Chapter 3: History of the Original Longhair Cat


In 1903 Frances Simpson wrote: "Perhaps no breed or variety of cats has been so much thought about, and fought about in the (cat) fancy as the silver or Chinchilla Persian." [40, p 137]

A good reference source for the origin of the breed is an article by Professor K W Bentley with the title: “EARLY HISTORY OF THE CHINCHILLA” [1], 1978. According to Professor Bentley's research, quoted verbatim:

“The Chinchilla is essentially a manufactured breed, developed to a distinctive variety by patient, selective breeding over many years. Whereas the early Silver Tabbies and Smokes possessed the essential characteristics of the present day cats (though they differed markedly in type!) the earliest recognizable progenitors of the Chinchilla would hardly be recognizable as ancestors of the cats that are currently to be seen on the show bench.

The origin of the breed is, however, well documented, and all lines have been ultimately developed from one cat, a female called Chinnie, born in 1882. It was uncertain whether the name "Chinnie" was given to this cat because the term "Chinchilla" was already in use or whether the later term was introduced as a variant of her vague resemblance of the Chinchilla rabbit or the rodent of that name.

The colour of Chinnie's parents has not been recorded and no photographs of her survive. It seems likely that she was therefore a mackerel striped Silver Tabby or even a long haired spotted tabby (another form known in short-haired show cats but not at the present day in the long-haired form). Weak markings in such patterns would give something vaguely resembling the product of a cross between today's Chinchilla and Blue.”

History Timeline

First Longhairs into Europe

From Persia to Italy (early 1600's)

Many sources state that Longhair cats were unknown in Europe at he turn of the 16th century. 

The first documented ancestors of the Persian cat were imported from Persia (now Iran) into Italy in 1626 by Pietro Della Valle.  These cats became associated with rich people. [13] [35]

Note: contradictions on the exact date is found on the internet, some says 1620 and not 1626. 

From Turkey to Spain (early 1600's)

Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, an advisor to the Parliament of Aix-en-Provence, brought cats to France from Turkey. It is assumed that they might have been Angora in type. [13]

Longhair cats were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Louis XV had a white Angora Persian. [13, no citation given.]

France & England

Research from the Furry Critter Network (FCN) found that during the first half of the 19th century, some "Persians" that were bred in Italy and brought to France and England, were crossed with "Persians" of Turkish origin. [13]

The first Longhair specimens were shown in London's Crystal Palace in 1871. At that time, British breeders organized a selective breeding program.  Crosses were made with Angoras to improve the coat together, with effort also to try to increase the range of colors and patterns.  For example, a smoke Persian, the product of black, white, and blue Persians, were shown in Brighton in 1872. Today there are over 200 colour varieties in the Persian breed.

UK History

1871: First Cat Show in the World

The idea to hold cat shows came from Mr. Harrison Weir from the UK [39] [40]. He became known as  "The Father of the Cat Fancy".  He organised the first cat show, held on the thirteenth of July, 1871, at Crystal Palace, London. Nearly 160 cats were shown. The cats were mostly short-haired, and were divided into different color groups. 

Mr. Weir developed guidelines to serve as criteria against which the cats would be judged. These guidelines were referred to as the "Points of Excellence" which, over time, evolved to tangible "Standards of Points" (SOP) for each cat breed. He and his brother, John Weir, both served as judges in the show. He also developed schedules, show classes and prizes for the show.

In 1887 Harrison Weir founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890 at age 76.

There were no pedigrees for cats when the shows started. In 1892 Mr Weir published the book "Our cats and All About them", illustrated by himself. This was the first book that described different cat breeds [44].

1882: Birth of Chinnie

 A female cat named Chinnie was bred in 1882 by Mrs. Grace Hurt of Sandal Mayner near Wakefield, UK. Chinnie was sold to Mrs Vallance for the amount of a guinea (£1 1s) [40, p146]. 

The names of Chinnie's parents are not known. Based on research done by Prof. K Bentley [1], and the information found in the book "
Our cats and All About them" by Frances Simpson [40], it was possible for me to abstract a 3-generation "pedigree" for Chinnie. 

The breeder of Chinnie, Mrs Grace Hurt, wrote a letter to Chinnie's new owner, Mrs Vallance, on October 14, 1882. In this letter she refers to Chinnie as an Angora cat. Chinnie's mom was a Persian.

From a genetic's perspective, today we assume the itinerate grandfather was a probably a brown tabby shorthair.

Chinnie had a color inhibiting gene. 
The colour inhibiting gene is dominant. This gene masks the brown part of tabby hair, leaving it clear (like glass) when viewed under a microscope.   In addition she must have had the "wide band" gene. The full genetics is described in Chapter 7. 

Chinnie's show career comprised four third prizes. Chinnie was selectively bred to produce the first man-made breed in history.

April 1885: Chinnie's first litter

Chinnie's children can be referred to as the first generation Chinchillas. 

The first male that Chinnie was mated to was a cat called Fluffy 1, described as "a very pure Silver with undecided tabby markings." He was bred in 1883 by Miss Acland from imported cats. The identities of his parents are not known. He won first prize and medals at three different shows as well as second prize at four other shows. 

Mrs. Vallance tried to perpetuate Chinnie's colouring. She mated Chinnie to Fluffy I in 1885. Two kittens were born: Vezzoso (male) and Beauty (female). 
  • Vezzoso became Best in Show at the Albert Palace in 1885, was first in the Silver class at Louth and Maidstone, second at Frome and third at Lincoln. But Vezzoso refused to be properly domesticated, and, like his maternal grandfather, the stray cat of Babbicombe, he disappeared in 1886. No recorded offspring.

  • Beauty  was bought as a kitten by Miss Howe of Bridgyate near Bath. She was renamed to became known as Beauty of Bridgyate in 1887.

1886: Chinnie's second litter

The mating between Chinnie and Fluffy I was repeated in 1886 and produced Fluffy II.

Sadly, sire Fluffy I disappeared in that same yearprobably killed by people in the village where Miss Acland allowed him to roam freely [40, p147]. 

Fluffy II  was an excellent show cat. 
He took first place at Crystal Palace, Best in Show at Brighton and second place at the Albert Palace and Ealing shows, before dying from injuries received in an accident in 1887.

1887: The first registering cat organization

The National Cat Club was formed in Britain and began tracking the parentage of cats.

1888: Chinnie's grand children

Chinnie's grand children can be referred to as the second generation Chinchillas. 

Miss Howe of Bridgyate near Bath mated 
Beauty of Bridgyate with Rahman. This first mating yielded four queens, one of which went to America and the rest died. Rahman later strayed from home and was lost.

The second mating of Beauty of Bridgyate was with a Smoke, Ch Perso, owned by Mrs. Shearman. This mating produced the legendary Ch Silver Lambkin, who is generally regarded as the first real Chinchilla.  He was sold to Mrs Balding. 
Source: [i-8]

Once Silver Lambkin matured, the breeding and perfection of the Chinchilla was undertaken with enthusiasm. This resulted in the breed being shown in class of their own as instituted at the Crystal Palace Show in 1894.

The third mating of Beauty of Bridgyate was with Bonny Boy. Bonny Boy was a good Silver Tabby, who was Best in Show at Brighton in 1892. He was later sold to the Hon Mrs. McLaren Morrison, who re-registered him with the name NizanNizan obtained the title of champion. This third mating produced one male and four females.
  • One female was sold as Lambkin Queen to Mrs. Martin.
  • The other two females, I, Beauty's Daughter and Twin (so named because they were almost indistinguishable and won prizes wherever shown), were retained by Mrs. Balding.
  • Twin was eventually sold to Mr. Lawton who renamed her "Queen of the Mist". She sadly died after swallowing a needle.

Chinnie's great-grand children

Chinnie's great-grand children can be referred to as the third generation Chinchillas. 

Mrs. Martin mated Lambkin Queen to Puff. Out of this mating Silver Dawn, a female, was born. 

Mrs Baliding continued breeding with Chinnie's grand daughter I, Beauty's Daughter. She was mated to two Blues.
  • One of these matings was to champion Bundle, who gave Lord Southampton. Lord Southampton was a popular stud cat in the 1890s, but the Stud Books do not allow the identification of any descendants of his after the First World War, though it is probable that some have been carried forward into post war lines through cats that won no Stud Book entry.
  • The other mating of I, Beauty's Daughter to a Blue was to Glaucus and gave Burah (female).
Silver Lambkin was mated to Sylvie, a very lightly marked Silver of unrecorded ancestry and gave Lord Argent, owned by Mrs Champion.

Chinnie's great-great-grand children

Silver Dawn was in-bred to her uncle Silver Lambkin and gave Silver Owl (male). 

Burah (female) was mated to Silver Owl and gave Girlie

Lord Argent
 sired Kohinoor (male) in 1899. 

Chinnie's great-great-great-grand children

  • Girlie was mated to Kohinoor and gave Rob Roy of Arrandale

  • At the time of Prof Bentley's research (1978), Rob Roy of Arrandale appeared to be an ancestor of every Chinchilla line in the UK. 

  • These matings seem complicated when described chronologically above and clearly involve much in-breeding, the extent of which may be more readily appreciated when set out as a family tree, which spans a period of 13 years from the birth of Beauty of Bridgyate in 1885 to that of Rob Roy of Arrandale in 1898.  The website Messeybeast [41] contains drawings of these family trees.

  • By that time, sufficient new blood had been introduced by crossing with Blues, Silver Tabbies and others to give a range of lines for the further development of the breed.

USA History

First USA cat show

The first Chinchilla that went to the USA was an offspring from Beauty of Bridgyate ex Rahman, bred by Miss Howe (later Mrs Bridgwater and Mrs. Balding). Date: circa 1888. 

In 1895 the first official cat show in the USA was held in Madison Square Garden, New York. There was little record keeping in the early days, but as time went on people paid more attention to documenting their breeding. These records showed that other colours, often blues and tabbies, were used in the breeding of silvers. Silvers also appeared in the pedigrees of Persians of other colours. There is no record to show when silvers were accepted by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA, so it is reasonable to assume they were among the original colours bred when this association was organized in 1906 [8.1]. 

Chinchilla silvers and shaded silvers were accepted into the Shaded Division of the CFA.

With selective breeding, silver breeders had nearly eliminated tabby markings and leg bars by the mid twentieth century. Silver breeders were criticized if their cats were not colour-bred; however, there was no agreement on how many generations were required for a silver to be considered a 'colour-bred' cat.

Colour breeding was a necessity for many years in order to maintain the beautiful trademark colouring of the silver Persian. The gene pool was small, and certain physical characteristics appeared to be associated with the silver colour: the cats produced were generally lighter in bone and eventually, smaller in size.

Whilst additional colours and patterns of the other Persians were developed over the years resulting in a larger gene pool, the gene pool of the silvers remained the same.

This led to an interest on the part of some breeders to include other colours in their breeding programs. One of the earliest pioneers in this type of outcrossing was Fannie Mood of Delphi Cattery, who was also a former CFA registrar. At the time she did this breeding, she lived in California, a stronghold of colour breeding, and she was greatly criticized for breeding to a blue Persian.

The golden colour is recessive to silver, and for many years before this colour was accepted, 'odd coloured' kittens occasionally popped up in 'colour-bred' silver litters. These kittens were referred to as 'brownies' and were placed as pets.

By the 1960s a few interested breeders were working with them. The beauty of their golden coats with the contrast of their vivid green or blue-green eyes attracted more and more dedicated breeders, and gradually they grew in popularity until Chinchilla Goldens and Shaded Goldens were finally accepted by CFA in 1976 in the Shaded Division.

The eye colour of the Chinchilla varieties ranges from a blue-green, aquamarine to a brilliant, emerald green.

Many breeders felt that there should be a Green-Eyed Division in the CFA, as neither the cameos nor shaded torties, which were also part of the Shaded Division, rightfully belonged in the same division as silvers and goldens.

Starting with the 1995-96 season the cameos and shaded torties were placed in the Shaded and Smoke Division. Silvers and goldens were then alone in a division called the Silver and Golden Division (not the Green-eyed Division).

SA History
(To be completed.)