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Turkish Angora

Turkish Angora

Place of origin

Turkey

History

One of the original breeds in the early days of the organized cat fancy, the Turkish Angora (Ankara Kedisi) was quickly overtaken in popularity by the Persian Longhair in the early twentieth century. These longhaired cats of the Middle East share the name "Angora" with other longhaired animals, such as the Angora goat and Angora rabbit, although some books of the mid-nineteenth century also refer to these cats as Angora Cats or Asiatic Cats. Hence, the name refers as much to the long, silky fur as to the breed's purported origins in the Ankara Province of Turkey.

Much of the early history of the Turkish Angora is shared with the Persian Longhair. In the 1800s, the naturalist Pallas suggested that the Angora was descended from the Pallas's Cat (Felis manul) of middle Asia, but this was refuted in 1907 by the Royal Zoological Society based on differences in the skulls of the domestic cat and Pallas's Cat and the lack of viable hybrids between domestic cats and Pallas's Cat. Later DNA studies found no link to the Pallas's Cat, and the long hair is due to a recessive gene mutation that adapted domestic cats to Ankara's cold, snowy winters. During the nineteenth century, Angora (a generic term for longhaired) cats were reported, and imported, from Russia, Persia (Iran), and Turkey.

Angora cats arrived in Italy and France during the early 1500s and were named after the Turkish city of Angora (Ankhara). Further longhairs were imported in the early 1600s from Persia into Italy by Pietro della Valle, and from Turkey into France by Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc at around the same time. An Angora cat is depicted in Buffon's "Natural History" (1756), and Buffon described "Catus Angorensis" as belonging to the province of Chorazan and having long, silky, gray hair that was darker on the head and back and almost white on the belly (quite probably the color now known as Black Smoke). The most beautiful aspect of these cats was their plumy tail with hair five or six inches long. He did not distinguish between the Angora and Persian cats.

Turkish Angora cats, in particular the solid white variety, reached Britain from France, but were interbred with Persian and Russian Longhairs, with the result that the Turkish Angora vanished from the cat fancy relatively early on, replaced by the thicker set Persian with its woollier coat. The breed standards written in the nineteenth century favored the more popular roundheaded and cobby-bodied cats, although the terms Persian and Angora were often used interchangeably by early breeders. French cat writer Fernand Mery would later comment that this preference for cobby animals was an English peculiarity.

In 1896, Jean Bungartz referred to the Angora as Felis maniculata domesticus angorensis in his Illustrated Book of Cats and called it the most beautiful and best known of the foreign cats, with a calm and aristocratic nature. He wrote that outwardly it resembled a lion because of the full mane hanging from its face, neck, and chest. Angora cats seemed, to him, to be conscious their beauty.

Harrison Weir described Angora cats in Our Cats and All About Them (1889). He believed them to be great favorites with the Turks and Armenians (other writers of the time suggested the exact opposite, believing they helped spread plague), with the blueeyed white variety being the most valued. The slate colors, light fawns, deep reds, and mottled gray apparently blended well with Eastern (i.e., Turkish) furniture and other surroundings. He particularly mentioned the silver and smoke colors, but had never seen imported strong-colored tabbies and did not believe they existed in the true Angora breed. They had a small head (in comparison to British Shorthair cats) and rather large ears with tufted tips. Their coat differed from both the Persian and the Russian Longhair in being long and silky without a woolly undercoat.

Helen Winslow, an American cat lover who wrote Concerning Cats in 1900, added that the body was longer than that of the ordinary cat in proportion to its size and that the Angora was extremely graceful and covered with long, silky, crinkly hair. She likened its tail to an ostrich plume. The suppleness of the Angora's tail was considered a sign of fine breeding. A high-bred (i.e., pedigree) Angora allowed its tail to be doubled or twisted without the cat noticing! Unlike Weir, Winslow mentioned tabby Angoras.

Despite these glowing descriptions from the United States and Britain, the Turkish Angora was primarily used to improve the Persian Longhair breed. It was crossed indiscriminately with the other longhaired imports and with the more robustbodied British Shorthairs, so that by 1903 the Persian had supplanted the Angora on the show bench and the Turkish Angora vanished from the Western cat fancy.

The Angora breed remained extinct in outside of Turkey until after the Second World War. Turkey, however, considered these graceful cats a national treasure, and a breeding program was established at Ankara Zoo to preserve it. Ankara Zoo concentrated on solid white cats with blue eyes, orange eyes, and the highly valued odd eyes, as well as on genetic soundness. They kept detailed records of the breeding program but were reluctant to allow any cats to be exported. In the 1950s, visiting American servicemen discovered these cats at Ankara Zoo and sent news of them back to the United States. The first recorded imports into the United States were in 1954. In 1962, a pair of solid white Turkish Angoras was imported into the United States to found a breeding program there. More cats followed during the 1960s and 1970s, allowing the Turkish Angora breed to become established breed in North America. Meanwhile, other Turkish cat were exported to Britain and Sweden, although only the Turkish Van, once thought to be a "true-breeding color variety" of Turkish Angora, achieved breed recognition in Britain.

In the mid-1960s, Turkish Angoras in the United States reached sufficient numbers to be recognized by the CFA. Initially, only the solid white Turkish Angoras were recognized as a breed in 1970. The Bibleother colors had to wait until 1978 for recognition as part of the Turkish Angora breed. All Turkish Angoras registered by the CFA must be able to trace their ancestry back to Turkey. Although solid whites remain popular, breeders began to focus on the other colors that had been hidden by the dominant white gene.

In Britain, an unrelated breed was known as the Angora until 2003, when it became the Oriental Longhair (also called Javanese or Mandarin in some parts of Europe). This British Angora had been developed to recreate the look of the Angora ancestors of the Persian Longhair and was more foreign in type, with a longer, narrower head and larger ears than the Turkish Angora. The possibility of importing Turkish Angoras was considered, but a British preoccupation with bureaucracy apparently prevailed-the GCCF was apparently unwilling to accept the documentary evidence (verification of breed) supplied by the Ankhara Zoo. The alternative was to import cats from North American lines, but this would have meant a six-month stay in a quarantine facility. Although the Turkish Angora is now bred in Britain, the GCCF does not yet recognize it as a breed so it must be registered and exhibited with the FIFe or TICA.

Intriguingly, DNA studies during 2007 found the Turkish Angora to be related to random-bred cats from Tunisia and Turkey, but more distantly related to the Turkish Van, despite their geographical proximity. A naturally occurring variety called the Anatolian (Anadolu Kedisi, Turkish Shorthair), which has been interbred with both the Turkish Angora and Turkish Van, has also been exported from Turkey. Anatolians can produce longhaired offspring due to recessive genes, and some of those are believed to have been registered as Turkish Angoras.

The term Angora is used among animal breeders to refer to a long, silky coat regardless of a breed's geographical origin. In addition to the Turkish Angora there is a German Angora and an Angora German Rex. Historically, there have been Russian Angoras and British Angoras.

Physical description

The Turkish Angora is sometimes called the ballerina of the cat fancy. It is medium-sized, finely boned, and graceful, but its delicate looks are deceptive because it is a surprisingly muscular and athletic breed. The long, elegant body and neck sets off the distinctive, smallish, modified wedge-shaped head with its two-plane profile, large walnut- or almond-shaped eyes, and large, upright ears set high on the head.

The Angora does not have a wooly coat, but a fine, silky coat that has been compared to cornsilk. The long tail is not bushy, but rather has the appearance of a long, elegant ostrich plume. The tail is often carried low, but not trailing the ground; when the cat is happy, it is carried upright or even brought forward, so much so that the tip may appear to almost touch the head.

The distinctive ruff around the neck has been called the "Queen Elizabeth ruffle." The ruff, britches, tail, and belly fur have a tendency to crinkle. A full winter coat has medium length, fine, silky hair with a mane, britches, and fully plumed tail. The coat may take two years to reach its full glory.

Colors and varieties

The most popular color is white, with amber, gold, green, or blue eyes. Oddeyed cats are particularly desirable, with one eye blue and the other amber, gold, or green. The breed has also been developed in a wide variety of solid, bicolor, tabby, silver, and tortoiseshell coat colors. It is recognized in every color except for colorpointed, lavender (lilac), and cinnamon, all of which would indicate outcrossing to Siamese.

Temperament

The Turkish Angora is a sensitive, highly intelligent cat who is affectionate toward her human family. These cats crave attention and demand to participate in activities around the home. This can result in attention-getting behavior and mischief if they feel ignored.

They are graceful, energetic, and outgoing. Their extraordinary leaping ability makes them exciting cats to play with, with imitation bird toys being particularly popular. It also means they can be found on high shelves and the tops of doors, supervising the household from on high.

Activity level

High

Vocal level

Moderate

Special needs

Their long coats require less attention than many other longhaired breeds, although a regular combing with a fine-tooth comb or slicker brush will remove shed hairs and prevent mats from forming. Some owners like to follow this by bathing their Turkish Angora.

A significant portion of white cats (of any breed) are deaf, and because white is the most popular color of this breed, deaf Turkish Angoras are relatively common, especially those who have unilaterally or bilaterally blue eyes. Deaf cats adapt very easily to their sensory deficit, and many owners aren't even aware that their cats are deaf. If a cat is deaf, care should be taken to not startle her; for instance, before touching the cat, alert her to your presence by touching the surface the cat is resting on to create a vibration.

Variations

None

Turkish Angora

Turkish Angora kitten

Turkish Angoras with differently colored eyes are particularly desirable.

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

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