Long Hair Cats
On the feline environment, the term long hair gives place to confusions. In most of the countries, it is a general term applied to long hair races. However, in Great Britain, long hair is the official name of the race that in almost all the world is known as Persian.
(In all British owners and breeders use daily the term Persian.
IN Europe, domestic cats are classified in three categories: short hair cats, semi-long hair and long hair cats. In North America there are two recognized groups: short and longhair cats. In Great Britain they distinguish seven groups: long hairs (Persians), of semi-long hair, British short hair (European), foreigner, Burmese, Oriental and Siamese. The group of semi long hair includes the sacred Burma, and the Van Turk, the Maine Coon, the Ragdoll and the Norwegian Forest, a very heterogeneous group that only have in common a slight longer hair than those of short hair, but not so much as to be considered cats of long hair.
On the other hand, in the Persian race, for example, the British identifies each color with a different race, while in north America they are considered as varieties of the Persian race; however, and to confound the things even more, varieties of Persians as the Himalayans are considered in Europe and in North America as an autonomous race.
As you will see, in each group there are acknowledged races around the world and others considered in some countries as simple varieties.
The classification gets more complicated when we have in account that not all the varieties of colors are acknowledged in all the countries. These differences are indicated on the corresponding pages.
In its natural habitat cats have short hair. The three most acknowledged ancestors of the domestic cat (The European Mountain cat, the African mountain cat and the Jungle cat) have short hair. The long hair is due to mutations of a gene transmitted from generation to generation.
According to some biologists, the Persian cat has its origin in the mating of some of the former species and the Manul cat, also called the cat of Pallas. This specie was identifying for the first time at the end of the XVIII Century by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in the North Zone of Caspian Sea. Its hair is longer than others of the wild species, which protects him from the cold climates in central Asia, its natural habitat.
According to Pallas, they usually mated with domestic cats from this observation arises the theory that this was the origin of the Persian cats cloak, though it is only a conjecture.
The cats of long hair as the Persians or the Turk angora were already known in Europe in the XVI Century and were very appreciated by the Italian and French aristocrats.
The two names of the races, Persian and angora, were used indiscriminate, along with others, as the Chinese, Indian, Russian and Asian. These cats acquired a great prestige between the rich classes, maybe because they were different from other short hair cats, destined for work, and because having one implied disposing of time and servitude for taking care of them.
In Great Britain, its attractiveness was consolidated when Queen Victoria and her son Bertie (who would become Edward VII), acquired two Persian cats and were enthusiastic for it.
At that same era the first Persian cats were introduced to the United States, where they had an even more enthusiastic reception. In that same Era the interest on the angora cat was practically lost, and was almost vanished from Great Britain and North America, until it was recuperated in the fifties (As angora in Great Britain and as Turk angora in the United States) starting from exemplars imported from turkey.
Origins of Other Races
Other long hair cats have totally different origin. The Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest, very similar both of them, don’t owe their magnificent and dense furs to supposing mating on the tundra of Asia, but to the climatic conditions of the North East on the United States and to the equally rough climate of Scandinavia, respectively.
Also included in the group of long hair cats is the Somali, basically an Abyssinian with long hair; the Cymric, a Manx type of cat that is not acknowledged by the International Feline Associations; the Van Turk, the Sacred Burma, the Balinese and the Javanese. This last race denomination can be a cause of great confusion between Europe and the United States. The cat known as Javanese in the United States is in reality the Siamese with a Tabby or tortoise pattern and colored tips.
But the IFF applies this name to the race that in the United States is denominated oriental long hair.