Turkish Van

The Turkish Van Breed Standard is discussed here, informally, with reference to probably the best photographs in a bumper slide show of large format images – Slide show loading 2-3 seconds……

I use the CFA Turkish Van breed standard. I also use my own words, which are less formal and I don’t make an attempt to cover the entire standard as this is meant to be an overview of the cat and how she should look when looked at critically.The Turkish Van is one of the cat breeds (another for example is the Thai – TICA registered) where the breed standard makes a point of emphasising that the cat should not have extreme features but should be well balanced in respect of the various elements referred to in the standard. This is what I personally like to see because it indirectly emphasizes naturalness and in doing so also helps to create a healthy cat. In fact this seems to be alluded to in the CFA breed standard when it refers to the fact that extremes of appearance can foster “weakness”.

As a consequence of the objective to breed a “normal” looking cat, the adverb “moderately” is used a lot in the breed standard. For example the ears and eyes should be moderately large and the body moderately long. This desire to breed a well balance cat probably (and I am speculating) originates in the long history of this breed, which is described as a “natural breed”.

Lake Van the origin of the Turkish Van cat
Photo Akdamar Island on Lake Van: © Bryce Edwards
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This means a cat breed that has evolved without deliberate breeding to modify the appearance. The breed standard sets out to preserve that as it really must. It is, after all, a substantial part what makes the Turkish Van attractive and is integral to the cat breed. Another breed that comes to mind where the breed standard is underpinned by the necessity to preserve the original long standing appearance is the Chartreux one of the grey cat breeds.

The Turkish Van is a bicolor cat with the “van” markings. The word “van” comes from Lake Van in Turkey the area from which this cat breed originated. The term is used to describe bicolor or solid color and white cats with the color patches on the head and tail against a white background (although the breed standard allows small amounts of color in other areas of the cat; but the classic head and tail markings are preferred). Another ancient, or at least a breed with a longer than normal history, (cat breed histories are notoriously vague sometimes) is the Japanese Bobtail and that is also a bicolor cat. A lot of feral cats in the East are bicolor it seems. The bicolor pattern is caused by the white spotting gene; it is clearly a very frequently occurring gene in the cat world (see cat coats solid and white).

Lake Van Turkey - Origins of Turkish Van cat

Lake Van Turkey – the area from which the Turkish Van originates – photo by johncumbers
In the show hall judges are encouraged, by the breed standard, (or at least this is the way I interpret the standard) to make allowance for slow development (3-5 years) to maturity of the Turkish Van cat.In another reference to the long and natural history of this cat the breed standard refers to the area from which this cat originated in the Middle East as “rugged”. Certain parts of the area is probably still relatively quite rugged both geographically and in terms of lifestyle when compared to the pampered and much softer lives of many Western purebred domestic cats. This may account for the reference to the Turkish Van as being a “solid” cat with semi-long hair. In other words this cat needed to be pretty robust to get along. You can image what it must have been like for a domestic cat hundreds of years ago in Turkey.

Survival must have been tough and that also may account for the reference in the standard to this cat being “intelligent” (conditions would have required intelligence to get by). I am always intrigued when a person in the cat fancy describes a cat breed as intelligent. I would have thought that some individual cats are more intelligent than others, no matter what breed they come from, but to say one breed is more intelligent than another breed is I believe a concept that is a little difficult to swallow. It is a bit like saying the British are smarter than the French. That said some rather unscientific research was carried out on cat intelligence and cats such as the Sphynx and the Oriental Shorthair amongst others came out as the most intelligent – see cat intelligence.

Looking at some detail (this is a selection):

The head – breed standards always refer to the cat’s head as a “wedge”. Personally I am not sure that this as a term that is useful but in the case of the Turkish Van the wedge has to be “substantial” and “broad”. This for me translates as a normal cat’s head (i.e. not long and thin for the Modern Siamese or round for the Persian or Exotic Shorthair). The standard also uses words such as “medium” (for the length of the nose) and there should be harmony between the head and muscular body – now we’re talking….I love the idea of harmony.

Body – The Turkish Van should be a pretty beefy cat as the standard demands muscularity and a long solid body.

The coat – As mentioned the coat is semi-long and a “chalk white” save for the color patches. There is no undercoat.
This makes the coat substantially easier to maintain (less matting for example). However an undercoat does provide an extra layer for warmth. The texture is like cashmere and the length changes seasonally. This may occur when the seasons are variable in temperature i.e. very warm in summer and very cold in winter. I’m not sure the coat length would naturally change that much in a climate that has a more even temperature differential between summer and winter as is the case in the UK or if the cat was indoors all the time. Anyway judges must make allowances for different coat lengths.

The classic van pattern is the target. This means no splashes of color other than on the head and tail. Ideally the head coloring should be symmetrical and divided by white. The first cat in the slide show has this beautifully and so do a number of other cats in the slide show.

The maximum amount of coloring under the CFA breed standard for the Turkish Van is 20%. How is this measured in a show?

Eyes – can be odd-eyed because of the white spotting gene (click here to read about odd-eyed cats). The colors are amber and blue.

The CFA allowable colors:

Solid and WhiteTabby and WhiteParti-color and White
RedRed TabbyTortoiseshell
CreamCream TabbyDilute Tortoiseshell
BlackBrown TabbyBrown Parched Tabby
BlueBlue TabbyBlue Patched Tabby
Other Turkish Van colors: van markings – any other color and white except Himalayan colors and pattern

Turkish Van – Sources

  1. CFA Breed Standard
  2. My views
  3. Photos other than those in the slide show are (1) published under a creative commons license = Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (Photo Akdamar Island on Lake Van) and (2) published under a creative commons license = Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License (the long thin landscape of the lake and surrounding hills – this has been cropped from the original which is allowed under the license). Thanks for the licenses.

Turkish Van to Home page
Click this link to go to the Turkish Van cat page (this is the main page on this cat breed where some of the slide show pictures are used as illustrations

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