16 facts about the Cornish Rex

Here are 15 concise facts about the Cornish Rex. This is a relatively rare cat breed. It is not mainstream as is the case for the Maine Coon and British Shorthair, for example.

Kallibunker, the foundation cat of all Cornish Rex cats
Kallibunker, the foundation cat of all Cornish Rex cats. Photo in the public domain
Cornish Rex
Cornish Rex. Image: Reddit.com
  1. All Cornish Rex cats can trace their ancestry back to Kallibunker (see above) who was born on a farm on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England, UK in 1950. He was born to a tortie-and-white shorthair cat named Serena who had a litter of kittens all of which were standard cats except for Kallibunker who not only had an unusual, wavy coat but his body conformation was slenderer than the others. This was due to a spontaneous genetic mutation.
  2. The farm was owned by the Ennismores and they bred Kallibunker back to his mother which produced more wavy-coated kittens. That was the beginning of the breed.
  3. In 1957 a pregnant Cornish Rex was sent to a breeder in California and her litter consisted of two Rex kittens. One of them were sent to another breeder: Fan-T-Cee and the other to a third breeder: Daz-Zling. These kittens were the foundation cats of the breed in America: Lil of Fan-T-Cee and Marmaduke of Daz-Zling.
  4. Marmaduke was bred to Siamese cats at Helen Weiss’s cattery which resulted in the finer bones of the Siamese cat and a longer head, body and tail. And of course, the crossbreeding introduced the Colourpoint coat to the Cornish Rex breed.
  5. In the cat fancy, some people call this cat ‘the greyhound of the cat world’ because the backbone is curved upwards and the stomach is drawn in giving an appearance of a greyhound.
  6. This is long, slim medium-sized cat.
  7. The head is egg-shaped.
  8. The top of the head is rounded instead of being flat.
  9. The oval eyes are an eye’s width apart.
  10. Of course, the coat is very wavy and this is the most noticeable aspect of the breed.
  11. The Cornish Rex coat lacks the primary guard hairs but has a more complete coat than the other Rex cats.
  12. In some organisations a lot of emphasis is placed on the wave of the coat which can lead to less emphasis on the body type i.e. conformation of the cat.
  13. The wavy coat is not a permanent fixture and depends upon the time of year and this cat may lose some of his fur. Also, when females are in season their hormones affect the wave of their coat.
  14. Some breeders think that the hormones affect the waviness of the coat. And this applies to the other Rex breeds: Devon Rex, Selkirk Rex and La Perm.
  15. The Cornish Rex is recognised in all colours of all divisions and the colours ripple giving a shimmering effect to the coat.
  16. The breed is said to be talkative. active and charming. They have a playful personality and are very curious. They are a sweet and loving companion.
Cornish Rex
Cornish Rex. This is a calico from breeder: Lesya Klimova Vitani Magic Rivendell breed. I have changed the background.

Below are some more pages on the Cornish Rex.

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

Do Cornish Rex cats need baths?

It seems like a slightly misconceived question: “Do Cornish Rex cats need baths?” But actually it is quite an interesting question because it leads to a discussion about the coat of this quite rare wavy-haired purebred cat.

Do Cornish Rex cats need baths?
Photos: Middle left and the two on RHS are copyright Helmi Flick. The other 2 are in public domain (Pinterest).

Sebaceous Gland – Sebum

The reason why the question is asked is based upon the same reason why people say that you have to wash the skin of a Sphynx cat. The reason is this: the sebaceous glands in the skin produce an oil, sebum, which is designed to keep the coat in good condition. The Sphynx cat has no coat and therefore the oil has nowhere to go. It sits on the skin where it can pick up dirt and where the dirt and oil can then be deposited upon bedclothes et cetera.

Turning then to the Cornish Rex we know that this cat has a coat. It is a very interesting and pleasant to look at coat but it is quite thin. It is what defines the cat.

Cornish Rex Coat

In the typical feline coat there are three main kinds of hairs: guard hairs, awn hairs and down hairs. The down hairs are the undercoat and the other two sorts of hair strands are the overcoat.

It is stated that the Cornish Rex has no guard hairs and that it is almost entirely made up of down hairs. This is not strictly accurate because under microscopic analysis this cat does have awn hairs but they are greatly reduced so that they are almost like down hairs. In fact all the hairs are reduced in length by the Cornish Rex gene which gives this cat a coat which is about half the thickness of a typical cat and the fur is also much finer. Each hair is about 60% of the thickness of the typical feline hair.

In short, this cat breed has a very thin coat and therefore the sebum produced in the cat’s skin is unable to disperse throughout the coat adequately which means the coat becomes oily which in turn means that the cat’s owner has to clean the coat because it is greasy. By cleaning the coat the owner will bathe her cat.

So the answer to the question in the title is that you probably have to bathe your Cornish Rex at regular intervals but not too frequently.

Show Cats

An added complicating factor in this discussion is that on the Internet there is a webpage written by cat breeders who show their Cornish Rex cats at cat shows. They quite naturally bathe their cats before showing them to ensure that the coat is in tip-top condition. But the reason behind this bathing is not the same in essence as the reason that I’ve stated at the beginning of this article.

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

Cornish Rex Cat

Cornish Rex cat

Introduction

Described as “the greyhound of the cat world”1, it is not difficult to see why. The appearance is sleek and athletic. The cat is described as “extrovert and curvaceous”2.

This cat is one of the Rex cat breeds. Five more are featured on this website. The others are the Devon Rex, the Selkirk Rex, the LaPerm, the Tennessee Rex and the German Rex (new window). They all have the curly coat. The term, “rex”, comes from a king who kept rabbits and he exhibited them. One had a curly coat. The association between a curly coat and a king stuck. Rex is the Latin word for king.

Cornish Rex from Russia
Cornish Rex from Russia. Breeder and photographer: Lilian Stepanova.

The Cornish Rex cat is not very rare (see rare cat breeds) but rarer of course that the very popular purebred cats such as the Siamese and Maine Coon cats.

In terms of weight this cat is on the light side of average, which is not surprising when we look at the photos on this page (see a comparison on cat breed weights). This cat is rangy and slender (see below). It has an “oriental” cat body shape, the slenderest of the cat conformations.

The cats featured here are the American Cornish Rex cat, which are different in looks to the British Cornish Rex. They have longer legs, are more “delicate” and are vocal like the Oriental Shorthair.

Origin

As the name suggests, this breed originates, in Cornwall 1950. Cornwall is a county in the south-west of England. It is known for its beautiful countryside and retired English couples.

cornwall england

On a Cornish farm, a litter of cats born to a cat named “Serena” (a tortie and white shorthair – calico), was discovered in which a genetic mutation had resulted in one of the male kittens being born with an extremely unusual, fine and curly coat. He was named “Kallibunker” (see photo below). Not only was his fur different his, head and body was long, apparently.

He is the founding Cornish Rex cat from which others have been bred. Two offspring of Kallibunker (bred incidentally by mating with his mother) were produced, both with the trademark curly coat. The male of these two cats produced a fine female, which was exported to the USA, where she was crossed with a Siamese (I am presuming a Modern Siamese) giving the breed the long tails and large ears.

Cornish Rex cat

History

1950

Founding Cornish Rex cat Kallibunker

Above: ‘Serena’ a tortoiseshell and white cat cat living with Nina Ennismore, gave birth to a litter, one of which was a cream colored boy cat with curly hair (she named this cat, “Kallibunker” – see adjacent photo). The CFA author claims that this little kitten was different in other ways with a fine boned body, long legs and big ears. The photo does not support this. This cat is a random bred cat that is somewhat slender.

The mother cat was, according to the CFA, a classic British mixed breed cat. These cats are quite stocky or cobby (to use a cat fancy word). It is my opinion that the body conformation (body shape) that you see on this page has been manufactured (bred by careful selective breeding with the Modern Siamese cat in the USA). The rex hair, though, is due to the genetic mutation.

Mrs Ennismore apparently wanted to have Kallibunker neutered (to be a pet) but her vet convinced her to breed from him by initially mating with his mother (inbreeding to enhance the “type”, the appearance). Two of the three in the litter had curly coats.

Genetic mutation producing the curly coat tested and found to be recessive.

1956

Life magazine (a very popular magazine at the time) published an article about Kallibunker. Mrs Ennismore had Kallibunker destroyed because he apparently constantly fought with another male (sounds bad – what do you think?)

1957

2 Cornish Rex cats imported into USA. Two of the kittens from the litter of one of these 2 cats became the foundation cats for the Cornish rex cat in the USA.

1961? – The American Cornish rex line started independently of the UK.

1962 – CFA began registering the Cornish rex cat.

See quite a lot more on the history of this cat breed plus some interesting pictures.

Appearance

Of course, Helmi’s fine photographs say it all. This breed looks similar to the Devon Rex except for the more leggy and “rangy” look. The breed has been likened to a greyhound dog or whippet. There is also one other hidden difference.

Normally, a cat has a three layer coat (outer “guard hair” layer, middle “awn hair” and lower “down hair“). The Devon Rex is missing the guard hairs. The Cornish is missing both the guard and awn hairs leaving the very soft and silky down hair for a coat. This means coat shedding is much reduced and that the cat feels the cold. The fur is the finest and softest of all breeds apparently. As for the Devon Rex the Cornish also likes to find warm spots to curl up in. That might mean you.

There are other cats with a similar rangy, skinny and vulnerable looking appearance. These are the Oriental and Modern Siamese, for example. On 17th November 2007 I went to the GCCF Supreme Show. Although I didn’t see any Cornish Rex cats I did see the Modern Siamese, Sphynx and the Oriental. All have (for me) this over bred highly fragile look.

The ears are very large and set high on the small head. The eyes are medium sized and an eye’s width apart. The wavy coat and its texture are greatly emphasised in the cat shows in some countries leaving a wide interpretation of body conformation. The wavy coat can be affected by a female being in season and the time of the year generally. It is thought the the coat is affected by hormones.

British Cornish Rex cats are “less delicate in appearance”2 than the American cats of the same breed. The American cats have a torso that is “tucked up”. The back is arched. Some people say the rex cats are hypoallergenic.This is incorrect.

The appearance of the cat in Helmi’s photograph does not appeal to me, I must say – too fragile and not normal enough looking for my liking. Although I am a little old fashioned. I was amazed at how small the heads were of the Modern Siamese and this cat, which seems to have the same or similar conformation.

On more technical note, the Cornish Rex is recognised in all colours of all divisions by the cat associations. The colours look like they ripple due to the coat.

Cornish Rex cat

Behavior

All the characteristics of the domestic cat are of course present including notably mischievousness and inquisitiveness and curiosity (cats of this breed has an extremely curious nature). Its rangy body conformation results in a long stride and athletic jumping.

This is a reasonably intelligent cat breed that is friendly towards people (all cats should be to a certain extent and if not it is because they have learned otherwise). As they are active they fully participate in family life. The breed is a suitable pet for children apparently (I do not live with a Cornish Rex Cat). As for the Devon Rex the breed has some dog like characteristics such as playing fetch (probably due to intelligence).

They are said to “charming and talkative”1, playful, attention loving and extremely active.

Video

Notable Fact

Crosses between the Cornish Rex and Devon Rex are not allowed as it would be detrimental from a genetics point of view. Apparently mating between them does not result wavy hair. As for the Devon Rex, this breed is not hypoallergenic but he/she is low shedding because of a short coat (1cm) and because it is fine and light. The fur should make this cat more suitable for people with an allergy. The “Rex” part of the name has an interesting origin. We know that “Rex” means king. In the cat fancy it means curly or unusual fur. The King of Belgium (1875-1934) entered curly haired rabbits in a show. They should have been rejected but the standard was adjusted by creating a special “Rex” type in order to not offend royalty.

Cornish Rex Cat

Photo above: Cornish Rex Cats – kitten – he is called Dax Photo by Kattenpraat

Peoples’ Info

This is practical information from cat loving people:

BEHAVIOR Busy, vocal, interactive and affectionate. Curiosity means they don’t shy away from visitors. As mentioned above they like cuddling up to humans. That works both ways remember on a cold night ๐Ÿ™‚

MAINTENANCE Low due to their coat.

PRICE Average is $600 as at 8-9-07

HEALTH May be some problems with diet difficulties (some seem to throw up after eating) and skin problems. The Rexes can suffer a defect of the hair follicles, which leads to complete hair loss at 6 months of age (Hypotrichosis)

Rescue and Breed Standard

Go to Cornish Rex cat rescue for some options – there aren’t that many but the linked page presents them.

The Cornish Rex cat is also registered with the AACE, ACFA, ACF and CCA. This is the current (at 2012 breed standard): http://www.cfa.org/Portals/0/documents/breeds/standards/cornish.pdf

Cornish Rex cat to home page

Sources:

  • 1. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu.
  • 2. Encyclopedia of the Cat by Dr. Bruce Fogle.
  • Wikipedia
  • CFA
  • Breeder sites
  • Blogs

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

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