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Welcome to the Birman cat microsite. This page contains detailed information on the breed. From this point you can use the above tabs to navigate to the other Birman pages.

- Kitt Killion

Birman Breed Information

Alternative names - Sacred Birman, Sacred Cat Of Burma

Country of origin - Thought to be Burma

Breed standards (external links) - CFA(*) ACFA TICA(*) CCA ACF(*) FIFe(*)

The Birman is a breed of domestic cat. This breed has a pale coloured body and darker points with deep blue eyes.

1. Origin

The Birman is said to have originated in western Burma, and cats with similar markings are recorded in documents from ancient Thailand. One story claims that a pair was given as a gift to an Englishman named Major Gordon Russell and his friend August Pavie by the priests of the Khmer people; however, what is suspect is the year that he and his friend, Auguste Pavie, were actually in the Far East. As research dictates, it appears to be 1898, which seems to be accurate as history indicates certain tribal revolutions at that time, which relate to Buddhism and additional religious factions. Some sources quote 1916 or 1919 as the dates of the revolution, but confirming any of these dates has proved questionable and as it is acknowledged that Birman cats were first sent to France in 1919, therefore 1916 and 1919 would be more appropriate, as the priests gave the men two Birmans in thanks for saving their sect from decimation by the Brahmins: The story is relatively hazy, but claims that two cats were sent to France in 1919 to August Pavie and Major Russell Gordon, and breeding started immediately. The male died on the voyage, but the female survived and was in kitten. However, if the revolution of the Brahmins had been in 1898, there would have been too much of a gap (21 years) before the two men received the birmans and this seems too long to be credible.

What is more likely (as quoted by professor Jumand in 1926 in .Le Chat.), is that two cats, a male and a female (whose name was Sita), were stolen and given to an American millionaire, Mr Vanderbilt, by a disloyal servant of the temple of Lao-Tsun, whilst Vanderbilt was sailing in the Far East. It is then alleged that the pair were given to a woman called Mme Thadde Hadisch. The male (once again) died on the boat, but the female was pregnant, and gave birth in the French town of Nice in 1920 to a litter of kittens. One of the female offspring was splendid, and was then named Poupee. Poupee was believably bred to a Laotian Lynx. Baudoin-crevoisier, who was documented as a top Birman breeder, confirmed this in an article written in 1933, .Poupee could not be bred by a male of that breed, but was bred to a Laotian Lynx cat belonging to a doctor in Nice. This type of cat resembles the Siamese, with very blue eyes, and this breeding produced young mongrels of Birmans and Laotians. Through successive breeding was born a perfect result - Manou de Madalpour, whose marks resemble her mother, Poupee.. Baudion then wrote in 1935, .This female was next bred to a male Siamese, which, at that time was baptised for the circumstances -Laotian Cat.. In 1933, Marcel Reney, who was attempting to unravel the truth of this mystery, wrote to the doctor in Nice, M. Prat. He wrote back, .We have had indeed several Siamese cats but know nothing of the origins. I know nothing of Mme Hadisch from Vienna..

Marcel Reney also wrote to M. Guy Cheminaud, a hunter from the Far East who lived in Laos, and whose books on hunts of feral animals were illustrious, to determine what his view was on the .Lynx cat of Laos?. He replied, .There are no Laotian cats as a species distinct from the Siamese cat!.

Jumand and Baudoin.s entire history then fell through, as the most significant witness, the owner of the legendary .Laotian Cat. knew nothing of either the lynx cat or Mme Thadde Hadisch. Mmme Marcelle Adams, who owned Manou de Madalpour, avowed to Marcel Reney that a certain Mme Leotardi, before strangely vanishing, had narrated the tale as Jumand and Baudoin wrote it down. In 1933, after an article by Marcel Reney was published in .Chasse, Peche, Elevage. trying to gain new information, Baudoin wrote in 1935 in .Son Altesse le Chat., .Aside from the writings of Sir Russell Gordon and Auguste Pavie, no document gives the exact origin of these cats. After six years of personnel research and ten years breeding in France, the Sacred Cat Of Burma remains still as mysterious about it.s origin as it was originally. No-one has produced anything of new import which I have been able to see, and as a consequence, to study..

Nothing more can be found on the subject and there is still no proof as of who acquired the pair of cats. However, the breed known as .Sacre de Birmanie. was registered with the French Cat Registry in 1925. The Birman breed was almost wiped out during World War II. Only two cats were alive in Europe at the end of the war, a pair named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa, both belonging to Baudoin-crevoisier. The foundation of the breed in postwar France were offspring of this pair. Manou, Lon saito, Djaipour, Sita 1 and Sita 2, and they had to be heavily outcrossed with long-hair breeds to rebuild the birman breed. By the early 1950.s, pure birman litters were once again being produced. The restored breed was recognised in Britain in 1965 and by the American Cat Fanciers' Association in 1966.

Birmans have been bred as companions for many generations, and, as such, are very loving. They frequently take a genuine, affectionate interest in what their owners do. Birmans are typically used as show cats who travel with their owners if they are "show quality", meaning that the color of their paws (usually white) and the color of their legs must not blend or intermingle. Such an occurrence will render the Birman unshowable. These cats that lack show quality are regarded as pets.

2. Legend

Many years ago, before the birth of Buddha, the Khmer people of Burma built wonderful temples to Tsun Kyan-Kse, the Goddess with the sapphire eyes, who presides over the journey of souls, and authorize the priests to live again in a holy animal for the term of its natural life, before taking again in a divine body of a great priest. The most beautiful of these temples, built on the sides of Mount Lugh, contained a dazzling solid gold statue of the Goddess. The priests of the temple also kept one hundred pure white cats not only to guard the temple, but also to exist as companions. The elderly head priest, Mun-Ha, had a particularly loyal feline friend, Sinh, whose eyes were yellow in the reflection of the golden body of the Goddess with the serene eyes.

One tempestuous night, Phoums from Siam attacked the temple overwhelming the Kittahs, and killing the priest Mun-Ha. As he sat dying in his golden throne, Sinh leapt onto his head, and, as he sat rigid before the statue of the Goddess, a miracle transpired. His appearance was transformed to one of immense exquisiteness. His impeccable white coat became creamy and golden tinted, his ears, nose, tail and legs became dark, like the colour of the earth, but left his paws white, and his eyes glowed the same sapphire as the Goddess. He then stared at the south door. The priests, acting upon his direct look, rushed to close the heavy bronze doors.

Eventually, temple was devoid of invaders once more. Sinh, however, stayed upon Mun-Ha.s head for the next seven days with neither food nor water, before, facing the Goddess, he died - carrying Mun-Ha.s soul to Tsun Kyan-Kse. and when, Seven days later, the amassed priests consulted the statue on the succession of Mun-Ha, the remaining ninety-nine cats of the temple ran up, all of which had been transformed like Sinh, surrounded the youngest of the priests. Therefore, the reincarnated ancestors were chosen by the Goddess.s heavenly spirit.

The legend also dictates that when a priest died, his soul was channelled into the body of a cat and upon the cat.s death the priest.s soul had entered heaven- although, according to Major Russell Gordon, .But woe also to he who brings about the end of one of these marvellous beasts, even if he did not mean to. He will suffer the most cruel torments until the soul he has upset has been appeased..

The legend fails to explain the genuine, scientific derivation of these cats, and the mystery surrounding their initial background will probably never be revealed.

3. Appearance

Birmans have semi-long, silky hair, a semi-cobby body and relatively small ears compared to other cat races. In order to comply with breed standards, the Birman's body should be of an eggshell colour or golden, depending on the intensity of the markings colour. The markings can be pure seal, chocolate, blue, red, lilac or cream. Tabby variations are also allowed. Tortie cats can be seal, chocolate, blue or lilac. Birmans have sapphire coloured eyes.

The Birman's coat is unusual due to the white 'gloves' on each paw. They are the only cat breed in the colourpoint coat that has fingers and toes in pure white colour. The genetics of this feature is still unclear.

4. Birman kittens

All Birmans are born white (as other colourpoint kittens are) and they start developing their colours at the age of 1 week if they have a dark colour (as seal-point) and at the age of 14 days, or more, if they have a clear colour (as lilac-point). The first part which develops the colour are the points of ears, nose and tail. The real colour is complete at two years old and after a wintry season.

5. Colours and coat

Points of Sacred Birman are: Seal-point, Blue-point, Chocolate-point, Lilac-point, Seal Tortie-point, Cream-point, Blue Cream point, Chocolate Tortie point, Lilac Tortie point. The same colours in Tabby version (Lynx): Seal Tabby point, Blue Tabby point, Chocolate Tabby point, Lilac Tabby point, Red Tabby, Cream point, Tortie Tabby point, Lynx or Red Factor colors on the legs, tail and face. Birmans differ from conventional colour-point cats by their white paws called gloves. The coat is medium-length, not as long and thick as a Persian's, and does not mat. A notable feature is their clear blue eyes, which remain blue throughout their life.

6. Gloves

The only white area are gloves. A spot of white in other area is a fault in a Sacred Birman cat. Gloves are symmetrical in all four feet. The white must stop at the articulation or at the transition of toes to metacarpals, all fingers must be white too. Behind of the back paws these gloves finish whith an inverted V extend 1/2 to 3/4.

7. Care of Birmans

Birmans have been bred for their temperament, and companionship, and they form a great affinity with their owner and their family. As all cats, they are highly intelligent creatures, and seem to take a genuine interest in whatever is taking place around them. They are also very inquisitive, and playful, particularly when young, and require plenty of stimulation and attention.

8. Birman Naming Conventions

Many Birman breeders follow the somewhat whimsical French tradition of assigning all kittens born in a particular year given names that begin with the same letter of the alphabet. Countries with breeders using this convention include France, UK, USA, Australia/New Zealand and possibly others. Certain letters are skipped in some countries (e.g. France skips "W"). If you know the cat's country of origin, and whether the cat's breeder adheres to a country-standard or cattery-personalized naming convention, this practice makes it relatively easy to determine the approximate age of a Birman.

In the USA, for example, the entire alphabet has been run through once, ending with the letter "Z" in 2002, and beginning again with "A" in 2003. Kittens born in 2007 thus fall into the "E" year. The typical naming convention for a registered Birman in the USA is "BreederCatteryName GivenName of OwnersCatteryName" up to a maximum of 35 letters and spaces (for CFA registered cats).

Thus, for anyone familiar with Birman arcana, a registered name such as "Highbeech O'Depearl of Sacréchat" can readily be translated as a cat born to the Highbeech cattery (New Zealand) in the "D" year of Highbeech's orchid alphabetical naming convention, and subsequently imported, re-registered, owned and shown by the Sacréchat cattery (USA), with a slight name change indicating birth in the "O" year (1991) under the USA's standard alphabetical naming convention.

Copyright (c) 2008 Kitt Killion Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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