The Way We Were:
Excerpts from the 1958 CFA Yearbook, Part 5

Ristokat Himalayans & Persians

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A Burmese is a Burmese is a Burmese... , Part 2
by Charlotte Smiley


Part 1 of this article was published in the previous issue....

There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the minds of the ordinary breeder as to just what constitues a Breed. Zoologists classify animal life in minute detail, but suffice to say in the final analysis all known kinds of beasts are divided into Species and Sub-Species. In nature, these ordinarily interbreed more or less freely.

Those who have made no special study of animal life are inclined to confuse the natural Species with the domesticated Breed. Some of the disparaging remarks directed toward the Burmese by fanciers of longer domestically cultivated varieties would lead one to believe that their own breed of cat preceded Noah out of the Ark. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the origin of our other domestic animals is veiled in the obscurity of antiquity, subject to diverse theories. The origin of the cat is clouded with the maximum in obscurity, mystery as well as superstition.

Much evidence has been accumulated to prove that several wild Species have gone into the making of our present domesticated cats. No typical “Best in Show” Persian in ancient days swept into the Palace of the Shah – no “Best of Color” Abyssinian stopped at the Nile for a drink before resuming its pedestal in Amon-Ra’s temple, no show-type Russian Blue galloped over the snowy Russian steppes.

Many times new Burmese breeders have been heard to say that they would like to go to the Orient and return with a “native” Burmese cat. According to experts, familiar with Far Eastern psychology, the native “breeder” is a violent individualist, and did he have an archtype Burmese, would be utterly dissatisfied until he had produced an animal that differed from all other Burmese, aiming for individual peculiarities that his animals possessed, resembling no others.

This characteristic could account for the fact that few Burmese cats which have been imported are identical, other than in a general way. Point of origin, body and eye color are usually the same, but not always. This also explains in part why none of more recent imports owned by show-minded exhibitors have ever entered their animals in shows, nor have they ever been placed on exhibition, even though they would be a maximum attraction to so many.

When the word Breed is used by the naturalist, it refers to a large group of animals possessing to a recognizable degree similarity in type, size and color. The selection is presumably natural, influenced by environment and nutrition. Naturalists have catalogued thirty-five breeds of Cats; innumerable varieties.

When the Cat Fancier refers to a Breed, it is as applied to highly restricted, controlled breeding, as specified by the Show Rules of the Cat Fanciers Association. Our present Show Cats, be they Long Hair, or Short Hair, reflect the painstaking, selective breeding programs of countless, hard working breeders, who have given unstintingly of time and money to achieve a continuing increase in perfection. The Burmese cat is no exception – Burmese breeders are perhaps more dedicated than most to the improvement and advancement of the Burmese – particularly in view of their earlier set back.

CFA has the first good Burmese standard, one that called for a cat far different from a brown Siamese type. Show Rules indicated exactly what is required. Rounded head, chest and eyes, of a golden hue, the deeper the color the better. Any trace of blue would rightly disqualify – and the almond shape and slant, so desirable in Siamese, is a fault. The profile shows an indentation. The body is dainty, but compact.

When light shines directly into a Burmese eye, a turquoise color is reflected. With Siamese there is a red glow.In judging Burmese classes, a judge should be particularly careful to be sure that direct sun or artificial light is not distorting good golden eye color. According to Dr. Duval Jaros, breeder of both Siamese and Burmese, and one of the Bay area’s distinguished eye specialists, there is still another difference in the Burmese eye as compared to that of the Siamese. Burmese have the ability to see out of the side, or corner of the eye, a faculty which the Siamese does not have. This probably accounts for the Burmese exceptional alertness.

In color, the Burmese is a rich, warm, seal brown, with a glistening shine like that of slipper satin. There is no color resemblance to the dull, blackish brown of earlier specimens. Peggy Ball, from whose Regal Cattery stem many of the All-American winners today, believed this unattractive color, with its lack of warmth, was due to insufficient Burmese to Burmese breeding. Certainly it is a color very seldom seen in Burmese classes today. An extraordinary “velvet coat” mentioned by early Burmese fanciers seems to be lost. Presumably it would resemble in texture and length the quality of imported English “Rex” coated cats – without the curl. Major Finch, however, did not believe that this velvet coat was part of the genetic inheritance of the Burmese.

The Burmese is a small cat. Some have claimed that the breed is subject to “dwarfism”. According to the Finch article, it is stated that the native Burmese are the smallest cats in the world. Modern breeders are likely to agree. Burmese are again appearing as smaller cats.

The disposition of the Burmese is so superlative that there be no “odious” comparisons. Quiet, gentle, playful, loving, companionable, intelligent, gorgeously decorative, inherently non-destructive, fearless, “almost” obedient, they are the real sociable extroverts of the cat family.

Their main requirement, actually a must – is your affection.

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