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    Korat

    Korat

    Place of origin

    Thailand

    History

    Called Korat after the unofficial name of Thailand's former capital, the cat known to the Thai people as the Si-Sawat Maiow was first introduced to the British cat fancy in 1896 as a "Blue Siamese." This breed would not achieve recognition in its own right for more than half a century. A significant reason for this may have been that breeding stock was difficult to come by.

    Highly valued among the Thai, the Korats could not be purchased. They were given as gifts to Thai government representatives or nobility or presented to representatives of foreign governments as an expression of highest honor, bestowing health and fortune to the recipient. Known also as the “cloudcolored Cat” with eyes the color of young rice, Korats were supposed to bring a good harvest. They played a role in rainmaking ceremonies at the end of the dry season and were carried in procession to have water sprinkled on their cloud-colored fur. Traditionally, a pair of Korats was given to a bride on her wedding day to ensure prosperity in the years ahead. The silvery sheen on their coats symbolized a gift of silver. They also played a much different role in wartime, according to legend, when male Korats were taken into battle on the shoulders of warriors and would launch themselves fiercely at the enemy.

    Being valued so highly, Korats were never sold and could only be given as gifts, occasionally being presented to honor a Western dignitary. This explains why so few "Blue Siamese" reached early cat fanciers and why nineteenth-century enthusiasts had such problems obtaining breeding stock.

    Another problem in developing the Korat breed was Western confusion over the breed itself. To Europeans at the turn of the twentieth century, there was only one true cat from Siam (Thailand), the royal Siamese. Yet Bangkok's National Museum holds the Smud Khoi, the Thai Book of the Cat (circa 1868–1910), which describes cats of different types and colors. As well as the Vichien Mas (Siamese) and Thong Daeng (Thai Copper), there is a description of Doklao or Si-Sawat Korat. (Both of those names refer to the silvery hue of the Korat, making it clear that only cats with this coat color were considered true Korats.) All of these are authentic Thai cats, but only one variety was given the name Siamese by nineteenth-century cat fanciers in the West. The other varieties were rejected by judges who declared only the "royal" sealpointed Siamese to be the legitimate Siamese cat.

    In 1896, a Blue Siamese called Nam Noi was exhibited at Holland House, London. Reports of the time variously describe the cat as a Siamese or a Russian Blue, the Korat not being a recognized breed at the time. Nam Noi was registered with the National Cat Club as a male Siamese of unknown parentage. He caused much discussion, but there was no doubt that he was a Siamese in every detail apart from his color. He was disqualified from the Siamese class, however, because he was not the accepted dun with black points. He was awarded first prize in the "Russian or Any Other Blue Cat" class. According to W. R. Hawkins in the July edition of Around the Pens: "Nam Noi, a Blue, was entered as a Siamese, and very possibly came from Siam; but that does not make him a Siamese any more than an English cat coming from Persia would be a Persian. To my thinking, Nam Noi was an undoubted Russian. . . . In Russians Nam Noi in its right class won." With no knowledge of the variety of cats to be found in Asia, Western cat fanciers had decided that a blue cat from Siam could only be a Russian Blue.

    BibleDespite the disagreements on classification, from a very few imports, the gene pool for the Korat breed was developed in the 1920s through crossing to imported, rather than domestically bred, Siamese cats. Due to the presence of breeding programs in Thailand, more imports followed in subsequent years.

    In 1959, the Korat arrived in the West as a breed in its own right when two cats were presented to the American ambassador to Thailand. These were sent from Bangkok to Mrs. Jean Johnson in the United States. She had been attracted to these cats during a visit in 1947 but had not been able to obtain any. More were imported into the United States during the 1960s. To be considered authentic Korats, they had to have a pedigree traceable to cats in Thailand. In 1966, the breed gained recognition. The Thai spelling, Koraj (the province these cats came from) was changed to Korat by European breeders to reflect the word’s pronunciation (at least to Western ears). Korats didn’t return to Britain until 1972, and didn’t achieve recognition there until 1984.

    Adhering to the Thai definition of the Korat, cat fanciers stipulated the blue-gray color in the breed standard. However, the Korat naturally produced other color variants right back to its arrival in the United States when lilac-pointed (lavender-pointed) kittens sometimes occurred. Most breeders considered the naturally occurring colorpointed kittens to be a defect or signs that their bloodlines were impure. Then, in 1989, two Korats in the United Kingdom produced a "pink" kitten. During the 1990s, other Korats in Britain produced white kittens (who developed into blue-pointed cats) and "pink" kittens. In fact, old Thai writings mention the Ratana Kampon, a cat "pink like the inside of a conch shell," so it was evident that these unexpected colors were due to recessive genes that had long existed in Korats in their native country.

    Physical description

    The Korat is a small to medium-sized (4–10 pounds [2–4.5 kg]) but substantial cat, with a broad chest. The face is heart-shaped; the ears are round-tipped and set high. The Korat has large, round, luminous peridot-green eyes. There should be a lionlike slope to the nose. The close-lying short coat is glossy and fine in texture. The hairs are delicately tipped in silver, known in its homeland as "sea-foam." The Thai Lilac and Thai Blue Pointed have the same physical conformation as the Korat.

    Colors and varieties

    The Korat has a coat with roots like clouds and tips like silver. Any color other than silver blue is not a Korat. Their breeders have been very effective in protecting the breed against the development of any other varieties.

    Temperament

    Intelligent, inquisitive, and sensitive to her owners, the Korat is a delightful and entertaining companion. The Korat is a gentle, but active and playful cat and will often retrieve tossed toys for her owner. Being family-oriented, the males are said to be good fathers if left with their kittens. In the home, Korats are sweet-natured and mild. They form strong bonds with their owners. Because of an acute sense of hearing, Korats are extremely sensitive to events taking place around them.

    Activity level

    Moderate

    Vocal level

    Moderate; although vocal, the Korat has a soft voice.

    Special needs

    Regular grooming with a rubber brush to remove shed hair and a polish with a chamois cloth will bring out the shine in a Korat's coat.

    Variations

    Due to recessive genes, blue-pointed and solid-lilac kittens sometimes occur in Korat litters. In the United Kingdom, these variant colors are accepted as being naturally occurring in Korat lines and separately registered under the names Thai Blue Pointed and Thai Lilac respectively. These gained recognition from the GCCF in 2002. The Thai Lilac is a warm pinky-beige color, tipped with silver and having the characteristic green eyes. The Thai Blue Pointed differs from the Korat only in the eye color and coat pattern; its blue points have the characteristic silver tipping.

    All Korats have green eyes.

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

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