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Himalayan

Himalayan

Places of Origin

Canada, United Kingdom, United States

History

The Himalayan is a colorpoint variety of the Persian. Its Persian progenitor was developed by mid-nineteenth-century cat fanciers in Britain using longhaired cats imported from Russia, northern Europe, and Turkey bred to domestic cats in England. Selective breeding created a cobby, profusely coated cat with a distinctive shortened Biblemuzzle. With the Persian and the Siamese-opposites in terms of conformation-being the most popular breeds on the show bench, it was perhaps inevitable that breeders would combine the Persian's conformation with the Siamese colorpoints.

The first recorded breeding of Siamese with Persian cats was by Swedish geneticist K. Tjebbes, who published "Crosses with Siamese Cats" in the Journal of Genetics in 1924. Tjebbes-whose interest was in genetics, not in creating a new breed-had bred a white Persian female to a Siamese male, which resulted in seven white kittens and three colored ones and a predominance of shorthaired kittens. Breeding the kittens back to their parents gave 50 percent white, so Tjebbes concluded that Siamese coloring and short hair dominated.

In 1931 in the United States, Virginia Cobb (Newton Cattery) and Dr. Clyde E. Keeler (Harvard Medical School) began their experimental breeding program to study the genetics involved in producing a colorpoint longhaired cat. Unlike Tjebbes, they used black Persians. Using only pedigree cats, they selected the most perfect kittens from each litter to create the next generation. When a black Persian male was mated to a Siamese female or a Siamese male was mated to a black Persian female, they got only black shorthaired kittens. Yet when these kittens were bred to each other and to their parents, the results included "Siamese-Persian kittens" with the long hair of the Persian and the markings, blue eyes, and distinctive voice of the Siamese. In 1936, they published a paper about colorpoint inheritance, "Siamese-Persian Cats," in the American Journal of Heredity, demonstrating that both colorpoint and longhair are recessive genes. Having achieved their aim, they ended the breeding program. Although what they had produced was a "longhair Siamese" (equivalent to the modern Balinese), they had provided the formula for breeders to use in creating the Himalayan.

In Britain, in 1947, Siamese cat breeder Brian Stirling-Webb was approached by a cat owner who wanted to mate her "long-haired Siamese queen," a stray of unknown parentage, to one of his Siamese stud cats to create a new breed. Stirling-Webb was aware of Keeler and Cobb's experiments and strongly disapproved of longhaired Siamese so he recommended mating the longhaired Siamese cat to a black Persian instead and then mating the offspring together. However, when he saw the "long-haired Siamese" cat, he found her to be Persian in type and became enthusiastic about creating colorpoint Persians. Along with other breeders, he repeated Cobb and Keeler's "formula" and also used a black longhaired male who had one Siamese grandparent. In 1955, the cats achieved breed recognition. To expand the gene pool, British breeders outcrossed their colorpoint longhairs to "bad" Siamese (that is, round-headed Siamese). From the outset, colorpoint longhairs were considered a variety of longhair (Persian) and, as a side effect, produced the self-chocolate longhair and self-lilac longhair.

In the 1940s and 1950s, cattle ranchers and Siamese cat lovers Ben and Ann Borrett of Chestermere Ranch (western Canada) became aware of Stirling-Webb's experimental breeding program and traveled to England to buy several of his cats for their own breeding program. They also developed several new bloodlines. In 1957, the Borretts exhibited two of the imported cats at an ACFA show in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and were asked to produce a "Himalayan" breed standard, Himalayan being the name used for colorpoint rabbits and goats from the Himalayan region.

Around the same time, California artist and cat breeder Marguerita Goforth (Goforth Cattery) was looking after a friend's sealpoint longhair adopted from the San Diego Humane Society. Goforth gained permission to breed the cat to create a Persian-type cat with Siamese coloring based on the Borretts' breed standard. The British and North American breeding programs were combined, resulting in a breed (or, in some associations, a color division of the Persian breed) known as Colorpoint Longhair in England and as Himalayan in the United States.

In the 1950s, the Himalayan was recognized in the original four Siamese colors: sealpoint, chocolate point, blue point, and lilac point. Red (flame) point and tortie point were recognized in the United States in 1964 and were later joined by blue-cream point, cream point, lynx (tabby) point, and tortie point; the last two having been introduced through outcrossing of Himalayans to tabby or silver Persians in the 1970s. While the Himalayans were recognized separately from Persians, the two breeds began to diverge in type, with the Himalayan becoming a longer-nosed colorpoint longhair. During the 1970s, American breeders reversed this trend by outcrossing regularly to Persians, and in 1984, the CFA made the Himalayan a division of the Persian breed.

In the 1960s, French writer Fernand Mery described the Colorpoint Longhair, still a newcomer on the show bench, as being "remarkably like a breed recognized in France, the Khmer, which has its own standard in that country, though it is not recognized by La Federation Internationale Feline d'Europe." The Khmer dated back to the 1920s and would eventually become the Birman.

A few Himalayan breeders breed bicolor point Himalayans, using bicolor Persians to introduce the white spotting pattern. Others have been working with the cinnamon gene in Himalayans; although cinnamon was probably present in early Siamese outcrosses, it does not seem to be in the modern Himalayan gene pool, although it is found in some Persian lines.

In the United Kingdom, this breed is known as the Colorpoint Longhair (or Colorpoint Persian). In the United States, Himalayans with tabby or tortie points may be called Colorpoint Longhairs in some registries.

Physical description

The Himalayan is a Persian in a colorpoint coat and with blue eyes. Like the Persian, the Himalayan is a solid-looking, medium to large cat with a short, cobby, broad body and a relatively short tail. The head is large, broad, and round; the chin is strong. The large eyes, set wide apart, create a sweet, almost childlike expression. The nose is short with a break between the eyes. To prevent excessively extreme typing, some registries dictate that the upper edge of the nose must be no higher than the lower rim of the eye. The Himalayan's coat is long and full and requires daily grooming to prevent matting. Color is restricted to the face, ears, legs, and tail, with a distinct contrast between the body color and the points.

As with the Persian, the Himalayan has diverged into two types: the "traditional" or "old-fashioned" style and the flatter-faced "ultra" style (sometimes incorrectly called a Peke-face).

Colors and varieties

Accepted pointed colors in the Himalayan include seal, blue, lilac, chocolate, red (also called flame), cream, and the tortoiseshell and tabby versions of these colors. Cinnamon-, fawn-, and bicolor-pointed Himalayans remain a rarity and are not widely recognized. All Himalayans have blue eyes.

Temperament

The Himalayan is a people-oriented cat, with the peaceful temperament of the Persian. This is a sedate, affectionate, and intelligent cat who enjoys playing with toys. Some owners contend that these colorpointed longhairs inherit a little of the Siamese's more active personality and may be more talkative and more playful than other Persians. They need owners willing to devote time to them. They won't enjoy noisy, busy households, but they get along well with older or quieter children.

Activity level

Low

Vocal level

Low

Special needs

Being part of the Persian family, Himalayans need daily combing or brushing with a metal pin brush (as opposed to a bristle brush) to remove shed hair and prevent mats. Monthly bathing will also remove oils from the coat that can contribute to matting. Owners unable to maintain the long coat of a Himalayan or a Persian should consider the shorthaired equivalent, the Exotic Shorthair. In hot climates, some owners opt for a "lion cut" (by an experienced groomer) for their Himalayan/Persian cats, although such drastic grooming is not considered acceptable in all countries. Shaving of the coat is a more humane way to deal with a matted coat than tugging at the cat's skin with a comb or attempting to cut out mats with scissors.

The cranial anatomy of this breed brings some special considerations. The face should be washed or wiped regularly to prevent the accumulation of debris around the eyes and in the facial folds. Cats with more extreme-type faces may suffer from blocked or misrouted tear drainage ducts resulting in running eyes or in dental or nasal problems that require veterinary attention.

Variations

A side effect of crossing Persians with Siamese was the introduction of solid chocolate and lilac colors into the Persian breed. Although most registries consider these Persians, others term them Kashmirs to reflect their outcrossed ancestry.

Cream Himalayan

Blue Point Himalayan

Tortoiseshell Himalayan

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

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