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    Havana Brown

    Havana Brown

    Place of origin

    Britain and United States

    History

    Solid brown cats were among the varieties described in The Cat Book Poems (Tamra Maew) compiled in Siam (modern-day Thailand; 1350–1767). These cats, along with the royal Siamese, eventually found their way to the emerging cat fancy in Britain. During the 1890s, solid brown cats from Southeast Asia were exhibited in the United Kingdom, having been imported alongside the sealpoint Siamese. These chocolate colored cats were known as Swiss Mountain Cats and mentioned in Frances Simpson's Book of the Cat (1903) and the Encyclopedia Britannica (eleventh edition). They were described as "Siamese with coats of burnished chestnut with greeny-blue eyes." One of these solid brown cats, Granny Grumps, was bred with Siamese and produced many Siamese-patterned kittens, which means she carried the colorpoint gene. These cats may represent early examples of the Havana Brown and chocolate Oriental Shorthair. The breeding of solid-color Siamese was abandoned in the 1920s, however, after the Siamese Cat Club of Britain discouraged the breeding of any but blue-eyed, colorpointed Siamese.

    There was renewed interest in solid-color Siamese-type cats following the Second World War. The breeding of pedigree cats had suffered during the war, and breeders resorted to crossing Siamese, Burmese, and Russian Blues just to keep bloodlines going. In the 1950s, British breeders produced chocolate-colored (chestnut) kittens through mating a black shorthair and a chocolate point Siamese. It is perhaps fitting that the first of the solid-color Siamese-type cats to be developed was the "Chestnut Foreign Shorthair," abandoned before the war and recognized by the GCCF in 1958. The GCCF accepted the name "Havana" in 1971, although English Havanas are not the same as American Havana Browns. In FIFe, the major European Registry, the English Havana is termed a "Chocolate Oriental Shorthair."

    US breeders imported some of these cats from England in the mid-1950s and then bred them to be significantly different from the Oriental Shorthair in the United Kingdom. The breed would be given the name Havana Brown-some say because of the similarity of its color to a Havana cigar or to a Havana rabbit.

    The standard for a Havana Brown is different than that for a Siamese and an Oriental, making it a distinct breed. Although British breeders developed their cats to reflect the Siamese/Oriental conformation, US breeders developed the Havana Browns to have a boxy muzzle and the overall impression of a cat who is "looking down its nose." This is believed to reflect the look of the original foundation cats imported into the United States. The Havana Brown, in this form, is not recognized in Britain or Continental Europe, making this an entirely American breed of cat.

    Although recognized in the United States since 1959 (by the CFA), the Havana Brown still remains a rare breed with a small gene pool. To counter a harmful degree of inbreeding, some registries have allowed Havana Browns to be outcrossed to Oriental Shorthairs (excepting colorpointed, fawn, or chocolate varieties) and to solid black and solid blue domestic shorthairs. Some North American breeders outcrossed to Russian Blues and Siamese, a practice that was brought to an end in 1974. As a result, lavender (lilac) Havanas with pinkish-gray coats are sometimes produced and are accepted as variants by certain registries. In 1983, TICA reflected this by changing the breed name from Havana Brown to Havana; CFA maintains the breed name Havana Brown. Moves to merge the Havana Brown into the Oriental Shorthair group have been resisted by breeders because it risks losing the breed's distinctive look.

    Physical description

    The Havana Brown is a muscular but elegant, medium-sized cat. The body is described as "semi-foreign," being less elongated or extreme in type than that of the modern Siamese. Havana Browns stand relatively high on their legs. Large forward tilted ears give the Havana Brown an alert appearance, especially as they are in frequent motion, reflecting this cat's curiosity about everything.

    The lustrous shorthaired coat and whiskers are a solid mahogany brown. The eyes should be brilliant green, which contrasts with the reddish brown of the coat. The head is slightly longer than it is wide, and the nose has a distinct break on both sides behind the whisker pads, which differentiates the Havana Brown from the Oriental. There is also a distinct "stop" (change in direction) at the eyes. A well-developed chin gives the muzzle an almost square appearance that is sometimes referred to as a corncob.

    Temperament

    These are affectionate, sociable cats who thrive on attention and need human companionship. They are curious and even tempered, sometimes described as unflappable, and adapt equally to living with seniors or in households with children. They are intelligent cats with a sometimes doglike willingness to please their owners. Even adult Havana Browns retain a kittenish playfulness. Many enjoy playing fetch with small toys and can often be seen carrying a toy around with them in the hope of starting some sort of game with their humans. Their intelligence and desire to join in with human activities makes them good candidates for leash training.

    A frequently mentioned characteristic of the breed is their fondness for using their paws. They use them to investigate things, manipulate small objects, and attract attention by tapping their owners.

    Activity level

    Moderate

    Vocal level

    Low. Despite its Oriental ancestry, the Havana Brown has a softer voice than do Siamese or Oriental Shorthairs.

    Special needs

    None

    Variations

    Due to recessive genes, Havana Brown litters sometimes include kittens with pinkish gray or lilac coats. Seen as evidence of outcrossing by some registries, these are accepted in their own right by others. They have the same brilliant green eyes, conformation, and temperament as their tobacco-colored counterparts. The English Havana conforms to standards for Oriental cats, being a more active and vocal breed.

    Havana Browns sometimes give birth to lilac-coated kittens due to recessive genes.

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

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