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    Devon Rex

    Devon Rex

    Place of origin

    Devon, England


    The second curly-coated breed to be formally recognized was the Devon Rex, originally known as the Butterfly Rex because of its large ears. In 1960, a curly-coated grayish kitten was discovered in Buckfastleigh, Devon, England, in a litter born to a tortie female. Named Kirlee and later identified as black smoke in color, he was to become the father of the Devon Rex breed.

    BibleKirlee's finder recalled seeing, around a local tin mine, a large black cat with tight curls on his body and ringlets hanging from his tail; this was probably the kitten's father. Although Kirlee was shorthaired, he turned out to carry the recessive mutation for long hair.

    In fact, a local variety nicknamed the "Buckfast Blue" had been a familiar sight in the area of Buckfast Abbey, Devon, since the 1950s. These were wavy-coated gray-blue stray and feral cats who were considered nothing more than an attractive curiosity by locals and eventually died out.

    Around the time Kirlee was born, the Cornish Rex was getting publicity. Kirlee was initially assumed to be another Cornish Rex because Cornwall and Devon are neighboring counties. When Kirlee was mated to a female Cornish Rex, however, only straight-haired kittens were born. This meant Kirlee had a different genetic mutation. From then on, the two Rex breeds were developed independently of each other, and the Devon Rex was recognized as its own breed in 1967.

    The straight-coated kittens from early test matings with Cornish Rex were used in developing the Devon Rex breed. As a result, Devon Rex share their ancestry with the Cornish Rex, and "Double Rex" kittens are sometimes born. As well as altering the fur, the Devon Rex mutation produced a longer, but still muscular, body type with long hind legs and a distinctive head shape. Selective breeding has exaggerated the head and ear conformation, but the Devon Rex varies little in conformation around the world.

    The first breeding Devon Rex were exported to North America in 1968 and recognized by the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) as a breed in 1972. The CFA, however, classified the Devon and Cornish Rex together until 1979, despite their being genetically different.

    The Devon Rex came from very inbred stock and is outcrossed to approved breeds to keep the gene pool healthy. Abyssinians, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, Burmese, and Korats have all been used to expand the gene pool. So far, no other Rex mutation has been found to be compatible with Devon Rex. Genetic investigation of the Devon Rex and Sphynx breeds, however, have found these to be mutations of the same gene, which may account for the varying degrees of baldness found in Devon Rex. Sparse-coated Devon Rex have been used in developing the hairless Sphynx breed. Devon Rex with Sphynx ancestry may not be registered as Devon Rex or used in Devon Rex breeding programs.

    Along with the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex is sometime reputed to be hypoallergenic. However, most cat allergies are caused by the Fel d1 protein in the saliva, not by the fur itself. This protein is deposited on the fur when the cat grooms herself, which means the Devon Rex will still cause allergic reactions in susceptible people.

    Physical description

    The breed was developed in a style very distinct from the Cornish Rex. The Devon Rex is an athletic, small- to medium-sized cat. The body is slender, with a broad chest, long legs, and a long, fine, tapering tail. The cat has a distinctive pixielike expression: short muzzle, prominent cheekbones, and large bell-shaped ears set low on a short wide head. This distinctive face earned the Devon Rex the early name Butterfly Rex, while her personality earned her the nickname of "monkey cat."

    Cats normally have three types of hair in the coat: guard hairs, awn hairs, and undercoat or down hair. The Devon Rex has randomly arranged soft curls ranging from velvety to slightly harsh, depending on the number of guard hairs present. The hair is evenly waved on the bodies; these waves may extend down the legs and along the tail. Many Devon Rex have a sparse coat on the underparts, and some are born almost bald, their coats not developing fully until the second or even third, year. The coat varies throughout the seasons, with some cats molting imperceptibly and others becoming noticeably sparse-coated before their new coat grows in. The whiskers are short, curly, and easily broken.

    The recessive longhair gene has been in the breed from the beginning. To expand a highly inbred gene pool, outcrosses have been made to both shorthaired and semi-longhaired cats. As a result, semi-longhaired versions appear, some of which have long wavy or ringleted ruffs and britches and plumed tails. Although the longhaired Devon Rex is not recognized for exhibition, some people consider its thicker coat to be more attractive than the sometimes sparse coat of the traditional shorthaired Devon Rex.

    Colors and varieties

    The Devon Rex comes in all colors of the domestic cat: solids, bicolors, tabbies, silvers, smokes, and both the Burmese and Siamese pointed patterns. Kirlee was a black smoke, and this remains a popular color in the breed. Some Devon Rex carry the recessive gene for long hair, which results in semi-longhaired "Angora Devon Rex" occasionally appearing


    An active, playful cat, the Devon Rex is particular fond of perching on high places, including the shoulders of their owners. The short coat makes the breed fond of seeking out warm places, such as under the bedcovers and on top of warm household appliances. These are active, intelligent, playful, people-oriented cats. They often bond closely with a particular family member. The Devon Rex's mischievous personality is often described as part cat, part dog, and part monkey.

    Activity level


    Vocal level

    Moderate; they chirp rather than demand.

    Special needs

    Hand grooming is usually sufficient for the shortest-haired Devon Rex. Those with longer or fuller fur benefit from brushing with a soft bristle brush. Because 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 and wirehaired cats may need to be bathed frequently and their ears cleaned regularly to prevent these secretions from accumulating in the hair follicles or ear canal and causing dermatological problems. Breeders are working to eliminate spasticity (a genetically inherited problem) from some lines of Devon Rex.


    Semi-longhaired variants are shaggier and often develop ringlets. Straight-haired kittens from crossing to other breeds are known as Devon Rex Variants and used in keeping the gene pool healthy. Crossing between the Scottish Fold and Devon Rex produced the Poodlecat (Pudelkatze) in Germany. The Poodlecat has a chunkier build and denser coat and is not widely known.

    Devon Rex

    One-month-old Devon Rex kitten

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

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