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Siamese

The Siamese originated from the local pointed cats in Thailand, formerly known as Siam. The breed was first recorded in the Western world in the mid-1800s. The Siamese is the epitome of elegance and balance and is a great conversationalist. They are affectionate, active, vocal and demanding. Their beautiful, sleek, pointed coats and stunning deep blue eyes are the distinctive characteristics that have intoxicated cat fanciers from the very start. Today's Siamese look far different from their ancestors, bred to be lithe, angular and elegant, rather than the rounder-headed earlier examples of the breed. 

Siamese come in many different colours that are accepted worldwide, namely, seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, caramel, red, cream, apricot, cinnamon and fawn as well as many patterns such as tortie, tabby, bicolour, calico and self.

Loek Maew Born This Way of LaMASKA - Chocolate Tabby Point Siamese

History

There are many theories about the origin of the Siamese. The Seal Point Siamese was known as the Royal Cat of Siam because it was found in palaces. "The Cat Book of Poems" depicts pale coated Seal Point Siamese, describing them as having black tails, feet and ears with white hair and blue eyes. No one really knows what the cats of ancient Siam looked like or whether they were bred for body type or purely for colour and pattern with little regard for shape. Another problem is that artists often stylized their illustrations.

The extinct Annamese from Vietnam is also considered by some to be the ancestor of modern Siamese and that the Siamese cat of Thailand arose through interbreeding Birman and Annamese cats. An early description of the Seal Point Siamese in 1676 calls it "Vichien Mas" (meaning "diamond mouth") and drawings depict extreme expression of the colourpoint pattern - dark ears, nose, paws and whiskers. A cat with Siamese markings appeared on an old engraving discovered by the naturalist Pallas on his journey into Southern Russia between 1793 and 1794. It was the opinion of Sir Russell Gordon (who closely studied these cats) and Auguste Pavie (French explorer and one time resident at Bangkok), that the Siamese cat derived from a cross between the Burmese Temple Cat (i.e. Burmese, not the Birman which was known as the "Sacred Burmese Temple Cat") and the Annamite Cat. The Annamite cat was described as a slender, small and gracefully built variety of cat with a short tail. Like so many varieties it was said to have disappeared due to interbreeding with introduced domestic cats.

Although apparently favoured as palace cats, there is no clear record of an distinct Siamese breed until the 1800s. The British became interested in Siamese cats and imported them from Siam. The earliest documented imports were during the 1870s, but these were apparently not bred. In 1884, the departing British Consul-General Gould was given a Siamese cat by the Siamese king. He brought the cat to England and its progeny were exhibited at Crystal Palace in 1885. The early Siamese cats were round-headed, solid and muscular, but even so, their appearance was so extraordinary that they were described as an "unnatural nightmare of a cat". In Ceylon, the Siamese cat was, for a while, known as "Gould's Cat", having been introduced there by Mr Gould. The Burmese Sacred Cat was known to early British cat fanciers as the "Gold Cat". A wild cat of the region was known as the "Golden Cat" (Temminck's Golden Cat) or "Bay Cat". HC Brooke believed these similarities of name to be the reason that Temminck's Golden Cat was claimed to be an ancestor of the Siamese. The first champion Siamese, "Wankee," was born in Hong Kong in 1895 and exhibited in 1898. He was relatively large and round-headed by modern standards, but had a more distinct muzzle and longer body than modern appleheaded (as in the rounded headed "applehead" dolls of the USA) Siamese - more of an intermediate type.

Frances Simpson, editor of "The Book of the Cat" (1903) included contributions from several early breeders of Siamese cats. While acknowledging the existence of blues, blacks, whites and tabbies in Siam, she stated that only the "Royal Siamese" and "Chocolate Siamese" were recognised in England at that time. These were sometimes bred to each other although opinions on the quality of the offspring were contradictory. The royal Siamese was sometimes bred to white short-hairs because the English type was preferred over the foreign type by judges. Because white is dominant and masks other colours, "sports" with "any other colour" points occurred a generation or two later.

Most early breeders considered the Siamese cat to be more delicate than the English cat, having delicate lungs and being prone to disease and other upsets. Many did not risk sending their precious cats to shows. One early breeder noted a rarity of female kittens in a litter, the average being 5 males to 2 females. The kittens were said to be difficult to rear, as they suffered from worms and teething, and it was common to foster Siamese kittens on English cats to make them more robust and healthier. Males were described as extremely powerful, great fighters, had terrible voices and would kill strange cats and fight dogs.

Miss Forestier-Walker and her sister, Mrs Vyvyan, had received a pair of Siamese cats from the Siamese Palace in 1884-5; Miss Forestier-Walker wrote "Siamese cats were first introduced into England about twenty-five years ago, but were not often seen until a few years later. Since then they have become fairly common. There are two distinct varieties in the present day. (1) The royal cat of Siam" by which she meant the seal point Siamese, "(2) The chocolate cats are deep brown in colour showing hardly any markings, and have blue eyes. The tails are sometimes straight, which is not a fault; but a knot or kink in the tail is a peculiarity of the breed, and therefore desirable. In England it has been asserted that this is a defect, but in Siam it is highly prized […] In the East a cat with a kinked tail fetches a higher price."

"There is a legend that the light-coloured cats with blue eyes represent silver; the dark cats with yellow eyes, gold; and that the possessor of both will have plenty. This rather gives the idea that originally the eyes of the pure chocolate cat were yellow, and that the present variety has been crossed with the royal cat. It is a great mistake to mix the varieties, as the result after they become adult is a blurring of the markings and a patchy coat." What Miss Forestier-Walker was describing was the range of colours from the brown Burmese (the "Burmese cat" depicted in the 1903 book was an Oriental ticked tabby), through the "blurred" or less distinct markings of the mink range (Tonkinese) to the sharply defined colourpoint of the Siamese.

Champion Wankee was bred in Hong Kong in 1895, the offspring of a female kitten stolen from the Palace in Siam, and imported to England aged 6 months. His owner, Mrs Robinson, wrote "One of the most beautiful of the short-haired cats is undoubtedly the royal cat of Siam, and the breed is increasing in popularity; but is never likely to be common, as the cats are delicate in this country. […] The [standard of] points of the chocolate Siamese are the same as the royal, with the exception of body colour, which is a dark rich brown all over, thus making the markings less noticeable. All Siamese darken with age, and when they get dark there is a tendency to call them chocolates. I know of only one real chocolate - Mr C Cooke's 'Zetland Wanzies' - so consider them more likely to be a freak than a distinct variety."

She also described the different body types: "Of the royals there seem to be two types in England: the one - rather a small, long-headed cat, with glossy, close lying coat and deep blue eyes, and with a decided tendency to darken with age - is generally the imported cat or having imported parents; the other is a larger cat, with a rounder head, a much thicker, longer and less close-lying coat, and the eyes a paler blue (these cats do not darken as much or as soon as the other type, and have generally been bred for several generations in England)."

According to another early breeder, Mrs Parker Brough, "There are distinct varieties of Siamese known to fanciers - the palace or royal cat, the temple cat (chocolate), and there is likewise the common cat of the country, which is also found within the palace. The points of the chocolate cat are identical for shows with those of the royal except body colour, but the imported chocolate is often dark chocolate, with blue eyes, stumpy tail with a marked kink, short legs, and heavy, thick body. There are not many chocolates exhibited, owing to the preference given to the royal variety. It must be understood that there is no definite royal breed as such, but the palace breed seems to have originated by selection." Lady Marcus Beresford wrote that Siamese imported from a Bangkok temple "differed from the royal Siamese, being darker and having a more pointed head and face, and their eyes were larger and fuller."

Mrs Parker Brough wrote "Until recently the Siamese was but little known in Europe, but occasionally was to be found in the various zoological gardens. At present there is a fine female specimen to be seen at the Zoo at Frankfort-on-the-Main, having been purchased from the King of Roumania. One or two are to be seen at the Hague. London has the first one it has had for six years, but it is not shown owing to its want of condition. […] A point on which the Siamese fancy is divided is where the ideal cat should have a kink in the tail or not.[…] There is a peculiarity in breeding the Siamese - i.e. the rarity of female kittens in a litter, the average seeming to be five males to two females. […] They have naturally rather delicate lungs."

Some of those early (1890-1902) Siamese were evidently large, robust creatures, for example a neutered male called Attache was described as very large and powerful, with massive limbs, and an unconquerable antipathy to all other cats of any description. Frances Simpson summed up in 1903 by saying "I do not believe that Siamese will ever become common in England, for many reasons. These cats are expensive to purchase, difficult to rear, and fancier are afraid to risk them in the show pen; but in spite of these drawbacks, I think as time goes on and the Siamese Club extends its labours, we shall see and hear more of these really curious creatures, for what we call the royal Siamese bears no resemblance to any other cat, and the distinguishing difference, being so great, tend to make the breed one of our best show cats and a clear class to itself, for the Siamese of the purest blood should not be crossed with other cats. We have heard of 'any other colour' Siamese, but these cats of varied hue claiming to be Siamese are but the offspring of a cross. We have been told of black and blue and tabby Siamese; but the fanciers of Siamese look askance at these freaks, and feel that it is worse than useless to attempt to produce any other variety than that which we have learned by custom to designate the Royal cat of Siam."

A great deal has been written about the origins of the Siamese breed. Sydney W France, editor of "Cats and Kittens" magazine, wrote the book "Siamese Cats" in 1949. This was the first major publication on Siamese cats since 1936.

"The history of the Siamese in this country is a very short one, and it is true to say that they have only been here within living memory, and that the first ones actually were from The Royal Palace of Siam. Even on this point there is much controversy and it is interesting to note that the first Siamese of which there is any record were said to have been brought to England in 1884 by Mr. Gould who was then Consul General in Bangkok at that time. In 1886 a pair of cats and two kittens were brought to England by Mrs. Vyvyan, these had actually been procured from the King’s Palace in Bangkok. In the same year, Mrs. Walker, the General’s daughter, brought over one male and three females. There is no doubt that at that time the true Siamese were kept in the Royal Palaces and Temples, and that few of them ever found their way from there except as gifts, which were then considered as of great worth."

In direct contradiction, Ida M. Mellen, well-known American authority on cats, in her "Practical Cat Book" (1939) writes "Although this cat generally is referred to as the Royal, and even as the Sacred Siamese, it is the common cat of Siam, just as the Manx, equally an aristocrat, is the common cat of the Isle of Man."

France also reproduces a letter Mellen received from Dr. Hugh M. Smith, Adviser in Fisheries to His Siamese Majesty’s Government between 1923 and 1934. In addition to the Siamese cat, he mentions a "mauve" cat which is no doubt the Si-Sawat (Korat) and kinked-tailed cats which were, and still are, common throughout Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (and in the modern Japanese Bobtail breed).

"I was well Acquainted with cats in Siam, but made no special study of them. There appear to be two races peculiar to the country: the common form with pale fawn colour, black or dark brown feet, tips of ears, tail and muzzle, and blue eyes, well-known to cat fanciers all over the world, and a form of uniform mauve or Maltese colour with yellow eyes. There are no "palace" cats in Siam. There are no "royal" cats, although the strikingly marked creatures would be the natural ones to be kept in palaces. Any person can have a Siamese cat, and as a matter of fact there are many people outside the palaces and many foreigners who keep such cats as household pets. There are no "temple" cats. The Buddhist priests, who do not live in the temples but in special buildings in the temple grounds, may keep cats, as they do dogs. A Siamese prince whom I know very well was visiting in London and was interviewed by one of the thousands of Siamese cat fanciers there. He told her there were more Siamese cats in London than in all Siam.

You probably know about the cat not peculiar to Siam but found over much of South Eastern Asia, which always has a sharp kink near the tip of its tail. It is of various colours but never of the special Siamese cat colour, and is of no interest except for its tail."

There is no doubt that Siamese cats came from Siam (modern day Thailand), but some disagreement in the 1940s as to their "royal" origins. France disagreed about Siamese not being Royal cats. As well as mentioning the various royal legends relating to the tail kink and squint (faults in show cats), he stated:

The first Siamese fanciers club was founded in Britain in 1902 at which time they were apparently variable in type. Possibly the conformation depended on which cats the early Siamese had been out-crossed to, there being few pure Siamese in the country at the time, or to the variability of imported cats and inbreeding from a limited gene pool.

Early photos show differences between the "compact" cats and the "lithe" cats, but the difference is nowhere near as extreme as that between modern "classic" and "old-style" Siamese. Early Siamese are more robust and have more rounded heads than modern classic Siamese, however, they were longer-bodied (less cobby) and more wedge-headed than the British Shorthairs and Persians of the time. The 1892 Siamese breed standard (Harrison Weir) described them as a marten-faced, Oriental type of cat distinctly different from the cobby, round British cats. Weir described the Siamese wedge as beginning at eye level, at the muzzle (in modern cats it begins from the ears downwards).

Based on only a few imported Siamese, early breeders believed that there to be 2 types of Siamese. Judge and Siamese-fancier, Mrs. Carew Cox, said (reported 1903) "There appear to be two distinct types - the compactly built, short in body, short on legs, and round in head; and the long-bodied, long-faced, lithe, sinuous, and peculiarly foreign-looking variety."

The Siamese Cat Society of America was founded in 1909 although the date of their arrival in the United States is not precisely known. Many early Siamese had kinked tails and cross-eyes or a squint; these faults have largely been bred out of modern Siamese.

Tabby Point Siamese had been mentioned as early as 1902 in Britain. Between 1944 and 1949, they were bred in Scotland and known as Silverpoint Siamese. They were introduced to the cat fancy at a London cat show in the 1960s and in 1966, the Tabby Point Siamese was granted recognition by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).

By 1986 the old-style Siamese had vanished from the showbench and many people assumed that Siamese cats had always had a long body, wedge-shaped head and disproportionately large ears. Siamese cats had become extreme parodies of the original imports. In Australia, some Siamese appear even more extreme than their American cousins - with larger ears and even more fragile bodies. In Britain they have also become more extreme - and ugly - in type, especially facially. It really is up to judges to do a sanity check and prevent the cat from being taken to ever greater extremes of type.

In the USA, the old-style cat was still being bred in a small way even though it could no longer compete against the modern style cats. It was popular with the general public. There is a separate Siamese breed known as the traditional and recognised as distinct from classic Siamese by some registries in the USA. The term "Old-Style Siamese" is often used.

In Britain, interest from the public wanting to buy old-style Siamese cats has led to a revival of the Traditional style Siamese during the late 1990s. Those would be owners expressed dismay at the wedge-headed Siamese seen on the showbench. On mainland Europe the Thai Pointed is a naturally occurring colourpointed (Blue-point, Lilac-point) Korat variant. The Thai Siamese is a European term for the traditional (round-headed) style of Siamese derived purely from non-ultra-typed Siamese cats. The term Thai Siamese has sometimes been used for colourpointed Korat variants.

In the USA, the Siamese is recognised in seal point, blue point, chocolate point and lilac point. Other colours (red point, cream point, tabby point, tortie point etc) are known as Colorpoint Shorthair (Colorpoint Oriental Shorthair). Elsewhere, these other colours are classed as Siamese. The additional colours were introduced through out-crossing, however they have been so extensively back-crossed with Siamese cats that only the most ardent purist would claim that they are not Siamese! The additional colours are not permitted in the traditional old-style of Siamese which seeks to breed only the traditional colours as well as the more moderate conformation.

(From MessyBeast.com http://messybeast.com/colourpoints.htm)