Were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same Cat?

by Michael
(London, UK)

I ask, were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same cat in Turkey during the years well before the cat fancy started? I mean in the 15th to 19th century. They are now two distinct breeds and it is said by the best authorities that they originate from different parts of Turkey. The Turkish Angora comes from a region called Anatolia which includes Turkey. So does the Turkish Van. Except the Turkish Van comes specifically, it is said, from the Lake Van region of Turkey while the Turkish Angora comes from the same area generally but specifically the mountainous area of Ankara. The two places are over 500 miles apart.


Note: I respect the views of Lisa James in her article, The Turkish Van and the Turkish Angora and welcome her comments and posts.


I am going to challenge that way of thinking on the basis of several trains of thought. And I am doing this to simply challenge the accepted way of thinking but not in a disrespectful way.

Firstly, in the say 17th century, all cats were moggies. They were just cat companions, feral cats or in between. This means that cat types were naturally less distinct from region to region and type to type as breeders had not at that time delineated the breeds through selective breeding. There were no formal breeds in those days. Although there were informal breeds if that is an acceptable way of describing them. I am thinking of, for example, the Manx cat.

In Britain, for example, there were the forerunners of the British Shorthair. But the cats of that time in Britain were not like the classic purebred British Shorthair now, with the flattish face. They were “ordinary” cats in every way. The current appearance was developed by breeding. The first point that I am making is that I suggest that the distinct but relatively slight difference between the Turkish Van and Angora that is visible today has been developed by the cat fancy. I argue that it was not that way hundreds of years ago. The Wikipedia author says:

…And even at present, when it was confirmed by the geneticist that Vans and Angoras are definitely separate breeds, Vans are sometimes confused with Turkish Angoras, although a side-by-side comparison reveals vastly different characteristics.

But the author makes no references to substantiate the genetic differences and I mean that there would have to be genetic differences that can be proved to originate in the 16th century and earlier. This, I suggest, can only be carried out in Turkey and I know of no research. Further the difference now in appearance is not stark and is due to breeding by the cat fancy and not the origins.

There is no reason to believe that a distance of 500 miles can make a difference in the basic genetic characteristics of a moggie cat in one country. Also Lake Van is over 5,000 feet above sea level in what might be called similar terrain to the “mountains” near Ankara. In fact the area around Ankara is more hilly than mountainous.

In addition, there are single wild cats species that have ranges that cover two continents, many thousands of miles and many countries that substantiates this contention. I refer to the Puma as one example. Other examples are the leopard, Eurasian lynx and jaguar. There are more. It is far more likely that the moggie of Turkey in the 17th century was similar throughout Turkey.

I also say that both the Turkish Van and Angora were imported into Europe at similar times for the very reason that they were the same cat or very nearly the same cat. This would fly in the face of the accepted history that the Turkish Angora was imported hundreds of years before the Van. But the accepted history is harder to accept than the commonsense argument.

I refer for example to a painting from the late 1700s Paris, France of a cat that is either a French moggie or a Turkish Van import or a bit of both. If it is a French moggie the Turkish Van is not unique to Turkey and if it is an import from Turkey it substantiates my ideas. You can see this painting and another discussed on this page: Jean-Honoré Fragonard Le Chat Angora.

comparison of Turkish Van cat in France in 1700s and Turkish van in 2009

Above: Marguerite Gérard – La dame avec son chat (selected section on left) and on right is a modern Turkish Van – photo copyright Helmi Flick – please respect copyright.

If I am correct, in answer to the question, were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same cat, the answer is yes, more or less, and the cat fancy has made two cats out of one moggie. This is not a criticism of the cat fancy. It is normal and to be expected. There are over 70 mainstream cat breeds. The cat fancy has created more breeds in the same way any business creates more brands (
for example Purina has many brands of cat food). It is just the way the free market operates.

Many will be horrified by this train of thought. That’s OK. They are just thoughts.

From Were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same cat to Turkish Angora Cat

Comments for
Were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same Cat?

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Apr 21, 2012 Bulent Basaran. What Turkish Angora? NEW
by: Anonymous

CORRECTION to my posting earlier today.
Line 14 counting from the bottom should read
‘ The real Tirkish Van kedisi….’
Thank you.
Please take a look at this link to the official Turkish Angora Association, Turkey.

There you can compare the real Turkish Angoras with the fakes.
The morphological differences are not due to selective breeding but to illegal and unreported outcrossing. The DNA comparison charts in UC Davis’ 2012 Turkish Cat Genetics Study show the minimal Turkish Angora genetic content (Green) of American TAs which predominantly have the blue reference colour consistent with the Tunisian/Egyptian Mau genome.


Apr 21, 2012 Ankara Kedisi Derneği NEW
by: Ankara Kedisi Derneği

We are sorry, due to error of browser two same comments were posted.

Regards,

Ankara Kedisi Derneği

angoraturkish.blogspot.com


Apr 21, 2012 You probably haven’t seen the real Angora? NEW
by: Ankara Kedisi Derneği

Very well said, Harvey Harrison. Thank you.

For: Bulent Basaran

We don’t understand why would you identify yourself as veterinarian – maybe you want to appear more credible? This can not be verified on the internet. Also being a veterinarian does not make one an expert of the Angora and Van cat.

First of all, if you are Turkish, you probably have seen some Angoras-Vans and good examples of them straightly from the Turkish streets. Turkish streets? Yes! Isn’t Van and Angora random bred natural breeds? One must be really blind or ignorant to say that Angora has pointed chin, different type of body, ears etc.compared with Van kedisi. If they are so different why everyday we are seeing in the Turkish pet forums ”is my cat Angora or Van?!?”. People are confused. They don’t see these ”huge differences”you stated in your comment.

We contacted Prof.Dr Fetih GÜLYÜZ of Van university, and asked him, what are differences between longhair Van and Angora, he was not able to answer the question! ”They are very similar” – he said.

Have you been in Ankara Zoo? You would be surprised, how wrong you described the Turkish Angora. No coat? Probably you are talking about Angora from America or Europe. The real Angora (the one from Ankara Zoo for example) has a massive winter coat. Really! You wouldn’t dare to call it as semi-longhair!

Let me add, that here are no white cat breeds. Turkish Van pattern is just one of many coloring varieties, expressed by white spotting gene. Very often you can see The Turkish Angora having a Van pattern. Actually many street cats in Turkey have Van pattern. What is so special about this?

Instead of making extraordinary claims, please show us these”huge differences”. Can you?

Regards,

Ankara Kedisi Derneği (The Angora Cat Association)


Apr 21, 2012 You probably haven’t see the real Angora? NEW
by: Ankara Kedisi Derneği

Very well said, Harvey Harrison. Thank you.

For: Bulent Basaran

We don’t understand why would you identify yourself as veterinarian – maybe you want to appear more credible? This can not be verified on the internet. Also being a veterinarian does not make one an expert of the Angora and Van cat.

First of all, if you are Turkish, you probably have seen some Angoras-Vans and good examples of them straightly from the Turkish streets. Turkish streets? Yes! Isn’t Van and Angora random bred natural breeds? One must be really blind or ignorant to say that Angora has pointed chin, different type of body, ears etc.compared with Van kedisi. If they are so different why everyday we are seeing in the Turkish pet forums ”is my cat Angora or Van?!?”. People are confused. They don’t see these ”huge differences”you stated in your comment.

We contacted Prof.Dr Fetih GÜLYÜZ of Van university, and asked him, what are differences between longhair Van and Angora, he was not able to answer the question! ”They are very similar” – he said.

Have you been in Ankara Zoo? You would be surprised, how wrong you described the Turkish Angora. No coat? Probably you are talking about Angora from America or Europe. The real Angora (the one from Ankara Zoo for example) has a massive winter coat. Really! You wouldn’t dare to call it as semi-longhair!

Let me add, that here are no white cat breeds. Turkish Van pattern is just one of many coloring varieties, expressed by white spotting gene. Very often you can see The Turkish Angora having a Van pattern. Actually many street cats in Turkey have Van pattern. What is so special about this?

Instead of making extraordinary claims, please show us these”huge differences”. Can you?

Regards,

Ankara Kedisi Derneği (The Angora Cat Association)


Apr 20, 2012 Bulent Basaran. What Turkish Angora? NEW
by: Harvey Harrison

Hi Bulent. It is clear from your description that you are refering to an impostor which is the American “Turkish Angora” and not the Ankara Zoo or legitimate Turkish cat the Ankara kedisi. I have a cat from the Ankara zoo who’s morphological characteristics are not as you state, but remarkably similar to the so-called Turkish Van. As shown in the phylogenetic tree published in The Ascent of Cat Breeds, the American Turkish Angora is related to Tunisian street cats and the so-called Egyptian Mau and has nothing to do with Turkey except for the tiny remnant of the original DNA of the founding Ankara zoo cats. For the 2008 study only American Turkish Angoras were examined which was clearly a fundamental flaw. Leslie Lyons of UC Davis irrationally accepted this cat as the genuine Turkish Angora and incorporated this irrational into her 2012 Turkish Cat Genetics Study with hilarious consequences. For the 2012 he was supplied with documented samples of Ankara zoo and Turkish Angoras from other Turkish cities, but to cover up her her original error she named these cats Cyprus cats. So funny if it were not so stupid. Furthermore which Turkish Van are you talking about? There is the cat fancy Turkish Van which as per the same phylogenetic tree is actually closly related to Egyptian cats with no relationship to Turkey shown The real Turkish Ankara kedisi is not yet clearly understood through lack of trustworthy samples but it is probably just a variant of the Turkish Ankara kedisi.
So in your analysis you are comparing 2 breeds that are not Turkish at all.
Many newe exports from Turkey of classic marked Turkish Vans to West European breeders with the standard Van morphology tested as Ankara kedisi for the 2012 Turkish Cat Genetics Study by UC Davis. The only thing lacking is to get Leslie lyons to understand that Turkish and Ankara zoo SLH cats are Ankara kedileri, not Cyprus cats.


Apr 20, 2012 Turkish Veterinarian NEW
by: Bulent Basaran

the answer is definitely no. if you do not know anything about cats you could say yes.even if you are a little bit passionate about cats you could see the physiological differences are huge. let alone genetically they are different cats from different legion of Anatolia.I do not know where to start let make a list! chin TA has pointed chin, very much like a three angular shape. very pointed sharp ending ears ON THE HEAD, where Turkish van has oval and rough head on the side of the head ears appear. Tv has a big and strong muscle on the head. the body also has differ dramaticly! Turkish Angora has a petite look where the Turkish Van comparing like twice the body and a typical Tom cats ‘ body. coats even has differences the Turkish Van has a winter-coat develops where the Turkish Angora never had one. they both have a winter long coats but TV has an undercoat which is very long and short coats while TA has a long coat and a sleazy(posh)look with a chest coat!!most TA cats has different colours and a typical white colour but TV has only white colour and it has only come with a pattern (or sometime has a dot /pattern or both). there are a lot of differences even in their characters are differenced.so I reject this silly question as a whole! if you wanted to learn more go and get a Turkish cat he/she will teach you who are they really!!!


Dec 28, 2011 Turkish Van swimming cat
by: Anonymous

Well the story that the Turkish Van likes to swim is a nice story but in my opinion it is just to try to make them unique and establish more firmly their relationship to Lake Van. Turkish Vans can be found all over Turkey, most of the Vans introduced by Laura lushington did not in fact come from Van. I have a lot of Turkish Vans including the white Van kedisi and none of them like water in the least bit except to drink.
In referring to the Angora whether the true Turkish Angora from Turkey or the American Angora originating in North Africa I suppose the same would apply but fairy tales don’t interest me all that much.
Lake Van is salt and I suggest that after swimming there the cat would clean it’s fur and ingest an overdose of salt which would be harmful over time. Any cat which has developed the ability to swim would have done so in order to catch prey, and swimming on the surface of a deep lake when the fish are usually much deeper would not be a useful adaptation. The Swimming Cat and the Flat Headed wild cats swim in shallow fresh water streams of SE Asia and thus salt contamination is not an issue.
A Van cat may be trained to swim but then a lion can be trained to jump through blazing hoops, but that is not a natural characteristic of lions.


Dec 28, 2011 Turkish Van
by: Anonymous

I own a Turkish Van. How do you explain their ability to swim? Does the Angora do that


Mar 27, 2011 The real Turkish Angora is from Turkey
by: Harvey Harrison

I do not know the date of Lisa James’ contribution but several of her statements, and those of Wikipedia, are now obsolete.
In saying that the Turkish Van and Turkish Angora are both breeds originating in Turkey is only true if she is referring to the Angoras from the Ankara Zoo and not the American Angora. The American Angora is in fact descended from Tunisian feral cats and is also related to the so-called Egyptian Mau. Therefore stating that the Angora and the Van are not related is highly muisleading and incorrect since the comparison was made with cats that are NOT Turkish Angoras but a newly concocted breed.
Leslie Lyons has now realised her mistake which was as a result of receiving samples labled Turkish Angora which were in fact no such thing.
All of the physical differences referred-to are due to them being 2 totally different breeds from different countries.
The theories of how 2 different semilonghaired cat breeds can co-exist in one country can now be relegated to fantasy for the simnple reason that the breeds are not different. The Ankara Zoo Angoras and the Turkish Van are genetically proven to be closely related.
Twelve more examples of unrelated Ankara Zoo Angoras have been submitted to UC Davis and the results are expected shortly.
The question now is when and how did this switch occur and who was responsible?


Aug 31, 2010 DNA of Turkish Angoras
by: Harvey Harrison

Further to my comment which came out as Anonymous I would like to express my disappointment at the lack of reponse to the blog ” Were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same Cat?”

This may be because most TA owners and breeders in the West know very well that they do not have the originals, but have pedigrees which trace their ancestry back only to the USA.
The question now is ” Do the USA TAs have pedigrees that reliably trace the ancestry of their cats back to the Ankara Zoo?”

However I have contacted several more persons who can prove the Ankara Zoo ancestry of their recently obtained TAs and have sent in samples to UC Davis.
Several breeders clammed up when they realised that their TA which they claimed to be pure Ankara Zoo was really something else and that would show up in the DNA tests.
Another interesting point is ” Do Persian cat breeders have to prove their cats came from Persia in order to register them?” That would be puzzling because Persians belong to the West European group.


Aug 30, 2010 My thanks
by: Michael

I have just seen the last comment. Sorry for the delay but I don’t get the chance to read that many comments as there are thousands in total.

I find it very useful and interesting and want to the thank the person.

Michael Avatar


Jan 12, 2010 Preliminary Genetic Findings
by: Anonymous

I have obtained results from UC Davis of a DNA sample from an Ankara Zoo Turkish Angora. It shows she is actually much more closely related to Turkish Vans than to the contemporaray Turkish Angoras, principally in the USA.
One sample is not scientifically significan but it is enough to justify further investigation especially since the Ankara Zoo cats do not have the morphology, earset, or general appearance of the Western cat fancy Angora.
You might say that the answer is very simple, just obtaine more samples from the Ankara Zoo, but not only is the export of their cats prohibited, so are DNA samples.
Never-the-less some people have been able to export Ankara Zoo cats and I would very much encourage them to send buccal swabs to the Feline Genome Project.,The samples should be accompanied by some kind of certification that proves the cat is from the Zoo such as the receipt.
To answer the question ” Were the Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van the same Cat? ” I would say yes. However it depends on what you mean by a Turkish Angora. The ones from the Zoo are very closely related to the Turkish Van, but not so the cat fancy Angora. Something seems to have happened to it since moving to the West and it’s not just as a result of selective breeding. The genes are quite different. I asked Professor Leslie at what date did the 2 breeds diverge, but that information was not available. We are still working on this and would very much appreciate those DNA samples. vancats1938@yahoo.com


Oct 09, 2009 Article at Science Direct about the genetics
by: Michael

The ascent of cat breeds: Genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations.

Hi Finn thanks for your comment. I have just read the abstract of the research you referred to and a small bit of the article itself. I presume that you read the abstract too plus some of the main article.

It is written in scientific language and hard to understand.

With respect to the my article on the Turkish Van and Angora, I think it supports it! It says that the “Mediterranean Basin” was probably were domestication of the cat first took place. The Mediterranean Basin includes Turkey – see this map:

Mediterranean Basin

Within this area the researchers said that:

“[there was] distinct genetic clustering..”

To me that says that the genes of the cats in this area are similar (“clustered”), which implies that the domestic cats in Turkey have a similar genetic makeup thus supporting my argument.

The main article says that

“Genetically distinguishable clusters of cats were found in the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, and Africa”.

Implying that the cats in the clusters were not genetically distinguishable, once again supporting my argument that the Turkish cats have very similar genes.

Of course all this relates to the underlying genetics of these cats. Once breeding took place anything could happen and there has been significant cross breeding on occasions of the breeds to avoid inbreeding for one reason. This would make the TA different to the TV now but when the TV and TA where first domesticated they were the same cat, I say.

There is current genetic diversity throughout the world however.

I did not read the entire article but will do and get back on it.


Oct 07, 2009 Passed this Along…
by: Lisa James

I have passed this article’s link along to one of our breed’s email groups, with a request for some of our breed historians to respond to this, & will also be passing this along to the Van people that I know, so it will be interesting to see what other responses come along from people who have been in these breeds far longer than I!


Oct 07, 2009 Article at Science Direct about the genetics
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

There’s an article at Science Direct called “The ascent of cat breeds: Genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations”. Also published at

Interesting subject, but unfortunately a bit too scientific for me to grasp with English not my mother tongue and a very limited knowledge of genetics. Michael, could you please digest this?

From what I understand the Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van both belong to what is called the “Mediterranean basin” group of cats. They are however genetically further apart than should be expected from breeds originating in the same region.

I note however that the article talks about the breeds as they exist today and not their original forms. I don’t know whether breeding in two different directions could have caused the differences?

As to the semi-longhair cats imported to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, I agree they would probably all have been labeled Angoras – Van pattern or not.

I have had the pleasure of being close to both breeds and they still seem very much related to me. Breeders, who see all the small differences, quite rightly may disagree. ;-)



Comments

Were the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van the same Cat? — 3 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I have an odd eye Van cat too. She is one of the cutest cat ever I have seen in my life. I had read about Ankara cat and Van cat phenomena and I read messages above also. Some says they are the same type of cats; like a cat food; in the origin they are all the same; cat food. I am very sorry to hear that; as I can say, we are all human too; yet, we have some differences between us, don’t we? Such as American, Chinese, Turkish, Greek, etc. and we also have locational differences inside the country for example northern Turkey, southern Turkey, eastern Turkey, and etc. Otherwise, our lives would have been so different. Am I not right? Yet, in the origin we are all human beings; originated again from human beings.

    Yes, I agree that there are a lot of cats on the street of Turkey. Most of them are mixed of course as they live one the street. Yet, on the other hand there are still special cats in the certain areas like Van and Ankara Angora. Yes again, there are mixed breeds there too; yet there are also originals some of which are protected by the University of Van, in city of Van.

    Making statements based on hand full of information is not enough as we all know; one needs to gather better information based on scientific research etc. As I said, we are all human at the end, but we definitely have differences. I wish people had thought we were all the same coming from one in the origin; I would be happiest person ever; then people wouldn’t discriminate one and other; we would have lived in peace (I’m only talking based on our nations of course, not the other differences).

    I hope I didn’t offend anyone; if so I really apologize for this as I didn’t have this kind of intention at all.

    Best regards,
    -Denise

    • Hi Denise, you haven’t offended anyone. Your thoughts are very sensible regarding the fact that we are all from the same source. At the very beginning of mankind there was no racism, no nationalism, no differences in color or culture. No religion. We were all the same. There were still arguments though ;)

  2. Denise,

    You send a nice message, despite our differences we are all humans. Same with cats – more similar than different.

    However we don’t agree with statement: ”Most of them are mixed of course as they live one the street.”

    If cat lives on the street (not only street there are many places cat can live!), why it means it is mixed? Mixed with what? In Turkey pets sector is very new. People don’t throw their expensive Persians and Siamese to the streets. Those which freely roam are actually very pure Anatolian cats and we have some DNA evidence to back this up.

    ”There are still special cats in the certain areas like Van and Ankara Angora”
    You say stray cats are mixed so what are Van and Angora cats – not from street? From the another planet? They are the same STREET CATS. Anatolian species to be exact.

    ”yet there are also originals some of which are protected by the University of Van, in city of Van”
    Van University collected all white cats, it has nothing to do with the breed Van cat, which after all doesn’t exist. The breeding program in Van University is very unscientific and ridiculous. They don’t bother to test their cats genetically in order to be sure they don’t have the same ”dirty street cats” which roam near to their ”white breed” cages! If they did DNA test their idea of special Van cat would explode like a bubble, you can be sure!

    ”one needs to gather better information based on scientific research”
    Did you bother to gather that scientific information? No? How can you judge what was said then? If you ask us we do have that needed scientific information to show you that Van and Ankara cat doesn’t exist and all cats in Turkey came from the same gene pool. They are Anatolian cats.

    Advice: Don’t judge something you know nothing about.

    Kind Regards

    The Angora at Association, Turkey

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