|Other names||Chinese Lia Hua|
Lí hua māo (貍花貓)
|Common nicknames||Chinese Fox Flower Cat|
|Domestic cat (Felis catus)|
The Dragon Li is a recently established Chinese breed of domestic cat (also called Chinese Li Hua or China Li Hua as a standardized breed, depending on breed registry). It was developed from a common landrace of cats in China, known as 貍花貓, Pinyin: lí huā māo, literally 'fox flower cat' (sometimes shortened to 花貓 huā māo or 貍貓 lí māo;) the native cats are featured in some Chinese folklore stories. The derived standardized breed is recognized by China's Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) the US-based, international Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
The Dragon Li displays a unique golden-brown, broken-mackerel (also known as broken-striped) tabby pattern; distinctive ear tipping; large round almond shaped luminescent yellow/green eyes; and a strong full bodied stature reminiscent of its wild nature.
The eponymous Dragon Li is thought in China to be a natural self-domesticating breed by way of a wildcat subspecies, the Chinese mountain cat (Felis silvestris bieti). While this theory is still somewhat controversial, it has also not been scientifically disproven, and is therefore widely accepted as the origin of this breed within established breeding sources in China. (All other cat breeds in the world are known to be descended from F. s. lybica, the African wildcat. The Chinese character interpretation is based on a legendary description rather than a fully accurate contemporary portrayal of the lí hua māo, and as a result, this cat had been confused with the wild fox by the Chinese. For this reason, the literal translated characters for lí hua māo read as 貍 from 狐貍 'fox'; 花 for 'flower', referring to flower-like coat patterns; and 貓 'cat'. This Chinese-character description was based on what was believed to be the best interpretation before modern Western feline terminology became the standard, i.e. a "flower pattern" versus a tabby pattern.
Li hua mau is the prevalent name for the original variety in China. More recently, the names Chinese Li Hua and Dragon Li have been used internationally for the standardized breed. The dragon is a potent symbol in Chinese folklore, standing for power and good luck.
The Dragon Li debuted as an experimental-class standardized breed in Beijing, China, in January 2004 All-breed Judges Dolores Kennedy and Barb Belanger of the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) were guests of the Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) and judged the event. There were four of these pedigreed Dragon Li in the United States as of 2017[update].
In 2005, a male specimen named Needy, presented by its owner Da Han, was shown and won its class as first place CAA champion. The event was judged by John Douglas Blackmore of the ACFA. Needy was then "married" to a breeding partner in an elaborate mockup of a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, attracting some press coverage. In February 2010, the Li Hua was accepted for showing in the miscellaneous class by the international (US-based) Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA). Since gaining international recognition, and due in part to its limited availability, the Dragon Li / Chinese Li Hua has now become of interest to cat fanciers internationally.
The Chinese literary legend "The Cat for Crown Prince Conspiracy" (狸貓換太子 Lí Māo Huàn Tài Zĭ) utilizes a lí hua māo as its central theme. The story has more recently served as the basis for the third episode (rendered "Wild Cat Exchanged for Crown Prince" in English) of the Hong Kong television series Justice Pao (包青天 Bāo Qīng Tiān).
- Barrett, Timothy H. (1998). The religious affiliations of the Chinese cat: An essay towards an anthropozoological approach to comparative religion. London: School of Oriental and African Studies. ISBN 0-7286-0288-1.
- Belanger, Barb J. (2005). "Cat Aficionado Association: The Show – January 1, 2 and 3". self-published. Archived from the original on 2007-04-30. Retrieved 31 July 2018 – via Members.Shaw.ca. Zero of the numerous Internet Archive captures of this site saved all of the photos on it, but they can all be recovered by looking at different saves on different dates.
- "Chinese Li Hua". Cats 101. Animal Planet. Retrieved 16 October 2017 – via AnimalPlanet.com.
- "本土纯种狸花猫办婚礼" [Native pure-bred racoon cats' wedding]. 029Pet.com (in Chinese). 4 January 2006. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
- Chen, Hui-wen (2005). The Mythology of Cats. China: Baihua Literature and publishing house. ISBN 7-5306-4362-2.
- "Justice Pao – Li Mao Huan Tai Zi". SensAsian.com. 18 July 2011. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2017 – via Web.Archive.org.