Categories: Persian cat

1930s Persian cat compared with 2000 variant (picture)

Photograph of 1930s Persian by Willard Culver, National Geographic Creative. 2000 variant photo copyright Helmi Flick.

The difference that 80 or more years of selective breeding makes to the Persian cat can be seen in the photo. The breeders decided in about 1930 that they needed to refine the appearance of the Persian cat. For some unimaginable reason they decided that refinement meant flattening the face to unnatural proportions and making the body more cobby (stocky) and making the fur longer.

Selective breeding to extreme

Of course to many cat breeders and cat fanciers the modern Persian looks better than the 1930s variety but to people like me the modern incarnation of the Persian cat looks far, far worse than the original. It’s a transformation from a natural looking cat to one which is decidedly unnatural. It’s called extreme breeding. It is selective breeding too far. The original intention may have been to make the Persian’s cat’s head more round but what they achieved was an abomination of a cat with a punched in face, tear duct overflow, breathing problems and chronic polycystic kidney disease.

Cat associations

The cat associations insist on this look and never apologize for their obvious mistake. I am sure that someone will want to criticize me for stating that. I’m sure that there is a cat breeder out there who will think that I’m completely mad to state that the modern Persian is less attractive than the original. They, of course, are entitled to their opinion but they are wrong.

Anatomical defects

I can say that with complete confidence because it’s common sense. A face which is completely flat causing breathing problems and creating anatomical defects cannot be more attractive than the face that nature created and which was inherited from the North African wildcat about 10,000 years ago. Note: there was some selective breeding of the Persian cat from the late 1800s to the 1930s but it was not extreme and it essentially preserved the normal appearance of the domestic cat.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I totally agree with Michael that the modern Persian has been over bred or shall I say selectively inbred till it has become a sad monstrosity. Are there people out there with the doll faced Persian who agree? Let me know

    • Thanks Ashok. It is nice to hear from a person who agrees on this. It surprises me that the cat associations have allowed this to happen. It is a failure of oversight and management.

      • Because of Little Mercy's distinctive features I started doing some research on the doll face Persian. While she is by no means a purebred there is a growing fracture between the breeders of these poor cats and the more traditional Persian cat. The cat on the left is stunning

        • The doll face is a misnomer really. It should be called the original Persian. They - the cat associations - screwed up and let breeders overdo it and then cemented the extreme appearance in their breed standard.

  • This happens to a greater or lesser degree in all pedigree animals as breeders look for new and exciting ways to impress the judges with animal deformities that become breed standards.

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