Female lilac European Burmese

This is a lilac, European Burmese bred by Юлия Ланцова who lives in Moscow, Russia. It’s a very good picture and I think it illustrates this cat breed nicely. It also emphasises the fact that there is a difference between North American and European Burmese cats. I’d like to discuss that briefly. Gloria Stephens in her book Legacy of the Cat (great book and recommended) tells us that until the 1960s the Burmese in North America were more foreign in type (slender) i.e. more like today’s European Burmese.

European Burmese bred in Russia
European Burmese (lilac). Photo and breeding by Юлия Ланцова (Moscow Russia).
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This means that the head was not so rounded as we see today. And the body and legs were longer. In the 1960s changes resulted in the Burmese type that we see today with a rounded head and a short muzzle. The body became more compact and this is described as the ‘Contemporary Burmese’.

The Burmese Info website tells us that American Burmese differ from the European variant by having a more compact and heavy build. They say that the feet don’t look thin and the paw pads have a round form. The European Burmese, in contrast, is a cat of average size “elegant with refined lines”. They also remind us that the American Burmese has two variants both the traditional and the contemporary. They both fall under one breed standard but there are differences in their appearance.

By my reckoning, that means that there are three types of Burmese cat, (1) the North American traditional (2) the contemporary Burmese and (3) the European Burmese. Although 1 and 3 must be very similar.

How did the North American Burmese develop into a contemporary version? It appears that this is put down to a famous Burmese cat breeder of the 1960s, Gladys de Fleron of New Orleans, Louisiana. She had shown foreign-type Burmese (Burmese cats like today’s European Burmese) until a different-looking kitten “showed up in her cattery” according to Gloria Stephens. As you can imagine, the cat was shorter and more compact in body than the other cats. She liked this appearance and decided to keep him for herself; naming him Theebaw.

North American contemporary Burmese (lilac). Photo: Helmi Flick.
North American contemporary Burmese (lilac). Photo: Helmi Flick.

She showed Theebaw at cat shows and he kept on winning and went on to become ACFA Cat of the Year in the 1960s. Clearly other breeders agreed with her that he was a great looking cat. Theebaw was instrumental in helping to change the North American standards for Burmese from the semi-foreign type earlier to the cobby (stocky) type today. Click this for a page on cat breed body types.

It seems that Burmese cat breeders in Europe and Russia did not diverge from the earlier body type which is why we have these three versions of the breed today.


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