Over the last 150 years, numerous varieties have been discovered or developed, but only a few these become long-lived breeds. Here are some of the “lost” breeds and the reasons they aren’t around today. Is the Werewolf cat going to around in 50 years?
1. ALBINISTIC ABYSSINIAN
These blue-eyed creamy-white Abyssinian cats were bred by Sir William Cooke, of Newbury, until 1927. Sir William was confident that these were not Abyssinian-Siamese crosses; though keen cat historians will know that a descendent of the Swiss Mountain cat (a solid brown Siamese-type cat that carried the recessive colourpoint gene) was used in developing early Abyssinians. The Albinistic Abyssinians were creamy white, with rabbit-coloured fur on their ears and an “eelstripe” along their spine. In terms of colour, they sound more similar to Singapuras than to silver Abyssinians.
Died out because: lack of interest.
2. AUSTRALIAN CAT
These were bred in the USA in the 1890s to the 1900s. They were very sleek, with satin-like fur and narrow, rather pointed heads (like modern Orientals). Like the Siamese of the time, they disliked the cold. In 1902, they were described as having multiple kinks in their tails and curious hindquarters so that they sat up like kangaroos. The most famous was probably a striped tabby called Tricksey whose photo appeared in several early cat books. They were bred in tabby, tortie and solid colours, with and without white markings. One photo shows a cat with peculiarly thickened forelegs that seem to have duplicated leg-bones inside; this anomaly was not typical of the breed. Australian Cats were exhibited in the USA up until the 1920s. By 1925, a lack of males caused the breed to decline rapidly and become extinct in the USA. A white Australian Cat was exhibited in England in 1926 and three were exhibited in 1927, but the breed disappeared soon after.
Died out because: lack of breeding stock.
3. BUNNY CAT
Often confused nowadays with the Abyssinian, the Bunny Cat was a distinct British variety in the early days of the cat fancy. They were born black and lightened to an unbarred ticked coat – a ticked form of British Shorthair and Longhair. They were probably used in developing early Abyssinians. The recently developed British Tick recreates the shorthaired form of the Bunny Cat, but ticked Persians haven’t yet appeared to recreate the longhaired form.
Died out because: not recognised by early cat fancy.
4. ORIGINAL BURMESE
The “Burmese” cat originally imported into England in the 1890s was an Oriental ticked tabby. They were probably seen as non-pointed Siamese-type cats and therefore mis-mated curiosities rather than a potential breed.
Died out because: cat fancy would only accept pointed cats from that region.
5. CANON GIRDLESTONE’S BREED
Short-haired blue cats with faint tabby markings were imported from the north of Norway and known as “Canon Girdlestone’s breed”. Mrs Carew-Cox owned a pair of these in 1890, but they succumbed to illness without ever breeding.
Died out because: poor health and lack of breeding stock.
6. CHINESE LOP-EARED CAT
The Chinese Lop-Eared cat was allegedly found around Peking, China. It was described as a longhaired cat with a glossy black or yellow coat and pendulous ears, but much of this description was based on confusion with a type of marten kept as pets and rodent-controllers! A yellow-throated type of marten called the “Sumxu” or “Samxces” had been described in the 1700s. When a droop-eared cat was noted in another region of China in 1796, a series of mistranslations and misconceptions in natural history books led to this cat being confused with the Sumxu. A museum specimen suggests that the Chinese Lop-Eared cat was more like a cream-coloured Angora with drooping or folded ears. It was described as dull and inactive (perhaps docile would be a kinder term), kept by ladies as pets. In the 1920s, cat fanciers sought this variety without success. The last reported sighting was a droop-eared white cat from China.
Died out because … uncertain whether it really existed as a breed.
7. ORIGINAL HIMALAYAN CAT
Today, the name “Himalayan” means a colourpoint Persian. originally the name referred to a large, robust, blue-eyed, pure white longhair found in the high forest regions of Northern India that bordered Tibet. The variety was allegedly centuries old. Himalayan cats imported into Britain were used to improve the eye colour and coat texture in white longhairs.
Died out because: used to improve cat fancy longhairs.
8. MEXICAN HAIRLESS
A brother-sister pair of Mexican Hairless cats was imported to England at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately the owner did not let them breed together and he couldn’t find hairless cats to breed them to. When the male (Dick) escaped and was killed by dogs, he couldn’t find a hairless mate for the female (Nellie). Given to the owner by Jesuit missionaries, the pair were allegedly the last of an Aztec breed known only in New Mexico (more likely they had resulted from a spontaneous mutation). Evidently he sold Nellie, who was renamed “Jesuit” and exhibited in England under that name. Although livestock breeders understood how to outcross animals and then backcross them to restore a trait (Bakewell had demonstrated how to line-breed livestock), Nellie/Jesuit’s owners didn’t seem to consider this option. The loss of the Mexican Hairless was preventable.
Died out because: poorly managed breeding stock.
9. THE PEKE-FACED CAT
Occasionally, a mutation in Persian cats produced cats with a very Bulldog-like face. These were first described in the 1860s (though some also had bandy legs in addition to their protruding lower jaw). A strain of Peke-faced Red Persian was developed in the USA, but died out in the early 1990s due to problems giving birth (the kittens’ heads were too large) and problems suckling (high palates). These rounded-headed, flat-faced cats had additional indentations on the forehead that set them apart from other extreme-typed Persians. Although modern ultra-typed Persians are sometimes referred to as Peke-Faced, their features are due to the selective breeding of multiple genes rather than a distinct mutation.
Died out because: health and breeding problems.
10. OJOS AZULES
This breed began with a blue-eyed tortie cat. Vivid blue eyes do not normally occur in coloured cats; it’s a trait associated with white cats and with Siamese cats, so this cat became the founder of the Ojos Azules breed. Unfortunately, the gene for “cornflower blue eyes” appeared inextricably linked to a gene that caused gross malformations, hence breed development came to a halt. Healthy blue-eyed coloured cats sometimes turn up in the random-bred population, but the Ojos Azules type hasn’t been revived.
Died out because: health issues linked to the mutation.
11. SHORT-HAIRED PERSIAN
In 1926, a cat show in Lille had classes for “Short-hair Persians” as well as for normal Persians and normal Shorthairs. It’s tempting to think of these as Exotic Shorthairs, but iIn those days the Persian was more like a “British Longhair”. Nothing more was heard of it.
Died out because … possibly never really existed!
12. SWISS-MOUNTAIN CAT
Several breeds have claimed this as their ancestor. In the late 1890s and early 1900s they were described as brown cats “probably from South East Asia as a branch of the Royal Cats of Siam”. They resembled “Siamese with coats of burnished chestnut with greeny-blue eyes” and were bred for a while. In the 1920s, the Siamese Cat Club of Britain discouraged the breeding of any but blue-eyed Siamese. Many of the progeny of the Swiss Mountain Cats were colourpointed and one was even used as an outcross for early Abyssinians. This type of cat (albeit unrelated) is probably represented by the modern Havana or Chestnut Brown Oriental, though these are undoubtedly more extreme in conformation.
Died out because: cat fancy only accepted pointed cats from that region.
13. RUSSIAN LONGHAIRS
The Carthusian cat was a self-coloured ashy-grey to slatey-blue variety with long fine hair, black lips and soles. Kumani cats, originating from the Caucasus, had thick hair of white, black or rust-red and its lips and soles were flesh coloured. The Tobolsk cat from Siberia was red or fox-coloured, while those from the Cape of Good Hope were blue or red. The Khorassan seems to refer to Angora/early “Persian” longhairs. The Kazan cat could be black or silvery blue with blue extremities (i.e. black or blue smoke) and resembled the Turkish Angora with whom it shared its ancestry. The Crimean cat was pure white with a coat shorter than that of an Angora. It was already extremely rare between 1853 and 1856, and probably extinct by the time of the organised cat fancy. In general these cats had large heads, small ears and bushy tails and appear to be various colour varieties or regional variations of the Russian Longhair. The Russian Longhair is represented on the modern show-bench by the Siberian, although the modern Nebelung aimed to emulate it. None of the Russian cats described had the the refined conformation of the modern Russian Blue.
Died out because: bred with early Longhair, becoming the cat fancy Persian.
The Singhalese was developed in the late 1960s using Siamese crossed with red/red-tabby Angoras (the cat fancy type, not the true Turkish type). The aim was to create a semi-longhaired Siamese-type cat. Its fur was shorter and fluffier than the Balinese; its tail was much fluffier! Its temperament was closer to the Angora than to the more highly strung Siamese. These were red-series equivalents of Balinese, since the US registries only recognised Balinese in seal, blue, lilac and chocolate points. The Singhalese was allowed to be bred to either Balinese or to Himalayan, but was judged to the Balinese standard with allowances made for its fluffier coat. It seems to have been too close in type to the Balinese to be a viable proposition; especially when flame-point Balinese appeared.
Died out because: nearly identical to Balinese.
15. AUSTRALIAN CURL
In the 1990s, a curl-eared stray kitten turned up in Australia. When old enough, she was mated, but none of the kittens had curled ears. Unfortunately, Matilda (the original female) became seriously ill and had to be spayed. For some reason, none of her kittens were bred among themselves or to other cats to see if the trait was inherited recessively, and Matilda was the only known Australian Curl.
Died out because: unable to perpetuate trait.