The Persian is a long-haired breed of cat characterized by its round face and shortened muzzle. 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, “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 breed standard (then called a points of excellence list) was issued in 1889 by cat show promoter Weir. 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 agreed 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”.
Traditional Persian cat
The Traditional Persian cat also known as Doll Face Persian is considered as the original breed of Persian cat. The CFA however regulates the “flat faced” persian as the true breed and standard for this breed. This breed did not change its physical appearance but some breeders in America, Germany and Italy and other parts of the world started to interpret the standard differently.
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 1950, the Siamese was crossed with the Persian to create a breed with the body type of the Persian but colorpoint pattern of the Siamese. It was named Himalayan, after other colorpoint animals such as the Himalayan rabbit. In the UK the breed was recognized as the Colorpoint Longhair. The Himalayan stood as a separate breed in the US until 1984, when the CFA merged it with the Persian, to the objection of the breed councils of both breeds. Some Persian breeders were unhappy with the introduction of this “hybrid” into their “pure” Persian lines.
The Exotic Shorthair is similar to the Persian in temperament and type, with the exception of its short, dense coat.
The Persian was used as an outcross secretly by some American Shorthair (ASH) breeders in the late 1950s to “improve” their breed. The hybrid look gained recognition in the show ring but other breeders unhappy with the changes successfully pushed for new breed standards that would disqualify ASH that showed signs of hybridization.
One ASH breeder who saw the potential of the Persian/ASH cross proposed and eventually managed to get the CFA to recognize them as a new breed in 1966, under the name Exotic Shorthair. Regular outcrossing to the Persian has made present day Exotic Shorthair similar to the Persian in every way, including temperament and conformation, with the exception of the short dense coat. It has even inherited much of the Persian’s health problems.
The popularity of the Persian (blue line) in the UK has declined for the past two decades.
The Persian is the most popular breed of pedigree cats in the United States. In the UK, registration numbers have dwindled since the early 1990s and the Persian lost its top spot to the British Shorthair in 2001. As of 2008, it was the 5th most popular breed, behind the British Shorthair, Siamese and Bengal. In France, the Persian is the only breed whose registration declined between 2003 and 2007, dropping by more than a quarter
A Grand Champion chocolate Persian
A show-quality Persian has an extremely long and thick coat, short legs, a wide head with the ears set far apart, large eyes, and an extremely shortened muzzle. The breed was originally established with a short muzzle, but over time, this characteristic has become extremely exaggerated, particularly in North America. Persian cats can have any color or markings including pointed, golden, tortoiseshell, blue, and tabby.
The Persian is generally described as a quiet cat. Typically placid in nature, it adapts well to apartment life. Himalayans tend to be more active due to the influence of the Siamese. One study compared cat owners’ perception of their cats and Persians rated higher than non-pedigree cats on closeness and affection to owners, friendliness towards strangers, cleanliness, predictability, vocalization and fussiness over food.
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