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The Russian Long-haired Cat








The above is a portrait of a cat given me many years ago, whose parents
came from Russia, but from what part I could never ascertain. It
differed from the Angora and the Persian in many respects. It was larger
in the body with shorter legs. The mane or frill was very large, long,
and dense, and more of a woolly texture, with coarse hairs among it; the
colour was of dark tabby, though the markings were not a decided black,
nor clear and distinct; the ground colour was wanting in that depth and
richness possessed by the Persian, having a somewhat dull appearance.
The eyes were large and prominent, of a bright orange, slightly tinted
with green, the ears large by comparison, with small tufts, full of
long, woolly hair, the limbs stout and short, the tail being very
dissimilar, as it was short, very woolly, and thickly covered with hair
the same length from the base to the tip, and much resembled in form
that of the English wild cat. Its motion was not so agile as other cats,
nor did it apparently care for warmth, as it liked being outdoors in the
coldest weather. Another peculiarity being that it seemed to care little
in the way of watching birds for the purpose of food, neither were its
habits like those of the short-haired cats that were its companions. It
attached itself to no person, as was the case with some of the others,
but curiously took a particular fancy to one of my short-haired,
silver-gray tabbies; the two appeared always together. In front of the
fire they sat side by side. If one left the room the other followed.
Adown the garden paths there they were, still companions; and at night
slept in the same box; they drank milk from the same saucer, and fed
from the same plate, and, in fact, only seemed to exist for each other.
In all my experience I never knew a more devoted couple. I bred but one
kitten from the Russian, and this was the offspring of the short-haired
silver tabby. It was black-and-white, and resembled the Russian in a
large degree, having a woolly coat, somewhat of a mane, and a short,
very bushy tail. This, like his father, seemed also to be fonder of
animals for food than birds, and, although very small, would without any
hesitation attack and kill a full-grown rat. I have seen several Russian
cats, yet never but on this occasion had the opportunity of comparing
their habits and mode of life with those of the other varieties; neither
have I seen any but those of a tabby colour, and they mostly of a dark
brown. I am fully aware that many cross-bred cats are sold as Russian,
Angora, and Persian, either between these or the short-haired, and some
of these, of course, retain in large degree the distinctive
peculiarities of each breed. Yet to the practised eye there is
generally--I do not say always--a difference of some sort by which the
particular breed may be clearly defined. When the prizes are given, as
is the case even at our largest cat shows, for the best long-haired cat,
there, of course, exists in the eye of the judge no distinction as
regards breed. He selects, as he is bound to do, that which is the best
long-haired cat in all points, the length of hair, colour, texture,
and condition of the exhibit being that which commands his first
attention. But if it were so put that the prize should be for the best
Angora, Persian, Russian, etc., it would make the task rather more than
difficult, for I have seen some "first-cross cats" that have possessed
all, or nearly all, the points requisite for that of the Angora,
Persian, or Russian, while others so bred have been very deficient,
perhaps showing the Angora cross only by the tail and a slight and small
frill. At the same time it must be noted, that, although from time to
time some excellent specimens may be so bred, it is by no means
desirable to buy and use such for stock purposes, for they will in all
probability "throw back"--that is, after several generations, although
allied with thoroughbred, they will possibly have a little family of
quite "short-hairs." I have known this with rabbits, who, after breeding
short-haired varieties for some time, suddenly reverted to a litter of
"long-hairs"; but have not carried out the experiment with cats. At the
same time I may state that I have little or no doubt that such would be
the case; therefore I would urge on all those who are fond of cats--or,
in fact, other animals--of any particular breed, to use when possible
none but those of the purest pedigree, as this will tend to prevent much
disappointment that might otherwise ensue. But I am digressing, and so
back to my subject--the Russian long-haired cat. I advisedly say
long-haired cat, for I shall hereafter have to treat of other cats
coming from Russia that are short-haired, none which I have hitherto
seen being tabbies, but whole colour. This is the more singular as all
those of the long-hair have been brown tabbies, with only one or two
exceptions, which were black. It is just possible these were the
offspring of tabby or gray parents, as the wild rabbit has been known to
have had black progeny. I have seen a black rabbit shot from amongst the
gray on the South Downs.



I do not remember having seen a white Russian "long-hair," and I should
feel particularly obliged to any of my readers who could supply me with
further information on this subject, or on any other relating to the
various breeds of cats, cat-life and habits. I am fully aware that no
two cats are exactly alike either in their form, colour, movements, or
habits; but what I have given much study and attention to, and what I
wish to arrive at is, the broad existing natural distinctions of the
different varieties. In this way I shall feel grateful for any
information.



The above engraving and description of a very peculiar animal is from
Daniel's "Rural Sports," 1813:

"This Cat was the Property of Mrs. Finch, of Maldon, Essex. In the
Account of this Lusus Naturae, for such it may be deemed, the Mother
had no other Likeness to her Production, than her Colour, which is a
tawny Sandy, in some parts lightly streaked with black; She had
this, and another Kitten like it, about two Years since. The fellow
Kitten was killed, in consequence of being troublesome, to the Mistress
of the House, where it was presented. This is a Male, above the
usual Size, with a shaggy Appearance round its Face, resembling that
of the Lion's, in Miniature. The Hair protruding from the Ears,
formerly grew, like what are termed Cork-screw Curls, and which are
frequently seen, among the smart young Watermen, on the Thames; the
Tail is perfectly distinct, from that of the Cat Species, and resembles
the Brush of a Fox. The Mother, has at this time (1813), three Young
ones, but without the least Difference to common Kittens, neither,
indeed, has she ever had any before, or since, similar to That here
described. The Proprietor has been offered, and refused One Hundred
Pounds for this Animal."



This was either a cross with the English wild cat, which sometimes has a
mane, or it was an accidental variation of nature. I once bred a
long-haired rabbit in a similar way, but at first I failed entirely to
perpetuate the peculiarity. I think the above simply "a sport."





I have now concluded my remarks on the long-haired varieties of cats
that I am at present acquainted with. They are an exceedingly
interesting section; their habits, manners, forms, and colours form a by
no means unprofitable study for those fond of animal life, as they, in
my opinion, differ in many ways from those of their "short-haired"
brethren. I shall not cease, however, in my endeavours to find out if
any other long-haired breeds exist, and I am, therefore, making
inquiries in every direction in which I deem it likely I shall get an
increase of information on the subject, but hitherto without any
success. Therefore, I am led to suppose that the three I have
enumerated are the only domesticated long-haired varieties. The nearest
approach, I believe, to these in the wild state is that of the British
wild cat, which has in some instances a mane and a bushy tail, slightly
resembling that of the Russian long-hair, with much of the same facial
expression, and rather pointed tufts at the apex of the ears. It is also
large, like some of the "long-haired" cats that I have seen; in fact, it
far more resembles these breeds than those of the short hair. I was much
struck with the many points of similitude on seeing the British wild cat
exhibited by the Duke of Sutherland at the first cat show at the Crystal
Palace in July, 1871. I merely offer this as an idea for further
consideration. At the same time, allow me to say that I have had no
opportunity of studying the anatomy of the British wild cat, in
contradistinction to that of the Russian, or others with long hair. I
only wish to point out what I term a general resemblance, far in excess
of those with short hair. I am fully aware how difficult it is to trace
any origin of the domestic cat, or from what breeds; it is also said,
that the British wild cat is not one of them, still I urge there exists
the similarity I mention; whether it is so apparent to others I know
not.





Next: The Tortoiseshell Cat

Previous: The Persian Cat



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