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|Other names||Standardised breed:
Europe and North America (redevelopment)
|Foundation bloodstock||Western Siamese, backcrossed with indigenous whichianmat|
|Domestic cat (Felis catus)|
The Thai cat or Wichien Maat (Thai: วิเชียรมาศ, [wí.tɕʰīan.mâːt] ( listen), RTGS: wichianmat, meaning 'moon diamond') is a newly renamed but old cat breed, related to but distinct from the Western, modern Siamese cat. This natural breed is descended from the landrace of wichianmat cats of Thailand, and as a standardised breed has also been variously called the Old-style, Old-type, Traditional, or Classic Siamese; the Whichian Mat (anglicised from the Thai name); and the Applehead, a nickname that originated as a pejorative used by breeders of the modern-style Siamese. According to The International Cat Association: "The Thai is the breed dedicated to preserving the native pointed cat of Thailand in as close to its original form as possible."
The Thai breed (and native wichianmat specimens) have a much more customary cat appearance, with rounder eyes, face and body, and normal-sized ears, compared to the "new-style" Siamese breed, which is remarkably almond-eyed, thin-faced, thin-bodied, and large-eared, having little in common with the traditional variety other than point colouration.
Cats that were imported from Siam (today, Thailand) to Western countries in the 19th and early 20th century were broader in features than the modern Western Siamese. While the Thai, known in Thailand as the whichianmat (among other, non-standardised spellings, e.g. wichien-maat), has common ancestry with the Western Siamese, generations of separate breeding led to the development of two distinct breeds, which began to bifurcate in the 1950s, with more extreme features dominating the cat show circuit, and thus becoming the dominant variety of Siamese in the West. Starting in the 1980s, various breed clubs in both North America and Europe appeared that were dedicated to preserving the type that represents the early 20th-century Siamese, comparable to those still found in Thailand catteries, and which were shown again beginning in 1993 in Europe. The World Cat Federation (WCF) recognised the old-style as separate breed, Thai, with full championship competitive status, in 1990. The rename was not universally accepted; in 2000, the independent Old-Style Siamese Club (OSSC) formed in the UK to preserve and promote the breed as such.
New wichianmat foundation stock were imported directly from Thailand in 2001 to refresh the gene pool of the Western, pedigreed Siamese/Thai breeding programmes and ensure that the traits of the indigenous Southeast Asian cats are preserved and distinct in these bloodlines.
The International Cat Association (TICA) approved the Thai, under that name, as a separate breed in 2007, in the organisation's "Preliminary New Breed" category ("new" because the introduction of the imported cats with no TICA pedigrees technically constituted an outcross under registry rules). TICA promoted the Thai to "Advanced New Breed" in 2009. WCF (mostly European) and TICA (mostly North American) breeders can today share breeding stock, and show their cats under a consistent breed standard. Since May 2010, the Thai has Championship status in TICA, enabling it to compete for top honours along with the other breeds of pedigreed cats. In 2004, Feline Federation Europe (FFE) published Thai breed standard. In 2015, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) accepted the Thai in its "Preliminary Recognised Breeds" class.
Long-before its re-branding as the Thai, the original Siamese breed was part of the foundation stock of some crossbreeds, such as the Himalyan, though the modern Siamese, or intermediate specimens, were used more frequently for this purpose (e.g. in the development of the Cornish Rex, Sphynx, and Peterbald, which share the elongated features of the Western Siamese).
The Thai cat and the Western, modern Siamese cat share a commonality of distant relatives, the point colouration gene, and the outgoing, people-loving, vocal personality made famous in the West by the early Siamese imports – but they have distinct shapes of body, head, and facial features.
The primary features of the Thai are that it is a point-coloured ("pointed") cat of foreign body type (more elongated than the average Western domestic cat, but less so than the modern Western Siamese or Oriental, which are classified as oriental type); has a modified wedge shaped head, a profile with a long flat forehead and no sharp nose break or stop; has a short, flat-lying single coat and does not carry the longhair gene; has a registered pedigree dating back to the early Siamese with no Western domestic short hair ancestors or import documentation from Thailand. The premise of the Thai cat is to help preserve the old look, yet provide a future that focuses on healthy diversified lines and the authenticity and personality of the Old-style Siamese.
In Thailand, the landrace ancestor of this elegant cat is known as the wichianmat which means 'moon diamond' or 'diamonds and gold'. The wichianmat, along with other cats, is named, described and illustrated centuries ago in the "Tamra Maew" book of cat poems. Over the years, the wichianmat has stayed true to its original breeding, which is still seen today in Thailand where it remains a popular cat.
Starting in the late 1800s, the wichianmat was first imported to the West, starting with England,[contradictory] and the cats became known as "Siamese" or the "Royal Cat of Siam", after the name of the ruling dynasty at the time in Siam (today Thailand). Cat fanciers were impressed with the graceful, "marten-faced" cats so very different from the cobby, rounder native breeds and longhairs. Western breeders wanted to emphasise and augment the qualities that made the cats so different and through selective breeding, they developed an increasingly elongated, angular, finer-boned type of Siamese. This "modern" or "show-style" type of Siamese dominated in the show halls beginning in the latter half of the 20th century. As the new look increased in popularity, some breeders in England, Europe, and North America continued to preserve the look of the Old-style Siamese first imported, and the cat still commonly seen today in Thailand as the wichianmat.
In the early 1990s a pioneering German woman introduced a Siamese cat that represented the classic look of the Old-style Siamese to the show halls in Europe. Mrs Anneliese Hackmann called the cat "Thai." Her dedication to revitalizing the old look using Siamese bloodlines inspired European breeders to begin breeding and showing a cat called "Thai." As a result, numerous independent clubs developed their own breed standards so their members would promote these cats. Across the Atlantic in North America, another breeder worked passionately to preserve old bloodlines that were not seen in the show-style Siamese. This breeder traveled to Thailand to import new bloodlines. Together, American and European breeders began sharing bloodlines and working cooperatively through a small breed club called the Prestwick-Beresford Old-Style Siamese Breed Preservation Society (PREOSSIA).
In 2006 a proposal went forward to recognise the Old-style Siamese as "Thai" in The International Cat Association (TICA), and proponents of the old look met in Hannover, Germany, to introduce the Thai breed proposal. From 2007–2010 this very old breed moved through the New Breed process in TICA, requiring documentation of active breeders, registration of cats and litters and showing cats in many different regions. On January 20, 2010, the TICA board voted to advance the Thai to Championship status beginning on May 1, 2010. On that date, the Thai began competing along with the other breeds in TICA Championship classes.
The uniqueness of the Thai breed, in addition to its being a moderate-looking pointed cat, is that it has the potential to produce healthy and genetically diversified show cats. The breed standard for the Thai allowed for the permissible outcross with Western Siamese registered with major registries, and backcross with imported wichianmat foundation stock. The distinctive characteristics that separate the Traditional Siamese/Thai from the Western Siamese and the Tonkinese played a major role in the acceptance of the Thai in the show halls.
See also origins in Thailand
- "Thai Introduction". The International Cat Association.
- "Thai". FFE-Europe.de. Feline Federation Europe. 17 May 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- "Breed standards". FIFeWeb.org. Fédération Internationale Féline. 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- Clutterbuck, Martin R. (2004). Siamese Cats: Legends and Reality. Bangkok: White Lotus. ISBN 974-480-053-4.
- PREOSSIA. "The Prestwick-Beresford Old-Style Siamese Breed Preservation Society". Retrieved 2007-07-08.
- TICA. "The International Cat Association". Retrieved 2007-07-08.
- TICA. "The International Cat Association 2010 Winter Board Meeting Minutes" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-08.
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