Why Turkish Angoras pop up in the non-purebred population of cats

by Simon Mouer
(Austin, Texas)

Purebred Turkish Angora Cat - Photo copyright Helmi Flick

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Purebred Turkish Angora Cat - Photo copyright Helmi Flick

When animals mate, their offspring’s traits are set by a giant double-helix DNA molecular complex present in every cell of the body. Our DNA encodes all the physical traits we receive from each parent. At conception the DNA from each parent unwinds in the just fertilized egg, splits into two separate strands, and one strand from each parent join together into a new double helix and becomes the DNA code for the offspring that grows from that particular recombination. This is a physical-chemical process that can be observed under a very high-powered microscope.

The offspring then shares half of each parents DNA code. We can symbolize this by using a double letter to represent each strand of the double helix as follows:

Let one parent’s DNA code be represented by ‘Aa’ where ‘A’ is one strand of the parent’s DNA that unwinds, and ‘a’ is the other strand that unwinds. These strands are not exactly identical, but they are compatible. For the other parent, let ‘Bb’ represent the DNA code, where ‘B’ is one strand of that parent’s DNA that unwinds, and ‘b’ is the other strand that unwinds.

Now when cat A and cat B are mated, the offspring can have one of the following possible DNA re-combinations, where one strand of the A parent combines with one strand of the B parent and forms a new giant double-helix DNA molecular complex.

The possible combinations from this pairing are ‘AB,’ ‘Ab,’ ‘aB,’ and ‘ab. To complicate this simplified model a little, some of the traits encoded in the DNA are dominate, meaning they tend to prevail over a recessive trait when both traits are encoded in the DNA. In other cases, a blend of the two traits will occur.

Now lets take the case where hundreds, if not thousands, of Turkish Angoras were crossbred with Persians (or any other breed) and let loose to breed indiscriminately. Let ‘aa’, ‘Aa’ and ‘AA’ represent variations in the double-helix DNA code of pure Turkish Angora, and ‘bb, ‘Bb’, and ‘BB’ represent any other breed.

Now take the offspring from those original crossbreeds and breed them back and the possible re-combinations are as follows:

If there were only two crossbred parent cats to begin with, we could calculate of the ten possible combinations that the kittens of this pair had a 3 out of 10 (30%) chance of coming out a pure Angora variant, 4 out of 10 (40%) chance of being a cross breed, and a 3 out of 10 (30%) chance of being a variant of the other breed. We can see that it is very possible to for a true-type to spontaneously appear, or a breeder to selectively breed pure Angoras out of cross breeds.

However, the probability of that happening under uncontrolled circumstances is much lower because we also have other breeds and crossbreds (Cc, Dd, Ee, etc, etc.) entering into the gene pool to dilute the occurrence of the Angora strain in the general population of uncontrolled cat reproduction.

The simplified genetic model above is complicated by mutations in the genetic code, which are always occurring. DNA appears to have some corrective mechanisms, and most mutations hurt survival chances. But occasionally mutations stick and are favorable.

Mother nature can also play a harsh role in favoring certain traits, while human-cat interaction generally mitigates the role of mother nature, especially for house-bound cats.

The bottom line in the general uncontrolled genetic pool is that an occasional a true-type Angora will reemerge, if the Angora has been previously introduced in the general population, and many variant Angora-like cross-breeds will emerge.

The Angora is reputedly an old naturally-established breed, But all new breeds result from either mutations, or cross breeds, or combinations thereof. The Somali is a good example of an originally undesirable variant that occasionally appeared in breeding Abyssinians, possibly by crossbreeding with Persians (or maybe even Angoras) with Abyssinians, or perhaps it was a natural variant. Some breeders took a liking to this "undesirable", named it a Somali, and started breeding just for them. Now they are a highly sought after "breed" commanding a high price.

All this just to show how those of us outside the purebred community can indeed occasionally find Angoras popping up from nowhere out of the genetic pool of uncontrolled cats, though most of us are finding variant crossbreeds that may be just as good, or even better.


Another page by Simon:

The Embodiment of a Turkish Angora Cat

From Why Turkish Angoras pop up in the non-purebred population of cats to Turkish Angora Cat

Comments for
Why Turkish Angoras pop up in the non-purebred population of cats

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Mar 15, 2010 Turkish Angora or Not?
by: Angorarama

Can anyone come up with an explanations why UC Davis (Feline Genome Project) found that the new-line Turkish Angora, i.e. the American Angora is not related at all to the Angoras at the Ankara Zoo? This prompted the statement that Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van are unrelated, a very strange and hardly credible situation.
I submitted a DNA sample of an Ankara Zoo Angora
and it was clasified as a Turkish Van type D. The UC Davis phylogentic tree shows the comtemporary (not Turkish) Angora is closely related to the Egyptian Mau and shares a common ancestor with Tunisian cats.
Why would the Ankara Zoo import cats from Tunisia and somehow cross them with a Mau to establish the breed in the 1400s when white SLH cats abound in Turkey? The Mau didn't even exist in those days..
Turkish Angoras and Vans are indeed related, but you have to get a real Turkish Angora for that to show up.

Jan 14, 2010 My kitten looks like a Turkish Angora kitten
by: Lee-Ann Dwyer (Bateau Bay NSW Australia)

I was very fortunate to find this beautiful boy kitten a while ago, who has been playing with water in the hand basin, sink, bath, shower it is amazing, he will even have a shower with you as well and not be bothered by the water.

I have been researching his possible family tree and now after looking at the Turkish Angora kittens I am certain that he must have some of this in him.

a possible Turkish Angora mix cat
My Mikey playing with water.

Jan 09, 2010 DNA complications
by: Anonymous

Good points.

As the density of the Angora DNA becomes less and less in the unregulated cat population, the odds of recombining with another Angora DNA become exponentially less likely. However, if the angora mix was fairly concentrated, such as in a breeder's cattery, the odds might improve very significantly.

Also, you are right, there other breed with many of the same characteristics as the Angora. In the bigger picture, all small cat breeds, even wild ones, seem to be so closely related that they interbreed readily with one another.

There is another possible complication with DNA and that is if foreign snips of the DNA wander in and out of the DNA chain. We know we can do it artificially, and that viruses seem able to merge their codes. But to what degree, if any, it occurrs naturally in mammals is unknown, at least to me.

If snippets of foreign DNA naturally transfer in and out of a DNA strand, then breediing back to a type may become infinitely more difficult. On the otherhand, occassionally superior new specimans may emerge.

Jan 09, 2010 Like winning in the lottery
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Simon. You make some interesting points. It is indeed possible for Angora type cats to reemerge from a population of mixed breed cats, but I'm a bit doubtful that it happens quite as often as the posts here may suggest.
We should bear in mind that any breed is a combination of numerous different genes for all kinds of characteristics. For enough of the desired traits to emerge at the same time to constitute an Angora type must be like winning in the lottery - but then again, some people do win...
I'm not that well into this particular breed, but your CloudTail does looks a lot like an Angora to me. On the other hand I would not object either if somebody told me he was actually a Norwegian Forest mix. Where I live those are quite common and the standard explanation for unexpected semi-longhair. 😉

Finn Frode avatar

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