on this page.

The inserted picture is a drawing by Harrison Weir of a Persian show cat in the 1880s, over 120 years ago. This cat is a genuine original. It even predates the concept of ‘doll face’ Persian because 120 years ago there was only one type of Persian, the traditional.

Photographic comparison of old fashioned Persian cat and modern Persian cat

Old Fashioned Persian cat compared to modern Persian cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

I am not going to describe the difference in words. The image pretty much says it all.  I’ll just say that the modern is more cobby and above all the face is much flatter. The well known and controversial flat face (called a ‘punch face’ in India and Pakistan) was selectively breed from about the 1970s onwards, as I recall.

One other thing, the old fashioned Persian has a mane of long fur around his neck, almost like a lion’s mane. It seems to me that the modern Persian’s mane is less pronounced.

Another interesting difference is character. Harrison Weir, the founder of the cat fancy and a show cat judge says this about the Persian of his time:

“I find this variety less reliable as regards temper than the short-haired cats, less keen also in the keen sense of observing, as in the Angora…..” and “In some few cases I have found them to be of almost a savage disposition, biting and snapping more like a dog than a cat, and using their claws less for protective purposes. Nor have I found them so ‘cossetty’ in their ways as those of the ‘short-coats’, though I have known exceptions.”

The word ‘cossetty’ must mean a predisposition to be cossetted although it is not currently used or in an online dictionary that I could find. Mr Weir’s assistant was frequently ‘wounded’ by Persian show cats when handling them!

Now what does Gloria Stephens of Legacy of the Cat say about the modern Persian? Gloria was a modern cat show judge and is an author. She says that ‘for the most part’ Persian cats are laid back. This is in apparent stark contrast to Harrison Weir’s experiences 120 years earlier.

Gloria does say that Persians sometimes exhibit a burst of energy but are happy to lounge around and be ‘decorative’.  They have ‘sweet, gentle personalities’.

It appears that the breeders did a good job on the breed’s character over 100 years of selective breeding.

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Old Fashioned and Modern Persian Cats Compared — 3 Comments

  1. Greetings from the Philippines. Thank you for the information, it has answered a question I have for the most part. You see, I have a cat that seems to fit the physical description of the Persian cat of the past. The disposition I would say, may not be as laid back as how Ms. Stephens has described the modern Persian cat, but definitely far from having an “almost savage” disposition as per Mr. Weir’s of its counterpart of his time. But I am still not completely satisfied. From the illustration of the Persian cat of the 1880s, my cat seems to have a very close resemblance to the model although her head is on the smaller side. I have also seen pictures of the traditional Persian cat of the present time/doll face but her head size seems to be smaller. Well, the main reason I am sending you this letter is I would like to send you pictures of my cat via email, if you will allow me, and would like to get your expert opinion regarding my beloved cat’s breed. According to her seller she is Persian but…I am aware that I might be asking too much but I am hoping for your kind consideration. Thank you.

      • Greetings from the Philippines! Thank you for the indulgence. I have sent you a short letter via email earlier today and with it I have attached 6 photos of my beloved cat Penelope. Again, I am hoping for your kind consideration and look forward to your reply.

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