The Himalayans are a breed that is, on the one hand, the result of breeding experiments intended to solve problems of feline genetics, on the other hand, the culmination of the work of breeders to establish a breed of Persian cats. Siamese motif. The differences started between British and American breeders when it came to finding a name and status for the breed. In the United States, it is named after The Himalayan and is a breed in its own right.
Until 1960, only matings between Himalayans were allowed but in order to improve morphology, crosses with Persians were accepted again. Today, most associations allow these backcrosses but persist in seeing the breed as distinct. The solid colors derived from it: chocolate and lilac, are categorized as Himalayan rather than Persian. In Britain and most other countries, the breed is considered a variety of Persians.
Origins and History of the Himalayan
Crosses between Siamese and long-haired cats were started as early as 1924 by a Swedish geneticist. In the 1930s, two researchers at Harvard Medical School decided that more crosses were needed, this time with cats of known pedigree, to establish how certain traits were transmitted. They mated Siamese with smoked, silver, tabby, and black Persians, obtaining a number of shorthair kittens. Two of them were mated; they gave birth to a long-haired female who, mated with her father, gave birth to “Debutante”, the first long-haired female cat with colored ends. This cat was born in the United States in 1935, the year an experimental breeding club was established in Great Britain with the goal of making similar crosses.
It had taken five years to produce Debutante, and since the goal of the Harvard researchers was to increase their knowledge of genetics rather than to create a new breed, they stopped there. Debutante had a Siamese morphology, and the breeders of the experimental club aspired to produce a true Persian that would have the marks of the Siamese.
In 1970, a well-known breeder was contacted by someone who offered him a long-haired cat with Siamese markings, to mate with one of his Siamese stallions. The breeder later wrote: I was amazed by the beauty of this cat. Apart from the brands, she has no pedigree but has nevertheless joined the cattery of the breeder who has determined a breeding program for the next eight years based on this cat.
Successive crosses between cats of the same family
Although the first crosses were with Persians of known pedigree, GCCF rules require at least three generations of mating within the new breed. Breeders, therefore, had to deal with several hundred cats and much more inbreeding (successive crosses between cats from the same family) than they would have liked. When the official recognition of the breed took place in 1955, breeders were convinced of the importance that outdoor crosses would have for the improvement of the breed. After eight years of research and trial and error to get the breed recognized, it took another ten years for the breeders who were behind this creation to feel satisfied. The endpoint was not actually set until a Himalayan kitten won the title of the most beautiful long-haired kitten, in 1958, at the cat show organized by the Kensington Kitten and Neuter Cat Club.
Today’s Himalayan race
Some American associations accept more colors than others in the Himalayan breed. Apart from the solid chocolate and lilac colors, the generally accepted colors are seal point, blue point, chocolate point, lilac point, flame point, all turtle scale points, including blue-cream point. In Great Britain, all of the above-mentioned uniform “dot” colors are recognized, with the addition of dot cream. Breeders are currently working on perfecting point tabby, and when the genetic side of the silver, ombre, and gold colors becomes better known, more varieties will likely bloom.
Although he is only one of many Siamese patterned longhair cats, the Himalayas are very recognizable. It has a large round head, small ears, short legs and tail, a small nose, and a silky soft coat. The judges consider as essential a pale color on the body and dark ends, but the length of the hair makes impossible a density of color at the extremities (ends), comparable to that of the Siamese. Siamese brands actually depend on the temperature. The “points” are therefore lighter, but the pale coloring of other parts of the body is easier to achieve.
Most breeders agree that while dark blue eye color is most desirable, it is very difficult to achieve. The idea has been put forward that Siamese eye color is controlled by genes that are incompletely linked to those responsible for the long, straight bridge of the nose. Geneticists disagree, and recommend improving eye color through selective breeding.
The pedigree Himalayan breed appeared in the USA in 1950, but breeders only exhibited their cats when they were sure of their quality. Additionally, very few people heard of this new breed until 1957, when two cats were exhibited in San Diego. They caused a sensation with the ACFA – a breeder of Siamese – so that they could be examined at the association’s congress with a view to defining the characteristics of the new breed.
Characteristic of the breed
If the individuals of this race have temperaments as varied as those of other races, we can still say that they combine the qualities of the Siamese with those of the Persians. A well-known herder has said that the Himalayans are more self-sufficient than the Persians and that they offer a rest cure to owners who must have suffered from the authoritarianism and overflowing affection of the Siamese.
Females can be covered from 8 months, earlier than most Persians; some cats have had wonderful litters at this age, but breeders prefer to put off the first service until the cat is one year old. There are exceptions, and some hens, which are the origin of good lines, have waited up to two years.
Males are not at their best for eighteen months; they are generally slower to mature. As with the Persians, litters are generally smaller than with the Siamese: no more than three or four kittens at a time. At birth, the kittens are all creamy white, their coats are almost short and fluffy. The colors of the ends appear in a few days, first a thin border on the ear, then on the nose, pads, and tail. The fur, which can be more or less swollen, is never long; it begins to grow at different ages. In adulthood, the ideal cat should have a coat that is four inches long.