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    Cornish Rex

    Cornish Rex

    Place of origin

    Cornwall, England


    The term rex was originally used for curly furred rabbits. The first formally recognized Rex cat arose in 1950, in a litter of farm cats in Bodmin, Cornwall, England. A calico female was believed to have mated with her red tabby brother. One cream-colored kitten in the resulting litter had short curly fur; named Kallibunker, he was to become the founding father of the Cornish Rex breed. Kallibunker was mated back to his mother, which resulted in two more curly-coated kittens. The effects of excessive inbreeding hampered the first ten years of breed development, however, and it was almost abandoned.

    Kallibunker's son Poldhu sired a blue female called Lamorna Cove. The breeder exported Lamorna, already pregnant by Poldhu, to the United States. Unfortunately, Poldhu never again sired kittens. He was sent to the veterinarian for testing because of his unusual blue cream and white coloring. Blue cream (dilute tortoiseshell) is a genetic anomaly in males, so the veterinarian took tissue samples from him. Being a fertile tortie male, Poldhu was probably a chimera, the result of two embryos fusing in the womb. However, something happened, and Poldhu could no longer breed.

    That left only one fertile male Cornish Rex in Britain, another of Kallibunker's sons, a cream Bibleand white bicolor. In a last attempt to establish the Cornish Rex as a breed, he was mated to domestic shorthair females and Burmese females. This proved successful, reinvigorating the breed.

    In the United States, the California breeder who had imported the pregnant Cornish Rex female Lamorna Cove expanded the breed's gene pool using Siamese and domestic shorthair cats. A red tabby Cornish Rex male exported with Lamorna Cove appears to have been infertile. The genetically compatible German Rex was also bred to Cornish Rex in the United States.

    In 1960, on the tenth anniversary of the first appearance of the Cornish Rex, a story in The Daily Mirror newspaper claimed them to be the only curly-haired cats in Britain. A cat lover in Devon wrote back to say she had a curly-coated cat named Kirlee. Kirlee was mated with Cornish Rex but proved to have an entirely different mutation and went on to become the founder of the Devon Rex breed. The spontaneous appearance of Rex cats in neighboring counties attracted the belief that radiation from local tin mines was causing mutations in the local cat population.

    The Cornish Rex breed was recognized in the United States in 1964 and in the United Kingdom in 1965. To prevent inbreeding, Cornish Rex are still outcrossed to a small number of other breeds. The kittens from outcrossing will be straight-coated, but when mated to a Cornish Rex some will have the Rex coat. Careful breeding has ensured that modern Cornish Rex closely resemble the original cats of the 1950s. However, the American Cornish Rex has diverged from the British/European Cornish Rex. As well as a different look, the American Cornish Rex has a different genetic history, having been crossed with German Rex and Siamese/Oriental Shorthairs.

    Although most cats have three distinct types of hair in their coat-longer outer guard hairs, a middle layer of awn hairs, and the undercoat or down hair-the Cornish Rex has only a fine, curled coat. The guard hairs, if present, are highly modified and indistinguishable. It is a common misconception that the Cornish Rex's short, soft hair makes it hypoallergenic. Cat allergy is almost always due to the Fel d1 protein present in the saliva and deposited on the fur through grooming. Cornish Rex groom themselves as much as any other cat and are equally likely to trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.

    Physical description

    The soft, velvety coat of the Cornish Rex comprises tight curls forming a wavy pattern called a Marcel wave (named after nineteenth-century French hairdresser François Marcel, who invented a hot curling iron hair styling process that became popular with women in the early twentieth century). The fur forms ripples, especially on the back, sides, tail, and anywhere else it is long enough to form waves. Even the whiskers and eyebrows are crinkled.

    The British/European Cornish Rex has a medium length, slender but muscular body on long straight legs. The body is "tucked up" behind the rib cage, and the tail is long and tapering. It has a medium wedge-shaped head with high cheekbones and large expressive ears.

    The American Cornish Rex is more delicate and longer legged than its British cousin. It has a fine-boned, long-legged body with a "tuck up" reminiscent of a Greyhound. The head is an oval egg shape, with a Roman profile and a slight hint of constriction at the whisker pads. The strikingly large ears are set upright on the head. The tail is frequently described as "whiplike."

    Colors and varieties

    The Cornish Rex is accepted in a rainbow of colors, including solids, bicolors, tabbies, torties, silvers, and smokes. In the United States, the colorpointed varieties may be separately recognized as the Si-Rex, while elsewhere these are a color variety of Cornish Rex.


    One of the most active cats in the cat fancy, Cornish Rex busily engage themselves in every household activity. Skillful with their monkeylike paws, they almost seem to have opposable thumbs at times. Life with this breed is never without excitement, and owners must take care to catproof a house before introducing this mischievous breed. These cats are as enthusiastic with their affection as they are about their playtime.

    Cornish Rex are generally healthy, active cats who stay playful and kittenish into adulthood; some enjoy retrieving small toys for their owners to throw again and again. They are affectionate, curious, intelligent, and adaptable. The extrovert traits may be more pronounced in the American Cornish Rex due to their Siamese ancestry.

    Activity level


    Vocal level


    Special needs

    The abnormality in the hair follicle that causes the hairs to curl or kink also interferes with skin secretions (sebum) being pulled away from the skin. Some Rex Wirehaired cats may need to be bathed frequently and have their ears cleaned regularly to prevent these secretions from accumulating in the hair follicles or ear canal and causing skin problems.


    Semi-longhaired Cornish Rex sometimes occur due to recessive genes in the breed. Curlyhaired cats can appear, seemingly out of nowhere, due to hidden recessive genes or new mutations. They have been reported from all over the world-from Europe, to North America, to Australia. Many turn out to have mutations identical to the established Rex breeds and may result from unneutered pedigree pets mating with free-ranging cats, but occasionally completely new Rex mutations occur.

    Cornish Rex. Note the crinkled whiskers.

    Sealpoint Cornish Rex

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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