Persians have enjoyed a long reign in the cat fancy and have featured prominently in shows since 1871, the year of the first modern cat show held at London?s Crystal Palace. At this famous affair, organized by the ?father of the cat fancy,? Harrison Weir, many representatives of the breed were present, starting a supremacy that continues today.
Persians have been around for much longer than 125 years. Longhaired cats, including the ancestors of the modern Persian and Angora breeds, were first seen in Europe in the mid- to late 1500s, introduced by Roman and Phoenician caravans from Persia (now Iran) and Turkey, according to documents of the era. Researchers believe the recessive gene for long hair appeared spontaneously in the cat population in the cold mountainous areas of Persia. An Italian traveler by the name of Pietro della Valle (1586?1652) is credited with bringing Persian cats to the European world in the 1600s. Both Angora and Persian cats are mentioned in the manuscript Voyages de Pietro della Valle. He described the Persians as gray with very long, silky, glossy fur. He noted that the cats resided in the province of Khorazan in Persia, and that they came from India with the Portuguese.
Other travelers brought Persian and Angora cats into France and then into England, causing them to be called ?French cats? for a number of years. These cats quickly became popular in Britain. During this time and for centuries after, the Turkish Angora and Persian varieties (among others) were commonly crossed.
At first, Angoras were preferred for their silky white coats. Eventually, however, the British fanciers came to favor the stockier Persian conformation. By the time of Weir?s cat show in 1871, distinct differences between the Persian and the Angora could be seen, the former being stockier with small, rounded ears, and the latter being slender and tall-eared. By the early 1900s the Persian had become overwhelmingly popular. Blue Persians were particularly prized, probably because Queen Victoria owned two.
In the early 1900s the British Governing Council of the Cat Fancy decided that the Persian, as well as the Angora and Russian Longhairs, should be known simply as Longhairs, a policy that continues today. Each color is considered a separate breed in the British cat fancy. In North America, however, the Persian is considered one breed, regardless of color.
Persians were imported to America in the late 1800s, where they were enthusiastically received. The Persian quickly shoved aside the competition and quickly took its place as the top cat. Using British standards as a starting point, American breeders began their own breeding programs to refine the coat, color, and conformation. Soon the American Persian developed a style of its own and evolved into the type we see today.
If you want your cats bouncing around like hyperactive popcorn, don?t buy a Persian. Persians are perfect companions, if you like placid, sweet-tempered cats. Don?t count on using your Persian pal as a furry doorstop, however. They love to play between periods of regal lounging on your favorite davenport. Proponents say that Persians do not deserve their ?furniture with fur? reputation?they are intelligent, just not as inquisitive as some breeds, and not as active.
Persians are devoted to their humans, but can be selective in conferring that honor. You must earn their trust and love. They crave affection and love to be petted and fussed over, but won?t harass you for attention the way some breeds will. They will, however, let their feelings be known if they are not getting the requisite amount of attention.
Owning a Persian requires a significant time commitment. That beautiful coat requires daily grooming to keep it in good condition and free of mats. Because of the long coat and docile temperament, Persians should be considered indoor-only pets. Many Persian fanciers keep at least part of the coat clipped, particularly the hindquarters and around the anus to avoid the accumulation of feces. This should be done, though, only if the cat will not be shown soon.
Over the years, the show trend has been toward a flatter, more extreme facial type for the Persian. This troubles some fanciers, who feel the extreme face can be harmful to the breed. Reported problems include upper respiratory problems, ?weepy? eyes, malocclusions, and birthing difficulties. The Peke-face red Persian, named after the Pekingese dog, has an even more extreme facial arrangement. For those who like a less extreme facial arrangement, the Traditional Cat Association (TCA) recognizes and promotes the Traditional Persian, also called the Doll Face Persian. This type possesses a less extreme look and emphasizes the sweet expression.
Persians come in many colors and patterns. The various colors, along with the breed itself, have a long history of selective breeding. Breeders have worked long and hard to perfect each, and each breeder usually specializes in a few favorites. Within the divisions are a multitude of colors and patterns, adding up to more than 80 varieties. The body and face type does differ slightly from one color to the next, and therefore judges are given some leeway in judging. The overall balance is more important than individual traits.
The ideal Persian is a heavily boned, well-balanced cat with a sweet expression and soft, round lines.
Cobby; large to medium-sized; low on the legs; broad and deep through the chest; equally massive across shoulders and rump, with well-rounded midsection and level back; good muscle tone.
Round and massive with great breadth of skull; round face with round underlying bone structure; nose short, snub, and broad with break centered between eyes; cheeks full; jaws broad and powerful; chin full, well-developed, and firmly rounded.
Small, round tipped, tilted forward, not unduly open at base; set far apart and low on head.
Large, round, and full; set level and far apart. Color depends upon coat color.
Short in proportion to body length.
Long and thick, standing off from body; fine texture, glossy, full of life; long all over body, including shoulders; ruff immense; deep frill between front legs; ear and toe tufts long; brush very full.
Should conform in color and general type to standard; however, allowance for slightly higher placement of ears to conform with bone structure of head. The nose is short, depressed and indented between the eyes, and the muzzle wrinkled; the horizontal break, located between the nose break and top dome of head, runs straight across the front of the head. Color red and red tabby.Solid, silver and golden, shaded and smoke, tabby, particolor, bicolor, and Himalayan.
Locket or button; deformity of spine or skull; weakness in hind quarters; crossed eyes; white toes.