Edit cart
Merchandise Subtotal:
Checkout
View all
Russian Blue

Russian Blue

Place of origin

Archangel Islands, Russia; United Kingdom; and Scandinavia

History

The Russian Blue is one of the first official breeds of the cat fancy. Purportedly, sailors from the Archangel Isles brought these cats to England and Scandinavia in the 1860s. They were first exhibited in 1875, at the Crystal Palace in England as the Archangel Cat. Early cat fancy records show the foundation cats of the Russian Blue breed included imported solid blues, solid whites, lavender-blues, blue-and-whites, blue tabbies, and solid blue "Siamese" (these last being the unrecognized Korat breed). These were bred to black British Shorthairs in the hope of improving the fur color and to Persians to improve the eye color. Although claimed to be a naturally occurring breed and favored pets of the Russian Tsars, the Russian Blue was developed in Britain using a variety of random-bred and pedigree cats and is more accurately a man-made breed.

According to Harrison Weir (1889), imported blue cats were exhibited under a variety of names: Archangel Cat, Russian Blue, Spanish Blue, Chartreuse Blue, and American Blue. The names reflected the different origins, real or supposed, of imported gray cats. These were judged in a single class, based mostly on the bluish-lilac color; however, the Archangel (Russian Blue) was distinguishable from British cats due to its more foreign appearance: larger ears and eyes, longer heads and legs, and bright glossy fur.

Frances Simpson (1903) wrote that judges considered Russian Blues to be part of the short-haired Blue judging class, and they were judged against the English cats despite their obviously different conformation. One of the foremost breeders of Russian Blues was Mrs. Constance Carew-Cox who had been breeding them since 1890. Modern Russian Blues have green eyes, but in the late nineteenth-century they were crossed with Persians to get the preferred deep orange eye color, which ruined the conformation and would result in longhaired "sports" in later generations. Imported Russian Blues varied in type, with some having long, lean, pointed heads and large ears, while others had rounder heads, small ears, and wide-set eyes. The coat was short, close, glossy, and silvery but sometimes rather woolly due to the severity of their native climates, and the color varied from lavender-blue to darker shades. The best Russian Blues were considered to be those imported from Archangel.

Carew-Cox also owned cats of "Canon Girdlestone's breed"-blue tabbies imported from Norway, although these appear to have been sickly and died without being bred. In 1896, a Blue Siamese was transferred from the Siamese class (on account of not being sealpointed) and placed in the "Russian or Any Other Blue Cat" class, which he won. Up until 1912, the Russian Blue competed in a class including all other blue cats, often a class for "Blue, With or Without White." Because the longer, leaner, leggier Russian Blue was judged to the British Blue standard-which it could not hope to meet-numbers declined, and dedicated Russian Blue breeders protested. In 1912, it was given its own class under the name "Foreign Blue."

Right from the start, Russian whites and Russian bicolors were also imported. Registrations in 1898 and 1899 recorded an unnamed white Russian female imported by a Mr. Brooks; another white Russian registered as "Granny," and "Olga," a Russian Blue with a white spot. Carew-Cox imported a blue-and-white Russians called Kola. In the United States, in 1900, Helen Winslow mentioned fine short-haired cats from Russia who were usually solid blue, although a cat fancier in Chicago owned a very handsome blue-and-white Russian. Ultimately, it was the solid blues that found favor with early fanciers and only recently have the "lost" colors of the Russian Shorthair been recreated and recognized by some registries.

Many breeds suffered a loss of purebred cats during the Second World War. In Britain, some breeders crossed their Russian Blues to the Siamese in order to preserve the foreign conformation. This introduced the recessive gene for colorpoints into the Russian. Others crossed to the British Blue to preserve the color. The original conformation has largely been restored, but some European lines still carry the gene for colorpoint. Except for their pattern, Russian colorpoints are identical to the Russian Blue. Scandinavian breeders crossed their Russian Blues to Siamese to a blue cat from Finland, preserving both the short coat and the green eyes. Although Russian Blue had arrived in the United States in the early 1900s, serious breeding did not begin until after the Second World War. American breeders used cats imported from Scandinavia and Britain and worked to eliminate any Siamese traits. As a result, the Russian Blue recognized in North America is not identical to Russian Blues in Britain, Europe, and Australasia.

The Russian White program started with a genuine white Siberian domestic cat owned by an official at the Thai Embassy in Australia. Mated to a Russian Blue, she produced two white kittens and the green-eyed white Russian was born. The kittens had the conformation and temperament of Russian Blues, but a white coat. The fourth generation of Russian Whites achieved full recognition from the Royal Agricultural Society Cat Club (RASCC) of New South Wales in November 1975. There is now a Russian White at stud in the United States.

The Russian Shorthair group comprises cats of Russian Blue type, but of a wider variety of colors. Currently, those with varying degrees of recognition are Blue (the first color recognized), White, and Black. The Russian White breed program also gave rise to the Russian Black, Black (Brown) Tabby, and Blue Tabby. Russian Colorpoints have also occurred. Peach Russians, possibly lilac variants, occurred in the United States in the 1990s, possibly due to recessive genes from wartime outcrossing.

Physical description

The Russian Shorthair is a graceful, medium-size, muscular cat with a foreign conformation and an aristocratic bearing. The conformation is not as exaggerated as the Oriental/Siamese. The dense, plush, "double coat" of these cats is tipped in silver, giving them a radiant sheen. Their large, emerald-green almond-shaped eyes are set at an angle following the contours of their wedge-shaped heads. Their ears are large and continue the triangular shape of the head. They have a sweet smile formed by the blunt tip and prominent whisker pads of their straight-nosed muzzle. They have elegant, long-legged bodies with delicate feet. Dull stripes may be discerned on the tail in some lighting conditions.

Colors and varieties

The most widely recognized member of the Russian Shorthair group is the Russian Blue. It is accepted for competition worldwide in the distinctive silvery gray color that defines the breed. Due to the presence of the recessive pointed gene in some lines from the Siamese crosses used in the breed's development, occasional blue point or lilac kittens are born. Russian Whites and Russian Blacks are fully recognized in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and exist in various stages of recognition in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States.

Temperament

Russian Blues are very sensitive cats who tend to bond very closely to a favorite family member. They can be shy and cautious with strangers, but playful and affectionate when settled into familiar surroundings. Intelligent cats, they pay close attention to the activities of others and can learn mischievous "tricks" quickly, such as opening doors and turning on faucets. They enjoy a variety of toys, and some enjoy playing games of fetch and retrieving thrown toys.

They are generally quiet cats, but if you talk to them they will respond and may develop a large vocabulary. They get along well with children and other pets and are excellent pets for a modern family, being content with their own company, but enjoying both play-time and lap-time when their people are at home.

Activity level

Moderate

Vocal level

Low

Special needs

The Russian Blue has no special needs. The coat requires little care beyond grooming away shed hair during the warmer months.

Variations

Crossing to other shorthairs in Australia and Europe has recreated the Russian White (originally seen in 1898 and 1899) and added Russians Black. Apart from their color, these are bred to the standard of the Russian Blue and are becoming more recognized as part of the Russian Shorthair group, although not by the CFA or TICA in the United States. Some fanciers and registries dismiss these colors as indicative of mongrelization, even though the Russian Blue itself was originally developed using a variety of breeds. The Nebelung is a blue-gray semi-longhaired breed of cat created through the crossing of domestic longhaired cats with Russian Blues.

Russian Blue

Russian Blue

Russian White

Nebelung

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

More about cats


Save $5 on your next purchase

Remove All