A History of the Oriental Cat

The Havana is the oldest of the Orientals and first appeared in the early 1950's though in the 1920's and 30's, and even before, 'self-coloured chocolate Siamese' were known. In 1939 Mrs Cox-Ife noted that "In the early days of the breed (Siamese) many chocolate coloured Siamese appeared on the Show bench - that is the same colour all over." Chocolate Point Siamese were recognised by the GCCF in 1950 largely due to the work of Brian Stirling-Webb and this stimulated the thoughts of a self-chocolate coloured cat of Siamese body type in the minds of Mrs Armitage Hargreaves and the Baroness Edit von Ullmann.

By 1951 they had been joined by other breeders and "The Havana Group" came into being. The Havana Group later became "The Chestnut Brown Group" and during the time my mother Betty Harrison was on the committee became the 'Havana Cat Club' and finally whilst I was the Chairman became the Havana & Oriental Lilac Cat Club!

In 1952 the first 'Havana' kitten was born, this being Mrs Munro Smith's Elmtower Bronze Idol, he was from 'Susannah'; a black shorthair who was the result of a mating between a Seal Point and a Black Long Haired moggy; and Tombee, a Seal Point Siamese. In August 1953 a repeat mating of Bronze Idol produced the first female 'Havana' Elmtower Brown Study. GCCF granted recognition to the variety in 1958 with the name Chestnut Brown Foreign, Breed No 29. In its wisdom Council did not grant the name 'Havana' because of the risk of confusion with the rabbit of that name and its use in the fur trade! In 1958 Mrs Joan Judd bred Ch Crossways Honeysuckle Rose who in 1960 became the first GCCF Havana Champion.

There was considerable divergence of opinion amongst breeders in the degree of 'Foreign Type' required in the Havana and there was certainly a considerable difference in type between the cats from 'Susannah', and those from the other lines bred from Siamese and Russian Blue, the former being considerably more cobby in type. Because of this, and the fact that his grand-sire was a long haired cat, several of the early breeders chose not to use either Elmtower Bronze Idol or his offspring in their breeding programmes, a fact which was to be of profound importance in later years.

By 1960 other breeders had joined the ranks of the Chestnut Brown Foreign breeders including Mrs Sybil Warren, whose well known Senlac line was descended from a half-pedigree Black SH mated to a Chocolate Point Siamese and, a fact of great importance, was unrelated to the other lines of Chestnut Brown.

The first Havanas exported to the USA from England during the 1950's were of cobby type and the early USA breeders developed their 'Havana Browns' from these, preferring the cobbier type rather than the elegance which the majority of British breeders were aiming for. This is the why today the 'Havana Brown' of the USA is a cobby cat complete with a distinct nose break, and is a separate variety to the Oriental! In 1961 news filtered through from the USA of a high incidence of foot deformities in kittens from the original UK stock. After some investigation and discussion amongst breeders in Britain, it became clear that these deformities were not unknown here in some lines. The deformity called "Split-Hand" only affects the front feet and is inherited as a dominant. It shows a very wide range of affection, from severe abnormality to visual normality, with the result that many affected cats looked perfectly normal. By the mid 1960's interest in the variety, which had been developing in such a promising way, had all but gone and was kept alive only by a dedicated handful of breeders using cats who were unrelated to the defect, primarily these were the 'Senlac', 'Crumberhill' and 'Sweethope' lines of Sybil Warren, Pat Kirby and Jim & Beryl Stewart.

In the mid 1960's, after looking at an over-exposed photograph of one of her Lilac Point Siamese, Miss Patricia Turner, now Mrs Pat Newton, set out to create a self-white Siamese which of course we have come to know as the Foreign White. In 1967 as part of her program to produce 'White Siamese' Pat mated Scintilla Chu Pao, a second generation Foreign White female, to Scintilla Croesus, a Lilac Point Siamese. One of the resulting kittens was a self chocolate kitten of distinct Siamese body type. This kitten was registered as a Chestnut Brown Foreign under the name of 'Scintilla Copper Beech'.

The importance of this chance kitten in the development of the 'Oriental' varieties cannot be overstated and there can be few, if any Orientals alive today that do not have Ch Scintilla Copper Beech way back in their pedigrees. In 1967 her importance to the Chestnut Brown Foreign was immense for 'Copper' was free from all 'taint' of defect and a cat of greatly improved type and good rich coat colouring. 'Copper' passed into the hands of Mrs Pam Wilding. Two of Ch Scintilla Copper Beach's Chestnut Brown Foreign offspring, Ch Dandycat Hula Dancer and Ch Dandycat Zulu Warrior, went to Mrs Angela Sayer and formed the basis of the famous 'Solitaire' line. In 1970 co-incidental with the upsurge of interest in the Chestnut Brown Foreign the GCCF amended the varietal name of Breed No 29 to the Havana, though by this time most of the originators of the breed were no longer involved.

During the 1950's the mixture of chocolate and blue colouring had produced 'lavender' or 'lilac' coloured kittens and by 1957 Mrs Hargreaves had developed a line of 'Lavender Self Short Hairs'. The Lilac Point Siamese was not recognised at this time, and many of the first Siamese to be recorded in this colour were also bred by Mrs Hargreaves. Accordingly very many modern Siamese can be traced back to the 'Laurentide' matings which produced the first Havana.

There was renewed interest in the Lavender and in the late 1960's the Foreign Lavender Group was formed to co-ordinate the development of the variety, it was spearheaded by Angela Sayer and Betty Harrison. In 1973 thanks to the good offices of the Colourpoint, Rex-Coated & AOV Club an application was made to GCCF for recognition of the 'Foreign Lavender'. GCCF thought differently and the variety was recognised as the 'Foreign Lilac, five years later in June 1977 it was granted Championship status. The first Foreign Lilac to gain a title in early 1978 was Mrs Val Gane's female Ch Burdach Cartagena, closely followed by Mrs Andrea Martyr's male Ch Mannequin Titus.

The Foreign White, so important in the history of the Havana & Foreign Lilacs, also gained Championship Status in June 1977, and in November 1977 the first Foreign White Champion was made up, this being my own Ch Scintilla Jou-Lin who was of course bred by Miss Pat Turner. The first male to take a title was Ch Ryanna Everest owned & bred by Mrs Connie Ryder.

From the beginning of 1970 it is difficult to separate the development of the Havana and the Foreign Lilac; and after the mid 1970's impossible to separate the Havana and Lilac from the other emerging varieties - the Black and the Blue. As time passed more and more owners of Siamese females mated them to 'Oriental' males and all colours and patterns were being produced.

The GCCF granted Championship status to the 'Foreign' Black in 1980 and to the 'Foreign' Blue in 1985 - before finally changing their names to 'Oriental' in 1991. The first Foreign Black champion was John Shewbridge's Ch Tamruat Black Night; and the first Foreign Blue was Gr Ch Reydau Cyrolite Sika.

In the 1970's Angela Sayer's numerous cats included Siamese in all colours, as well as the Havanas. Matings of Havanas and other full coloured cats to Tabby Point Siamese produced many Spotted and Classic Tabby cats which were initially referred to as 'Egyptian Maus', not to be confused with the breed of that name! In the late 1970's Betty Harrison who was by this time the Oriental Cat Association GCCF Delegate prepared the application for recognition of the Spotted Tabby; and in 1980 the GCCF granted Championship Status to the Brown, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Red & Cream Oriental Spotted Tabby. The first Oriental Spotted Tabby Champion and Grand Champion was Gr Ch Folklore Moonwolf, and the first female Champion Ch Folklore Iced Mink. These cats were bred by Mrs Marie McAdam from one of my queens Megrim Cloudie Chrystalles, a Lilac Silver female which today would have been registered as a Lilac Silver Shaded - the unfortunate result of this became obvious in many of her descendants. Gr Ch Folklore Moonwolf finally ended up living with Ted & Pam Wilding!

The Classic Tabby has never been a popular variety, though it is one which always attracts interest. There has been little determined attempt to develop it, and generally is has been seen as by-product of Spotted Tabby breeding. Fortunately there have always been one or two breeders who have kept the variety going. I can certainly name a considerable number of Classic Tabbies in the early 1970's, yet it took a further 20 years before it achieved championship status in 1997. The first champion was Gd Ch Jasrobinka Perridot owned by Mrs P L Hutchinson and bred by Phyllis & John Choppen.

In the early 1970's there were numerous reds, creams and torties produced from various matings, though it's fair to say they received very little attention or interest. I can recall breeding a litter of four cream females in 1975 and giving them away, unregistered, to pet homes! Torties always attracted more attention and in 1989 the Oriental Torties achieved championship status, the Reds followed in 1995 with the Creams in 1999.

The first Tortie Champion was Ch Sayonara Origami, bred by Glenda Worthy and owned by June Hutchinson, Phil & Jo Auden's Gd Ch Filanjo Topaz was the first Oriental Cream Champion, and went on to be the first Cream to achieve the title of Grand Champion. The first Red to win a Grand title was Gd Ch Summerdown Pure Genius ownede and bred by Sue Jackson.

In the early 1970's a litter of kittens resulted from a mis-mating between a Chocolate Point Siamese and a L H Chinchilla. Fortunately Pat Turner heard of the litter, saw the kittens, and took two females which she registered as Scintasilva Sue and Scinta Celeste and started a breeding programme not only to develop the potentially beautiful Smokes, Silver Tabbies and 'Pastels' (now Shaded), but also to study the inheritance of the responsible alleles. Pat Turner, ever a lady of foresight, quickly realised the importance of Scintasilva Sue and her daughter Scintilla Serene Sunset, a Black Tortie Silver Shaded; they inherited from their Chinchilla ancestry not only the Melanin Inhibitor gene responsible for Silver and Smoke, the Wide-band gene responsible for the 'Chinchilla' coat, and also a new colour range!

Pat became aware that Scintilla Serene Sunset was producing 'odd coloured' kittens which she dubbed 'apricot' and 'caramel'. Scintilla Dresden Rose was the first cat to be registered as Caramel, she was a Siamese with points the colour of 'caramel toffee', hence the colour name 'Caramel'. The first 'Oriental' in caramel was Scintilla Kaffy Ole who was described as a 'Dark Phase Caramel Pastel' - today she would have been a Caramel Silver Shaded. She was a very pretty cat though her type definitely left much to be desired! When she was 16 weeks old Pat took her to an OCA meeting at the RHS so that other people could see her colour ….. I saw her ……. and took her home with me to North Wales! Sadly she produced only one litter of kittens, sired by the Havana Ch Harislau Flying Fox, producing four chocolate kittens of various patterns. Our understanding of the inheritance of both Caramel and Apricot was a little vague but eventually the mode of inheritance and the concept of 'Dilute Modifier' were recognised.

Pat Turner produced very many kittens that were either Caramel or Apricot, and many more that carried the hidden Dilute Modifier, these kittens were scattered across the United Kingdom, and indeed to most of the World, and quite innocently the colour was being spread throughout the Orientals. Though Caramel was recognised as a colour in Oriental Non-Self Varieties by the GCCF, and is a very common and popular colour, the Caramel Self still languishes in Provisional Status, and will be the last Self Oriental to gain full status under GCCF Rules.

The Apricot self was recognised along with the Cream and gained Championship status in 1999. The Silver Tabbies were granted Championship status by the GCCF in 1996 and joined their 'standard' coloured cousins in the same Open class. The Smoke, being the non-agouti version of the Silver Tabby, was finally granted full status in 2000. The first Oriental Smoke title holders were Miss Hemmings Ch Bosscats Theladyofshallott, Mary Parkinson's Gd Ch Smaug Minnie Theminx, and Katie Rose's Gr Pr Onapromise Total Eclipse.

The Oriental Shaded though bred in small numbers since the early 1970's has always been seen as a 'specialist' variety and was granted Championship Status by the GCCF in 1997, nearly 30 years after it first appeared. The first Champion was UK Gd Ch & Gd Pr Chelanca Pentlandite, a Caramel Tortie Silver bred by Barbara Fellows from two cats of my breeding both of which have ancestries tracing back through Scintilla Kaffy Ole and so to Scintasilva Sue.

If we return to the early 1970's we find that another "new" line of Havanas was being developed, a line which was greeted by the Cat Fancy with very mixed reactions! The line was to have tremendous effects on the 'Orientals' and introduced factors resulting in the creation of no less than four Oriental varieties! The first Havana of the line was Ch Southview Unacassiopeia bred in 1969 by Mrs Maureen Silson, and later passed to Tony & Sheila Clayton along with her Havana son Ch Southview Duakylin. Roy and Maureen Silson were no strangers to 'experimental' breeding having played a major role in the development of the Red Point Siamese.

Ch Southview Unacassiopeia was from a mating between a female imported from American called Anarts Miiko and Kernow Gerza. Anarts Miiko was registered here as "Siamese, Any Other Colour" and it was some time before it became common knowledge that she was in fact registered in the USA as an Albino Siamese - something which we came to know as 'Recessive White". Kernow Gerza, bred by Mrs Pam Everley, was sired by Tranby Red Tutankhamen a Sorrel Abyssinian which in those, now far off, days was known as 'Red' Abyssinian and his dam was Annelida Fair Lady a Seal Point Siamese bred by Mrs Alison Ashford.

As cats with pedigrees containing Anarts Miiko spread the GCCF, following considerable debate, introduced a Registration endorsement on Miiko's descendants. Eventually many lines based on these superb Havanas were cleared as being free from the recessive white allele - to 'clear' a line one merely had to mate a potential carrier to a Siamese and continue to breed from the coloured offspring, for any self coloured kittens were in possession of the Siamese allele, and therefore by definition free from the recessive white gene.

In 1971Kernow Gerza a Chocolate ticked cat of medium Foreign type was mated to his Black ticked litter sister Kernow Koptos and produced Southview Pavane who though obviously different to a normal Havana was registered as that breed, she was a Pale Havana, and the first recorded Light Brown non-agouti cat. The colour of the Sorrel Abyssinian is recessive to normal Chocolate colour, and is known as 'Light Brown', Ch Southview Unacassiopeia inherited this gene from her sire and passed it on to many of her offspring who, when mated together, produced the colour varieties we now call the Oriental Cinnamon and it's dilute the Oriental Fawn. The Oriental Cinnamon was granted Championship status by the GCCF in 1996, and the Oriental Fawn is at Provisional Status, and surely must soon qualify for Championship status. The first Cinnamon champion was Ch Mewzishun Sinfonia owned and bred by Ann Greatorex.

Many of the Oriental Longhairs can also trace their origins through the Southview cats to Kernow Gerza for not only did he inherit the sorrel / cinnamon colouring from his father but also the longhair gene which was known to be carried by many Abyssinians and subsequently gave rise to the recognition of the Somali.

In addition to light brown colour and longhair Kernow Gerza also inherited the Ticked gene from his father Tranby Red Tutankhamen which eventually resulted in the creation of the Oriental Ticked Tabby. Tabbies of 'ticked' pattern had been bred before, but had never been developed. Betty Harrison had a line of Chocolate Tortie and Cream Ticked in the late 1960's and early 1970's which for various reasons was discontinued, they were bred from Tabby Point and Red Point Siamese and various Tabby feral cats.

In 1985 Angela Morse mated her Havana female, a descendant of Kernow Gerza, to an Oriental Spotted Tabby and produced Orissa Champagne Charlie, a Lilac Ticked Tabby. Within the UK today most lines of Ticked Tabbies can be traced back to this origin. The Ticked Tabby was granted Championship status by GCCF in 1993 and the first Champion was Gd Ch Lynfield New Moon, a superb Caramel Ticked. If my memory serves me correctly I believe he was also the first Caramel champion.

In 1974 a meeting was held in London to draw up Breed Standards for all the as yet unrecognised varieties. This was not as daunting as may seem, for it was easy enough to base the type requirement on the Siamese Breed Standard; the coat length & texture on the Havana Standard; and the individual patterns on standards of recognised varieties of British Short Hair or Persian. The meeting was chaired by the Late Mrs Lesley Pring, recent past President of the GCCF, and benefited from the presence of the late Roy Robinson who did so much pioneering work on cat genetics. The meeting was well attended and both our President Mrs Patricia Newton (then Turner) and our Vice President Mrs Betty Harrison where there. Sadly I believe that I am now the only person who participated in this meeting still actively involved in the Cat Fancy.

During the early 1970's the Oriental Cat Association, with Miss Pat Turner as Secretary, was very active in promoting the 'new' varieties and disseminating information. The club was seen as an 'umbrella' club catering for all colours and it was envisaged that as the individual varieties became established separate specialist clubs would be formed. The earliest club for the 'Oriental' was of course the Havana Cat Club which though it pre-dates the OCA by many years did not achieve affiliation until after the OCA! The interests of the coloured cats were also looked after by the Tabby Point Siamese & Progressive Breeders Cat Club, and of course the Short Haired Cat Society. Today these have been joined by the Foreign White Cat Society, the Oriental Black & Blue Cat Society, the Oriental Cinnamon & Fawn Group, the Caramel & Apricot Federation, the Trans-Pennine Oriental & Siamese Cat Club, and most recently by the Oriental Shaded, Smoke, Tabby & Tortie Society and the Oriental Bicolour Group

From the mid 1980's it is very difficult to identify any separate lines in Great Britain and today almost all Orientals will have pedigrees containing cats bearing the 'Scintilla' and 'Solitaire' prefix. Over the years many cats were exported from Great Britain and as the result of the increased movement of cats most Oriental cats around the world can be traced back to a White House Hold Pet called 'Orchid Lilias' (the great grandmother of Ch Scintilla Copper Beech) and to Scintasilva Sue.

Though the Bicolour was only re-introduced to Great Britain in 2004 Miss Pat Turner started a breeding program for Oriental Bicolours and Seychelloise in the 1980's, though interest in the variety petered out when Pat gave up breeding. Elsewhere in the world other people were aleady on the path to breeding Oriental Bicolours and in Europe amongst others Catharine Bastide (El Shaklan) and Yvonne Kleijn (Felides Vivres) were breeding down from a Morrocan feral cat, Cornish Rex and an American line. Because there was more interest elsewhere in the World other registration bodies recognised them far more quickly than the GCCF. Whereas for example in FIFe an Oriental Bicolour can win many titles, under the GCCF scheme they are only be eligible for 'Merits' and championship status is still some years away.


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