Traditional Persian

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Traditional Longhair
A white female doll-face Persian in front of a male doll-face Persian
Alternative names Longhair
Persian Longhair
Origin Iranian plateau ("Persia")
Breed standards
TICA standard
FIFe standard
CFA standard
ACF standard
CCA standard
AACE standard
ACFA/CAA standard
Domestic cat (Felis catus)

The Traditional Persian also known as Doll Face Persian is a recent name for what is considered to be essentially the original breed of Persian cat, before the variety was selectively bred to have extreme features. The domestic cat breed today called the Traditional Persian did not change its physical appearance, but some breeders in the United States and other parts of the world started to interpret the Persian breed standard differently. The short nose and clear break became shorter and higher. This resulted eventually in the "ultra-typed", "peke-face" or "flat-nose" Persian, now forbidden by some fancier and breeder organizations because of that variety's health problems.

As their name suggests, Persians originate from Persia (Iran). The cats were introduced in Europe by the Phoenicians and Romans in the 1500s as highly valued items of trade. The Europeans were impressed by the Persian's long silky coat and purposefully bred the cats to perpetuate the trait. Other long-haired cats such as Angora came from Turkey and added to the breed. References to such cats dating back to 1684 BCE were found.

Later, in the beginning of the 20th century, these cats were called Longhair in Europe while in America they were called Persian. The Traditional Persian is the modern but barely changed descendant of the original Persian cat from which the present day ultra-typed or peke-faced Persian cat was developed through controlled breeding programs, especially in the US. Today, the "ultra" Persian cat is the recognized breed by the Cat Fancier's Association as well as The International Cat Association, the world's two largest cat associations, as the exemplary pedigreed Persian cat in cat shows. The Traditional or Doll-faced Persian is no longer shown in international cat show-rings under the title "Persian"

This more classic form of Persian cat is immortalized in popular films like Goldfinger, Enter the Dragon, and (briefly) the Austin Powers movie franchise (which otherwise showcases the Sphinx breed).

Mutations in Traditional Persians[edit]

Further information: Cat coat genetics

Two mutations of note influenced the Traditional Persian cats: the color inhibitor polygene (1882) that gave rise to the so-called "chinchilla" coat and the brachycephalic mutation (circa 1942) that gave rise to the so-called "peke-faced" or "snub-nosed" Persian cats.

Chinchilla mutation[edit]

The color inhibitor polygene mutated in a Persian cross in 1882 in the UK. The offspring of this mutation that express the gene are commonly known as "chinchillas" due to the resemblance of their coat to that of the rodent by that name. They were classified as a Persian variety for breeding purposes.

Brachycephalic mutation[edit]

The brachycephaly mutation in the Persian breed occurred during World War II in the US. This led to a concerted effort to breed Persians with rounder heads and smaller ears than their ancient ancestors after World War 2. The resultant brachycepahalic heads lead to the much desired snub noses favored by many modern Persian breeders and which dictates the modern standard for Persians in cat fancies throughout the world.

Breed recognition for the Traditional Persian[edit]

The modern standard for Persian cats evolved to favor the brachycephaly mutation. This led to the decline in the breeding of Traditional Persians as well as their numbers on cat shows.

Color breeding in chinchilla varieties[edit]

The sub-set of chinchilla varieties experienced problems during the brachycephalic modernization phase with regards to the original chinchilla coloring features. These include loss or incomplete lip liners and nose liners; patched-colored paw pads and eye color faults. Once lost, it is hard, if not impossible, to recover.

By the mid-1950s, concerned breeders of chinchilla in the US advocated pure color breeding.

The following attempts were made to separate the chinchilla Traditional Longhairs as breed in their own right, namely:

  1. Sterling in the International Cat Cat Association (TICA) (Feb 1994 - Sep 1995),
  2. Chinchilla Longhair in the South African Cat Council (SACC) [1] in 1996,
  3. Sterling in the International Cat Exhibitors (ICE) in 1998, and
  4. Traditional Longhair (silver and golden) in the World Cat Federation (WCF) [2] in 2010.

Chinchilla Longhair standard[edit]

Stella Slabber and a group of South African breeders of Chinchilla Longhairs succeeded to separate the breed under the name "Chinchilla Longhair" with breed code "CHL" in the SA Cat Council (SACC) in 1996.[3]

The Sterling standard[edit]

There is some confusion around the name "Sterling" cat.

  • "Sterling" as a preliminary name for the Exotic breed

In the International Cat Association (TICA),[4] there were some American Shorthair breeders who bred to Persians to obtain their lovely silver color and green eyes. The kittens were pretty to look at but did not meet the true American Shorthair type. Jane Martinke noticed the effect the outcrosses had on the American type and coat as well as the attractiveness of the kittens. She proposed a new breed, called the "Sterling"[5] because of their lovely silver color. These new cats were to look just like Persians but with a short, dense plush coat. The name was changed to "Exotic Shorthair" when all colors got accepted in 1979.

  • English Sterling, Sterling

In September 1992 the "English Sterling" as a New Breed was presented by Jeanne Johnson at the TICA 13th Annual Meeting.[6] Follow-up work resulted in the breed with the name "Sterling" (without 'English' in front) was accepted as Category 1 in TICA in Feb 1994.[7] (Category 1 in TICA means "Established Breeds",[8]) The Sterling had Category 1 status only for 18 months, before it was scrapped in total by TICA in September 1995.[9]

  • Sterling outside of TICA

Jeannie Johnson ran a parallel project whereby she got "Sterling" accepted by the International Cat Exhibitors (ICE) for championship status in 1998 after completing all requirements for a new breed status. The breed had its own registry under the International Sterling Society. However, not many breeders of chinchilla Persian elected to switch over from the existing Persian standard to the new Sterling standard. Mrs Johnson died in 2006 before she could get wider buy-in for the breed. Due to lack of support, this Sterling breed also does not exist anymore.

Traditional Longhair standard for silver and golden varieties[edit]

A global standard for the Traditional Longhair silver and golden, shaded and tipped varieties was accepted by the WCF (August 2010).[10]

Traditional Longhair standard for all color varieties[edit]

The standard for Traditional Longhair silver and golden varieties was extended by the WCF in 2012 to include all color varieties.

See also[edit]