Cat Breeds: It’s a Mashup

In analysing the differences between the cat breeds using DNA testing, I am compelled to come to the conclusion that it’s all a mashup. Nothing is what it seems. Everything is blurred and grey without clean distinctions. The breeds, themselves, have a different and distinct appearance – they have to, to be a cat breed – but at a DNA level there are some strange groupings and overlaps, but not much in the way of distinctive traits. I have written about the Persian which has no connection with Persia. This page goes a bit further.

I am using information from Sarah Hartwell’s site which in turn is based on scientific studies – all good sources. Ms Hartwell summarises information from the studies. When you read her article everything becomes a blur. If you try to find a handle on the subject, a pattern or some sense, you fail.

Cat Breed Mashup
Cat Breed Mashup. Photos of cats are copyright Helmi Flick. The mash potatoes are from iStockphoto (bought).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

So, other than the Persian, what examples of a “cat breed mashup” are there? Below is a selection. I’ll start with a breed that is more or less how I like it.

Sokoke

One cat breed at least makes a bit of sense: the Sokoke. This is a rare cat breed that breeders say comes from the region of the Sokoke Forest in Kenya, Africa. Well, surprise, surprise, this breed is closely related to moggies (random bred cats) from the Kenyan islands of “Lamu and Pate group”. Where are these?  Well Lamu is an island that is about 150 kilometers north of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. I find that interesting because at least it is somewhere near the forest but why isn’t it the Sokoke Forest itself? At least we are near Kenya. That is a result. Another scientist, Kurushima et al (2012), says the Sokoke cat is associated with the region around the Indian/Arabian Sea. That would include Kenya, it seems to me, but it also includes many other countries and places. It is vague.

Egyptian Mau

There is a lot of folklore surrounding this cat breed. It is said to be related to ancient Egypt.

The Egyptian Mau was worshipped by pharaohs and kings.. (CFA breed profile)

Yet DNA testing concludes that the Egyptian Mau is related to Turkish and Tunisian random-bred cats, with European influences. It is a bit like a recipe from the kitchen. This breed has been grouped with the Russian Blue, Siamese, Korat and Abyssinian cats and “clustered” with American Turkish Angoras and Turkish Vans, but not a sign of anything ancient or Egyptian. Where is that ancient, exotic blood; the connection with the pharaohs that we crave? If you want to see an Egyptian Mau go to Cairo and look at a grubby, spotted, persecuted street cat instead.

Birman

This cat breed has a tenuous connection with Burma. I doubt whether you’ll find a Birman in Burma. We are told that the Birman was imported into France in 1920 or thereabouts, in the form of one male and one female, but after than things become grey, very grey. The male cat died, which left things up in the air. The surviving female and her daughter were mated with other cat breeds such as the Siamese.  Then along came WWII which meant the breed had to be recreated again. In America, a couple of “Tibetan temple cats” were imported into the country. We’re told they were Birmans. They were crossed with other breeds. It’s another mashup. The Birman is meant to be a Burmese cat but is no longer.

Japanese Bobtail

I’ll end on the famous Japanese Bobtail. This is another cat with a long history, supposedly, of evolution within Japan and a long standing connection with the country. We are told that it has been in Japan for over a thousand years, being imported from China in the 6th century.

Well, put your preconceptions aside, the modern Japanese Bobtail is more closely related to European and American cats than the cats of Southeast Asia. This is because of that wonderful process called “selective breeding“.

Conclusions?

These are personal views and I could be wrong. The desire to create new cat breeds – there are too many, in my opinion – from a domestic cat that looks pretty much the same throughout the world has resulted in losing what distinctions there were between cats of certain regions.

However, what has happened is to be expected. Little attention and respect has been paid to the origins of the modern cat breeds. It has all been about what breeders fancied. There are many other examples in addition to the ones I have selected.

The overwhelming conclusion, for me, is that the cat breeds are a mashup, to use modern parlance; modern breeding and modern concepts coming together to erase what history and distinctions there were amongst the “natural cat breeds”. I think it is a shame from a purely commercial standpoint. The cat fancy would have done better financially and gained more respect, if it had been more honest and respectful of the domestic cat.


Note: if someone wants me to address some more breeds just ask.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

59 thoughts on “Cat Breeds: It’s a Mashup”

  1. I was thinking of creating a new traditional Persian cat breed called “MUMBAI PERSIAN CAT” but sadly my male stud cat “Matata” has proved to be the costliest “Stud cat Failure”!He just doesn’t know the method of mating and is now playing the role of the “Joker” in my house.Hilarious but true. Real life can be more bizarre than fiction.Seems every cat breeder of some repute is trying to create a new cat breed and i wonder where, when and how this craze would end.In India , the recently formed “Indian cat Federation” affiliated to the “World cat Federation” of Germany has plans to create a new local Indian breed called the “BILI( means cat in Hindi language)” from the local stray Indian cat.Below is a photo of handsome 5 year old tomcat “Matata”, the super flop stud cat.

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      • Michael, he is a major headache for the house. At times he marks his territory in the house by spraying in his favourite places.Sometimes he also yowls at night.In fact he has become a nuisance and i do find difficulty in maintaining him in the house.My other cat, his dam “Matahari” is absolutely peaceful and a typical Persian cat in behaviour and character, docile, quiet.

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  2. These fine differences are however very important. Without them we would not have been able to determine that the cat fancy Angora is unrelated to the original Turkish Angoras from the Ankara Zoo and Turkey. The pronounced physical differences are now backed up by genetic proof. Don’t underestimate these small genetic differences. They are crucial to our campaign to restore the genuine Turkish Angora. We all know that pedigrees can be and are used to legitimise fakes. The cat registries do not make enough effort to verify the information supplied to them when registering litters and new cats. If the information re Turkish Angoras were correct then the breed would suffer from very high inbreeding factor due to all being descended from very few foundation cats, but this is not the case. This alone should raise a red flag.

    Reply
    • They are crucial to our campaign to restore the genuine Turkish Angora

      I am totally for what you are for 😉 The real TA is far better and “real”. I support all that you do. In a different world, though, with different attitudes or turning the clock back 170 years there would be no cat breeds at all. The idea of cat breeds is a relatively modern concept and it has led to a cat fancy that has been self-indulgent and short-sighted at the expense of the cat.

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  3. Hi Valley Girl. They are genetically identical in that they all belong to the same breed group, the W European group. They don’t go deep enough to distinguish one individual from another, only that they belong to the same group. My cat from the Ankara Zoo and many others from Cyprus and Turkey were reported to be genetically identical because they have the same genetic markers. Would it be more useful to say very closely related like mother and son when dam and sire are also closely related ? You can see all my tribe on Facebook if you type-in vancats1938 Harvey Harrison on FB and send a friend request

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