The Himalayan cat is one of the most popular breeds of cat today (if not the most popular). Since 1957, over 343,000 Himalayan cats have been registered by their owners. Well known for their long, silky hair (their most valued feature), sweet and even temper, and “people” personality, the Himalayan cat is beloved by owners, breeders, and judges alike.
Bred From The Persian Cat
Himalayan cat breeders produced the breed using the widely recognized and popular Persian cats that originally evolved in the country of their namesake, Persia, present day Iran and Iraq.
The high, cold plateaus of Persia necessitated the long coat feature of the Persian cat as the cats needed a means to shelter themselves from their environment. Later, when the Phoenicians and Romans brought the cat breed to Europe, the people were impressed and over the years, Persian cats were bred and hybridized to accentuate the long hair trait.
The Color Point Look
To create the color point look of the present day Himalayan cat breed, breeders crossed the Persian cat with the Siamese. Their offspring was later bred with Persian and further interbred until breeders came up with Himalayan kittens that have the characteristic long hair trait of the Persian but with the color point coloring of the Siamese breed.
After years of further hybridization, the Himalayan cat breed came to have several coat color varieties. It is not unusual for you to find Himalayan cats for sale with coats ranging from seal, blue, chocolate to lilac point. Other color points are flame, tortie, blue-cream, lynx, and cream, which all came later.
Ironically enough, the older color points, such as lilac and chocolate, only recently received attention in conformation shows. Lilac and chocolate have a complex genetics. That’s why only very few breeders take on the hard work of developing these color points.
The Himalayan cat first received recognition in 1955 when the English breeder Brian Sterling-Webb brought his Himalayan kitten to the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. After ten years, he finally perfected the long hair color point variety.
Two years later, in North America, Mrs. Goforth acquired recognition for her Himalayan cats at the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) Annual Meeting held in Washington, DC.
When the breed was first recognized, the only standard used was that breeders should be able to show three generations of pure Himalayan color point breeding. To conform to this standard, breeders began to interbred Himalayan color points with other Himalayan color points, creating a long-nosed Himalayan cat that is far from the Persian type and therefore unacceptable for shows.
This led other breeders to evaluate their breeding goals. Soon, it became apparent that the Himalayan cat should be bred toward a better Persian type and to accomplish this, Himalayan color points were again bred with Persians. Soon, Himalayans with features that are much closer to Persian began to compete with true Persians in shows and winning championship awards.
For a period of 14 years, the Himalayan cat breed has been garnering awards, with the finest of the breed going on to win regional and national prizes.
Now, the next logical question that breeders find themselves asking: If their Himalayans are competing against Persians in shows for Persians, why are they competing as a distinct breed?
Today, the controversy on whether the Himalayan cat should be considered as a separate breed or moved as a division under Persian still remains. Much of the debate stem from the fact that Himalayan cats are made to conform to show standards designed for Persian cats and to compete against Persians in those very same shows. With breeders continuing to work hard at developing the breed, one thing is certain, the Himalayan cat is a masterpiece still in the making.