This page on Ragdoll cat information expands on the areas touched upon on the main Ragdoll cats page and focuses on origin and the myths.The main page covers all the rest.
There is a bit of mystery and controversy surrounding the Ragdoll cat. This probably has something to do with the founding breeder, the late Ann Baker, who seems to have been an individual with very definite ideas. It might be useful to talk about her for a while. After Jean Mill, the founder of the Bengal cat in the early 1970s, Ann Baker is perhaps one of the best known cat breeders in the history of the cat fancy.
If there is a bit of mystery and uncertainty surrounding the Ragdoll cat breed’s early days the same can be said perhaps about Ann Baker. In fact, the slightly mysterious Ann Baker provides an element of mystery to this breed itself. So, what was she like? One person who met her personally is one of the longest serving Ragdoll cat breeders, Dave Chambers of the Ragnarok Cattery.
David also worked with her at her cattery from Nov. 1977 to March 1979. David’s cattery must be a long running one because their website URL is www.ragdoll.com. You couldn’t get that sort of URL nowadays. They have been running since 1977.
The breed was started in the early 1960s. Ragnarok Cattery is run by David with Georgann Chambers. David’s personal view (taken from his website) is that she was a “weird cat lady”. He implies that others, who met her, felt the same way. He says that she made claims that defied logic and was inclined to change her thoughts from day to day. OK, this squares up with the general view, perhaps. Although we should respect any individuals right to be an individual.
David and Georgann Chambers regularly visited Ann Baker’s cattery over the period 11-77 to 3-79. Ann Baker would charge for a tour of her cattery (seems commercial enough and why not). David with Georgann Chambers started their Ragdoll breeding cattery with no less than 36 cats from Ann Baker’s cattery. Ann baker died in Jan. 1997.
Conclusion: She was an individual, with her own personal views, possibly eccentric. She seems to have been commercially minded but perhaps not that good at translating that into making money. I would have thought that she loved cats and started what has become a very well established mainstream cat breed, in the top 10 of all breeds in terms of popularity (the top 10 breeds ranked as voted for – opens in new window).
The cat breed – Ragdoll cat information Dave Chambers who knew Ann Baker says this about the very beginning of the breed: A free roaming (feral or semi-feral) and free breeding (unneutered) cat called “Josephine”, owned (kept) by a Mrs Pennels was discovered (noticed I suspect) by Ann Baker. Mrs Pennels lived in the Riverside area of Southern California. Dave Chambers lives near this area and so did Ann Baker.
Josephine was a Persian Angora type cat but not a purebred cat. She had what Dave Chambers calls “remarkable” kittens. Josephine was involved in a traffic accident. This was nothing exceptional to a free roaming cat but it seems to have put more focus onto her attractive kittens.
The myth would seem to be that Josephine was hit by a car (whilst pregnant). The kittens when born were exceptional in character due to the accident. It is not clear from Dave Chamber’s narrative if Josephine was pregnant with the kittens when hit by a car or after birth (I suspect the former). Either way there appears to have been no effect on the kittens. Another myth recounted by the author of the book, “Ragdoll Cats” by Karen Leigh Davis was that Josephine was “genetically altered” in a government facility after the accident whilst undergoing treatment.
The kittens born after the treatment demonstrated an immunity to pain, were extremely passive and went limp when picked up. David Chambers says that Josephine’s kittens grew large, had lovely blue eyes and great characters. Ann Baker spotted something special. Mrs Baker selected some of the kittens and breed from them. Ann Baker had a Birman type (see below, Daddy War Bucks) and Burmese type cats which I presume that she used in this breeding program. David also says that no outcrossing with purebred Persian, Birman or Burmese cats took place.
The foundation cats are all from this starting point. A splinter group developed another breed, the RagaMuffin, later. Karen Leigh Davis in her book says that Ann Baker used cats that were related to Josephine to begin the breed. These cats were called, Daddy War Bucks (a Birman type cat that I presume is the cat that David Chambers refers to), Buckwheat, Fugianna and Tiki.
She says that Ann Baker attributes the docile nature of the breed to Josephine and the appearance is credited to Daddy War Bucks.
Conclusions – ragdoll cat information All the fanciful information is pure myth. A myth is a “a fictitious story, person, or thing”. The truth is less interesting. Josephine was a docile cat. Daddy War Bucks had the looks. Ann Baker knew how to bring it all together.