The Persian is a long haired cat characterized by its round face and shortened muzzle. Its name refers to Persia, the former name of Iran, where similar cats are found. Recognized by the cat fancy since the late 19th century, it was developed first by the English, and then mainly by American breeders after the Second World War. In Britain, it is called the Longhair or Persian Longhair.
The selective breeding carried out by breeders has allowed the development of a wide variety of coat colors, but has also led to the creation of increasingly flat-faced Persians. Favored by fanciers; this head structure can bring with it a number of health problems. As is the case with the Siamese breed, there have been efforts by some breeders to preserve the older type of cat with a more pronounced muzzle, which is more popular with the general public. The hereditary polycystic kidney disease is prevalent in the breed, affecting almost half the population in some countries.
The placid and unpretentious nature of the Persian confers a propensity for apartment living. It has been the most popular breed in the United States for many years but its popularity has seen a decline in Britain and France.
In general, it’s not clear when longhaired cats first appeared, as there are no African Wildcats, which are believed to be ancestors of domesticated cats, with long fur. There were claimsin the 19th century that the gene responsible for long hair was introduced through hybridization with the Pallas cat, however, research in the early 20th century refutes this theory.
The first documented ancestors of the Persian were imported from Khorasan, Persia into Italy in 1620 by Pietro della Valle, and from Angora (now Ankara), Turkey into France by Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc at around the same time. The Khorasan cats were grey coated while those from Angora were white. From France, they soon reached Britain.Longhaired cats were also imported to Europe from Afghanistan, Burma, China and Russia. Interbreeding of the various types were common especially between Angoras and Persians.
Recent genetic research indicates that present day Persians are related not to cats from the Near East but to cats from Western Europe. The researchers stated that “Even though the early Persian cat may have in fact originated from ancient Persia, the modern Persian cat has lost its phylogeographical signature.
The first Persian was presented at a cat show at the Crystal Palace in London, England in 1871. As specimens closer to the Persian conformation became the more popular types, attempts were made to differentiate it from the Angora.The first breed standards (then known as points of excellence) was issued in 1889 by Harrison Weir, the creator of the first cat show. He stated that the Persian differed from the Angora in the tail being longer, hair more full and coarse at the end and head larger, with less pointed ears.Not all cat fanciers agree with the distinction of the two types and in the 1903 book “The Book of the Cat” Francis Simpson states that “the distinctions, apparently with hardly any difference, between Angoras and Persians are of so fine a nature that I must be pardoned if I ignore the class of cat commonly called Angora”.
Dorothy Bevill Champion lays out the difference between the two types in the 1909 Everybody’s Cat Book:
Our pedigree imported long-hairs of to-day are undoubtedly a cross of the Angora and Persian ; the latter possesses a rounder head than the former, also the coat is of quite a different quality. The coat of the Persian consists of a woolly under coat and a long, hairy outer coat. In summer it loses all the thick underwool, and only the long hair remains. The hair is also somewhat shorter on the shoulders and upper part of the hind legs.
Now, the Angora has a very different coat, consisting of long, soft hair, hanging in locks, inclining to a slight curl or wave on the under parts of the body. The hair is also much longer on the shoulders and hind legs than the Persian, this being a great improvement but the Angora fails to the Persian in head, the former having a more wedge-shaped head, whereas that of the modern Persian excels in roundness.
Of course. Angoras and Persians have been constantly crossed, with a decided improvement to each breed but the long-haired cat of to-day is decidedly more Persian-bred than Angora.
Champion lamented the lack of distinction among various long-haired types by English fanciers, who in 1887, decided to group them under the umbrella term “Long-haired Cats”.
Traditional Persian cat
The Traditional Perisan cat also known as Doll Face Persian is considered as a true breed of persian cat. This breed did not change its physical appearance but some breeders in America and other parts of the world started to interpret the standard differently.
Peke-face and ultra-typing
In the late 1950s a spontaneous mutation in red and red tabby Persians gave rise to the peke-faced Persian, named after the flat-faced Pekingese dog. It was registered as a breed by the CFA but fell out of favor by the mid 1990s due to serious health issues. In fact, only 98 were registered between 1958 and 1995. Despite this, breeders took a liking to the look and started breeding towards the peke-face look. The over-accentuation of the breed’s characteristics by selective breeding (called extreme- or ultra-typing) produced results similar to the peke-faced Persians. The term peke-face has been used to refer to the ultra-typed Persian but it is properly used only to refer to red and red tabby Persians bearing the mutation. Many fanciers and CFA judges considered the shift in look “a contribution to the breed”
In 1958, breeder and author P. M. Soderberg wrote in “Pedigree Cats, Their Varieties, breeding and Exhibition”
Since Persian cats have long, thick dense fur that they cannot effectively keep clean, they need regular grooming to prevent matting. To keep their fur in its best condition, they must be bathed regularly, dried carefully afterwards, and brushed thoroughly every day. An alternative is to shave the coat. Their eyes may require regular cleaning to prevent crust buildup and tear staining.
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