The Burmese Cat
ORIGINS and HISTORY to the 1970's
Burmese cats have been known for centuries past living in Burma, Thailand and Malaya, and have been imported along with the Siamese. But the striking appearance of the blue-eyed, seal pointed Siamese always left the Burmese in the shade. They were found in England in the late 1800s when they were known as Chocolate Siamese (nothing to do with chocolate pointed Siamese which appeared later), but these yellow-eyed cats were never favoured and gradually the breed died out in England, but persisted in Europe for some time.
Then, in 1930, Dr Joseph C Thompson of San Francisco, California, a retired naval officer and practising psychiatrist, imported a little brown female called Wong Mau.
Many breeders of that time regarded Wong Mau as a dark Siamese, but Dr Thompson disagreed. He thought Wong Mau was distinctly different from a Siamese, so he decided to enlist the help of Billie Gerst (Gerstdale cats), and later of Mrs Virginia Cobb (whose Newton Siamese were widely respected). Both these ladies were well trained in biology, genetics and animal husbandry, so they, in conjunction with geneticist Dr Clyde Keeler, were able to carry out breeding experiments to settle these doubts on a scientific basis.
As there was no similar male cat in the USA Dr Thompson mated Wong
Mau to a sealpoint Siamese called Tai Mau, who had been imported from
Thailand. This litter produced sealpoint Siamese kittens and brown
kittens similar to Wong Mau. When mated to her son Yen Yen Mau, Wong Mau
produced yet a third type of kitten, a much darker brown in colour, and
this previously unknown dark-coated cat was named Burmese. Unfortunately
for the breed many who followed after these dedicated researchers were
not so well versed in genetics. Whether from lack of knowledge, from
lack of available breeding stock, or because the demand for pure Burmese
outstripped the available supply, some hybrids were being sold as pure
Burmese. For this reason in 1947 the recognition the Cat Fanciers'
Association had granted to the Burmese in 1936, was withdrawn and only
restored in 1953 when the Burmese Cat Society of America had brought the
situation under control.
Some of the early American breeders of Burmese were:
When, in 1955, the first blue Burmese kitten was born in England, the breeder, Vic Watson, wrote to many American breeders trying to find out where the blue gene had come from. At first he had little positive response. Although cats other than the dark sable brown had appeared during the some of the early matings, most Burmese breeders decided to select and breed only the sable cats. Some breeders had pointed out those kittens of a lighter beige colour (now called champagne) as well as blue kittens, were born when sable-to-sable matings had taken place. This created an ongoing battle in the 1950s and 60s between the breeders who would not admit to any other colour than sable as being Burmese, and those who had started to breed the blues and champagnes (and eventually platinums).
Eventually during prolonged correspondence with Tommy Brodie, Vic Watson gained the information he needed. He knew that his imported stud, Casa Gatos Darkee, must be the carrier of the blue gene.
Casa Gatos Darkee
Tommy told him that a blue kitten had been born in the same litter as So-Wat of Forbidden City, who was Darkee's sire. Blanche Warren, who had purchased Casa Gatos Darkee, and his litter brother Brown-Nee, from Mrs Lee Harris, told Tommy Brodie that Mrs Lee Harris had bred a blue kitten that she sold as a pet. In all Blanche Warren purchased five kittens from Mrs Lee Harris, but only Darkee produced any blue kittens. Mrs Warren said that she had heard from a number of people in America who had blue Burmese and all had Gerstdale cats, although other people seemed to think that Paat Keet might have carried the blue gene
In 1958 Tommy Brodie heard from Virginia Daly that two blue kittens had been born in a litter when she had mated her queen, Gr & Quad Ch Su-Ryan Ma Hone Linn of Dalai (a great-granddaughter of Son O'Keet of Forbidden City, the sire of So-Wat) to Ch Gerstdale's Sadruddin Khan (a grandson of So-Wat).
Su-Ryan Ma Hone Linn of Dalai
In 1959 there was correspondence between Charlotte Smiley and Tommy Brodie about the blue male Gr Ch Sable Shadow Milord of HRH Marin. Milord had Gerstdale's Mulkraj II, another son of So-Wat, on both sides of his pedigree. It is obvious from the foregoing that Son O'Keet of Forbidden City had inherited the blue gene, but from whom? His sire, Paat Keet, was a son of Yen Yen Mau by his daughter, Nun's Sister Mau, and therefore a grandson of Wong Mau. Son O'Keet's dam was Gerstdale's Dark Cat of Forbidden City, whose parents were also grandchildren of Wong Mau. However, as a blue kitten was born to the parents of So-Wat, his dam Dbl Ch Sin-Gu of Forbidden City must also have carried the blue gene. Sing-Gu's sire, Gerstdale's Mei Hoi, was a son of Gerstdale's Run Tai Mau (a grandson of Wong Mau) and his dam was Dark Cat (as above). All this information points to the probability that Wong Mau carried the blue gene and passed it on to her offspring.
The family tree resulting from the Wong Mau mating with Tai Mau is shown in the attached chart.
In 1965 Vic Watson was corresponding with Mrs Remy Smith (formerly Jolietta Ott). Mrs Smith had succeeded in breeding both champagne and platinum kittens. Champagne kittens were recognised in litters in the late 1950s, and all of them descended from Quad Ch Prince Pogo of Regal, whose pedigree was almost exclusively Gerstdale cats.Champagne kittens
Prince Pogo's four grandparents were all littermates, their parents being Gerstdale's Brown Bomber of Forbidden City and Gerstdale's Sealskin Jacket. Sealskin Jacket was herself from a brother/sister mating, her grandparents being Paat Keet and Gertdale's Dark Cat of Forbidden City. Brown Bomber was descended from Sabu Chin, a son of Wong Mau by a mating to Ho Kik Mau, a sealpoint Siamese son of Tai Mau, the male used in the first mating to Wong Mau. It would therefore seem that, as all the cats behind Prince Pogo were so closely related to Wong Mau, the likelihood was that Wong Mau carried not only the blue gene, but the gene for champagne as well.
One of the first registered champagnes was Tzaana's Tokay of HRH Marin, born in 1959. Tokay was a daughter of Prince Pogo of Regal and Quad Ch HRH Marin Java of Tzaana, (herself a daughter of Prince Pogo). Tokay was mated to the blue stud GC Sable Shadow Milord of HRH Marin, mentioned above, thus adding the blue gene to the chocolate gene. Tzaana's Tokay will be found in the pedigree of all the first platinum Burmese. Mrs Remy Smith was one of the breeders working hard to obtain recognition for the blue, champagne and platinum Burmese, but there was still a lot of resistance from those who firmly believed that only a sable was a true Burmese, and it was not for many years that these colours received full recognition and championship status.
In 1949 Mrs Lilian France, who bred Siamese cats under the Chinki prefix, imported two Burmese cats. One was a male, Casa Gatos Da Foong, and the other was a female, Chindwin's Minou Twm, already in kitten to an unrelated male in the USA. Unfortunately Minou lost her kittens in quarantine, and she herself suffered bad health from that point on. However, she did manage to produce three further litters, all to Casa Gatos da Foong. The first was on 19th May 1950, a litter of three males, the most important being Chinki Yong Zahran, who went to Mrs Coldham of Ipswich as a stud cat. The second litter on 30th May 1951 was all female, and her 3rd and last litter was of two males and two females, one of which was Mrs Margaret Smith's beautiful queen Chinki Yong Kassa.
Because of Minou's health problems Mrs France decided to import a third cat, an American Champion, Laos Cheli Wat, who had already successfully produced and reared kittens in the USA. Cheli produced her first litter on 6th February 1951 when mated to Casa Gatos da Foong. This was a litter of two males and four females. Of this litter Chinki Yong Minkalay went down to Bognor Regis to become Miss E King's foundation queen for her Bluehayes Burmese, and Chinki Yong Shwegalay went to Dr & Mrs Atwell to found the Trinity Burmese line. Cheli's second litter was born on 2nd August 1951, when she was mated to Minou's first son, Chinki Yong Zahran. This was a litter of four males and one female, Chinki Yong Jetta, who was retained by Mrs France. In fact, Laos Cheli Wat proved to be a very good brood queen, producing healthy litters almost every six months for most of her life.
From these three cats the breed quickly gained popularity, and within two years Mrs France imported another stud male. Mrs Blanche Warren of California had sent the first two Burmese to the UK in exchange for two Abyssinians bred by Mrs France. Now Mrs Warren helped again by finding a litter bred by Mrs Lee Harris, and arranging for one of the boys, Casa Gatos Darkee, to come to the UK. It was at this point that Mrs France had to give up her Burmese cats and they were all transferred to Mrs C F Watson, who bred Siamese at Matlock in Derbyshire, under the Milori prefix.
In 1956 Mrs Watson imported another unrelated Burmese male, Darshan Khudiram, and then had the good fortune to purchase a female from a Canadian serviceman who was returning home. This female, Folly Tou Po, was the last of the USA cats to join the early breeding programme. Folly's breeding career was not that long, producing litters only between 1959 and 1962. However, one of her kittens by Darkee was Sealcoat Adika, the foundation queen for Mr A Fletcher's Chindwin cats, and another was Sealcoat Lindi Soo, who went to Mrs Margaret Giles of Dewpoint fame. But perhaps the best known of Folly's offspring was Sealcoat Ramashan, who was kept as a stud by Mrs Watson.
Ch Casa Gatos Darkee and Ch Darshan Khudiram were two very important studs in the history of the British Burmese. Although both were imported from America they came from very different lines and were of very different type, Darkee being more compact and with a shorter wedge, Khudi being more elegant in line with longer legs.
The first three Burmese to enter the country, Casa Gatos da Foong, and the two females Chindwins Minou Twm and Ch Laos Cheli Wat, differed quite distinctly in appearance. The females were longer legged, not so broad in the head, and generally of a more foreign type that da Foong. However, although his coat was thicker and slightly woollier, and his ears were not so well placed, he did have better eye colour. Cheli was the cat that conformed best to the American standard of that date, and was the most typical Burmese of the three.
The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy was not willing to grant breed recognition to Burmese on the basis of the American pedigrees and it was not until 1952 that official recognition was accorded after the three-generation requirement had been satisfied, when the breed number 27 was accorded. The original Standard of Points was inevitably based entirely on the American standard of the day and the most striking and attractive characteristics of the early cats were their sleek, silky coats of rich, seal brown, and their wonderful character, disposition and friendliness. The early breeders had to contend with many difficulties, not least white patches that occurred distressingly often, and even the occasional kink in the tail.
In the late 1960's Dr Elaine Allen took up a post in Canada, taking with her Dormin Psyche, her British bred queen. In 1969 Psyche was mated to a Canadian sable Burmese, Ch Wai-Ling's Phantom of Fredna, and produced a litter including a female, Tapawingo Beothuk, who was kept by Dr Allen. Later that year Psyche was mated to another Canadian cat, Grand Champion Halton Ridge Alfie of Silkwood, and on August 17th Tapawingo Tahltan was born, a male who was destined to become very well known indeed. Dr Allen returned to England, together with her cats, and Tahltan became Margaret Somers' famous stud boy. Margaret was already well known at this time for her Kevitor cats, having started breeding in the late 1950s with a brown female called Helsby Mignon, acquired in 1958. Mignon was from Ch Darshan Khudiram's first litter born in the UK. A mating between Tahltan and Beothuk produced further Tapawingo cats, who brought much needed new blood into the British Burmese, as the original six imports, together with Chira Tan Tockseng, a Burmese/Siamese hybrid brought back from Singapore by Mrs Grove-White, and these Tapawingo cats, formed the basis of the breeding stock within the UK, and with very few exceptions, all British bred cats born before 1970 stem from these cats.
Some of the best-known prefixes of this period were:
On 29th March 1955 a litter of five kittens was born to Ch Chinki Golden Gay, now owned by Mrs Watson. The sire was Ch Casa Gatos Darkee. Gay, and her litter sister Ch Chinki Golden Goddess were the daughters of Darkee by Ch Chinki Yong Jetta, the first British born champion. As Gay was a maiden queen it was decided to send two of her kittens to be reared by Mrs Margaret Smith's Chinki Yong Kassa, a very experienced queen who had just produced a single kitten. These two kittens were taken from the litter at random and sent to Leicester. As the kittens grew it was quite obvious that the female was a totally different colour. At first there was some speculation as to what colour this paler kitten was. In fact when a prospective owner went to purchase the brown male, Sealcoat Konyak, for 7 guineas, she was offered the little pale female for 12/6d as no one was sure what she was. Mrs Smith eventually decided to keep the female and she was named Sealcoat Blue Surprise, (pet name Silvo) and registered as a "blue cream". At first Silvo did not produce blue kittens and this was a great disappointment. Her first matings were with Mrs Smith's Burmese stud, Ch Sablesilk Bimbo, who was descended from Casa Gatos da Foong, and therefore did not carry the blue gene, as it was found, after exhaustive enquiries in America, that Darkee was the only one of the American imports to come from a line carrying this gene. Many of Darkee's offspring were now carrying the blue gene, but because they were all brown cats a programme of selective breeding would have to be embarked on to find out who the blue carriers were. When Blue Surprise was mated back to her father she did produce blue kittens, and also when mated to a son of Darkee, Lamont Patrick. When Lamont Patrick was mated to the sister of Chinki Golden Gay, Ch Chinki Golden Goddess, some blue kittens were produced, one of the best being Ch Lamont Blue Burmaboy, who was owned by Robine Pocock, and in 1957 became the first champion Blue Burmese.
Another son of Darkee who was instrumental in producing some good blues was Ch Kingsplay Fei-Fo. But perhaps the best known of Darkee's blue carrying sons was Kathoodu Kimi. He was the sire of Kathoodu Sapphire Kilvi, instrumental in clearing the coats of the reds and creams. It was Kimi who produced the first all blue litter in the UK when mated to Mrs Hooper's queen Pussinboots Sapphire Bibi, whose parents were Kimi himself and Ch Sablesilk Mouse, the first daughter of Sealcoat Blue Surprise. Unfortunately this litter did not survive. It was in fact a Ballard litter bred by Rosalie Knowles, out of Ch Lamont Blue Burmaboy and Angela Vanessa, which was the first surviving all blue litter, and the forerunner of the wonderful line of Ballard blues that were exported all over the world.
Late in 1963 Pussinboots Blue Truepegu, owned by Mrs Elizabeth Gray, managed to escape whilst calling, and was mated by a red tabby shorthaired cat. The resultant litter contained a very elegant black-tortie kitten, which Robine Pocock, Pegu's breeder, decided to purchase and breed from, in the hopes of producing a new colour in the Burmese breed. This kitten was named Wavermouse Galapagos, and early in 1965 she was mated to Robine's brown male, Ch Soondar Mooni. One of the kittens in this litter was also a very striking black-tortie. She was named Pussinboots Pagan's Pride, and produced 3 kittens that were to be most important to this new breeding programme, Gogmagog Golden Guinea and Kipushi Tiki, red males, and Kipushi Kandi, a blue tortie female. Two other unrelated matings took place in the hopes of widening the gene pool. Chevening Susy, a tortie and white female carrying the siamese gene, was mated to Ch Soondar Mooni to produce Chevening Meringue, a red male, and Arboreal Fenella, a brown female owned by Dorothy Blackman, was mated to Southview Havoc, a Redpoint Siamese male, producing two tortie females, Kudos Farrago and Kudos Fantasia. A daughter of Kudos Farrago, Kudos Blue Bonnetia, produced the first cream kitten when mated to Robine Pocock's stud Ch Buskins Blue Sunya. This kitten was Kudos Gold Guinea, so named because the coat on his tummy exhibited a spotted pattern. These three lines finally came together in a cream female owned by Robine Pocock called Golden Chincherinchee.
Meanwhile Mrs Joyce Dell had mated her blue female Kipushi Blue Silk to the red male Kipushi Tiki, and kept a blue tortie female, Kupro Kepikilo. Kepikilo was then mated to Joyce's stud Freefolk Blue Boy, and another blue tortie was kept, Kupro Silken Sophina, who was to be the foundation queen for Joyce's wonderful line of Cream Burmese. Up to this point there was still a bit of a problem with residual barring in the reds and creams. But Joyce chose to mate Sophina to Kathoodu Sapphire Kilvi, a blue male owned by Mrs Burton and she quickly realised that this mating was clearing the coats. By the end of the 1960s bar-free cream kittens were being produced. One of the first from this mating was Kupro Cream Chantel, who sired many famous cats, among whom were Melanin Lorenzo, Kupro Cream Kismet, Kupro Cream Kirsch, who went to Australia, and the beautiful red boy Cavcots Creighton. Perhaps Joyce's best-known stud from that period was Gr Ch Kupro Cream Rama, a son of Kismet.
By 1969 Champagne Burmese were beginning to be more widely seen in America. Breeders in the UK had learned of this new colour and had started to look for cats of quality to import. This was not an easy task, as many Burmese breeders in America would not acknowledge that these honey-coloured cats were, in fact, Burmese. When approached with a request for assistance, a major American breed club even went, as far as to state that a Burmese was a brown cat and that no other coloured cat was a Burmese.
By chance, two UK breeders, Iona Beckett (nee O'Neill), breeding cats with the Morningstar prefix, and Moira Mack with her Belcanto cats, discovered that they were both trying to locate champagne Burmese in the USA. They managed to find two unrelated kittens, both bred by Jo & Dee Armstrong. Jo-Dee's Golden Morningstar, a four-month-old male, was destined to be a stud cat for Iona, and Jo-Dee's Belcanto Norma, a five-month-old female, became Moira's new breeding queen.
As there had been a recent problem with rabies in quarantine, the government decided to ban imports and prolong quarantine time to twelve months. This meant that Star and Norma had to stay in quarantine for a year, rather than the usual six months. On 19th May 1970 they produced a litter of three kittens whilst still in quarantine. This was the first litter of Champagne (later to be renamed Chocolate) kittens to be born in the UK.
Although it was not intended, a second litter of four kittens was produced on 17th September 1970. Norma proved to be a silent caller, a trait that she passed on to some of her daughters. This litter contained Belcanto La Gioconda, who proved to be the most amazing brood queen for Moira, and Belcanto Electra, who was owned by Iona.
Star could truly be described as "Champagne" with his honey coloured coat and pale mask. He had buttercup-yellow eyes, and the most amazing temperament. His type, despite being of American ancestry, was very good, and he won a large number of classes at shows, even though at that time he had to compete in the AOV classes against all breeds of cat. He produced many beautiful kittens, including Belcanto Don Pasquale, Cragland Champagne Charlie, Morningstar Big John B and Planetjade Temujin.
At about the same time that Iona Beckett and Moira Mack decided to search for champagne Burmese two other British breeders had also made this decision. They were Elizabeth Caldicott who bred Burmese under the Ramree prefix, and Pam Evely, whose Kernow cats were very well known. After some searching it was decided to import four cats, two males and two females, from Jane Simon's Californian cattery. So Si-Mon's Aybo Budda, a very pale champagne male, and Si-Mon's Karissima, a champagne female were added to the Ramree household, and Si-mon's Sirrocco Suda, a brown male carrying the chocolate gene, and Si-Mon's Kyeema, a brown female, also carrying the chocolate gene, went to Pam Evely. For some reason when these cats were registered in the UK their names were changed and they became Aybo Budda, Kari-Simone, Suda Sirrocco Simon and Kimboh Kyeema.
The first litter from Aybo Budda and Kari Simone was born on June 11th, 1970, a litter of four chocolate females. Ramree Judi was taken as a breeding queen by Moira Swift and Marguerite Silverman (Sabra Burmese), Ramree Mata Mas was initially taken by Pam Evely, but later transferred to Rev Briscoe (Sittang Burmese), with Elizabeth Caldicott retaining Ramree Mimpi Elok and Ramree Yasmin. It was known that Aybo Budda carried the blue gene as his father; Ch Si-Mon's Frosty Knight was registered as platinum in the USA. When Ramree Judi gave birth to a litter by her sire on 20th April 1971 it came as a surprise to find that one of the kittens, named Sabra Honeymist Will, was actually a platinum (later called lilac), proving that Kari-Simone also carried the blue gene. Later that year Judi's litter sister, Mata Mas, also mated to her sire Aybo Budda, produced a Lilac kitten, which was called Sittang Sylvan Surprise. In fact it was Sylvan Surprise who, in April 1973, produced the first all lilac litter. By September 1970 Elizabeth Caldicott was also producing lilac kittens from Ramree Yasmin and Ramree Mimpi Elok.
By 1972, the chocolates and lilacs being well established in the UK, a breeding programme was undertaken by Elizabeth Caldicott to introduce the chocolate gene into the cream Burmese. The first of these matings took place between Aybo Budda and Kupro Cream Coral, and produced a brown tortie female, together with two cream males and two red males, one of these being the well-known Primsu Golden Aquila. Ramree Betina Bapa, a lilac daughter of Mimpi Elok, was mated to Pussinboots Golden Lustre, and produced two blue tortie females as well as three blue males. The third mating was between Ramree Mimpi Elok and Primsu Golden Aquila. This was a litter of seven and was the most exciting as it contained a brown tortie, a blue tortie, and the first lilac tortie, Ramree Kepala Susu. Further matings produced more torties of these colours, but it was not until much later, in August 1976, that the last colour, the elusive chocolate tortie was produced. This was Kaboobi Isabelle, who was three and four generations removed from the original Chocolate imports.
More images are available by clicking on the names of the cats listed below :