Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Cat on a Coin

A History of the Angora Cat


An English writer in 1868 describes the Angora as a "beautiful variety with silvery hair of fine texture, generally longest on the neck, but also on the tail"

A Turkish Cat on a Turkish Rug in the City of Istanbul, Turkey  Jurgen Horn
Affection for cats is very great in Turkey. Nearly every family has one or more cats. The stray cats generally are more or less, cared for. It is not uncommon for a not-so-wealthy person to share their meal with a stray cat. Doing evil to a cat is considered extremely bad behaviour. Islam might have something to do with this, as Mohammed's favorite pet was a longhaired white cat with odd-eyes. It is rumored that Mohammed once cut off the sleve of his garment, rather than to disturb the sleeping cat in his arms. 

The white variety of the Angora Cat was often felt to be the only true representative of this breed and the Ankara Zoo established a breeding program of whites. In Turkey the Angora is called different names depending on the color. 

 The Prophet Mohammed is said to have owned an odd-eyed white cat.

20th. Century
Many people think of an Angora cat to mean a longhaired cat. However, the only pedigreed cats that carry the name "Angora" are the Turkish Angora. In the early part of the 20th. century, the Angora was used indiscriminately in breedings with Persians, finally disappearing from the scene as it became incorporated with that breed, known for a time simply as "Longhairs". At this time the Angora had become almost extinct in the United States. As the Turkish Angora cats became scarce, both in its native Turkey and elsewhere, the Turkish government set up a breeding program at Ankara Zoo during the 1960s with the aim of reviving the breed’s fortunes. Surplus cats from the program were obtained by other breeders, particularly in the United States. The first overseas litter was born in 1963, but such cats did not reach Britain until the late 1970s. 

Turkish Angora Cat, Heikki Siltala,

TURKISH ANGORAS IN EUROPE . Traveling in Turkey in 1955, two cat lovers saw cats very similar to the old Angora near Lake Van. They took a pair and introduced them into Britain, where they attracted much attention. This pair produced kittens and others were brought over from Turkey. Unfortunately, no records had been kept in Turkey, so it took quite a few years to procure the necessary three generations of pure breeding required before they could even be considered as a recognized variety. They were officially recognized in Britain in 1969. Then the Persian was first gaining popularity among the cat fanciers in Great Britain, it did so primarily at the expense of the closely related Turkish Angora. Turkish Angoras were used to produce the long hair now seen in such breeds as the Persians. As a result, the Turkish Angora was slowly moving toward extinction. 

In 1962, the Angora was re-discovered at the Ankara Zoo in Ankara, Turkey, in a controlled breeding program dating back forty-five years. Cat fanciers are enjoying a resurgence of a delightful breed once thought to be extinct ... the Turkish Angora. In recent years, due to new importation from Turkey, the breed's country of origin, the Turkish Angora has again taken its place in the roster of the pedigreed cats of the world. 

 Turkish Angora Cat, Heikki Siltala,

1960's - Turkish Angoras Arrive in North America
In the 1960's the breed was first introduced into the United States and is now recognized by various cat registries. However, more recent popularity in the US has brought the Turkish Angora a new lease on life. The Turkish government set up a breeding program in Ankara Zoo during the 1960s with the aim of reviving the breed. We have tried to enhance the gene pool by bringing in a variety of Turkish Angoras. American servicemen stationed in Turkey rediscovered the Angora cat in 1962 at the Ankara Zoo in Turkey were they were being bred in a controlled breeding program for about 45 years. The cat is regarded a national treasure in Turkey. The Angoras origin can be traced back to Tartars who migrated to Turkey and brought along the domesticated cat, originated probably from the Manul Cat. The Turkish Angora is quite an unknown breed. Even though she is one of the eldest cat breeds, she's only got quite a small fan club here in Europe. On one hand that's a pity, on the other hand it's a big advantage.

The fact that this breed is fairly unknown has saved her from degeneration up till now. The very few breeders of this race are anxious to keep these striking qualities by worldwide exchange of breed animals in order to enlarge the genpool. Also part of that is the import of so called Foundationanimals from Turkey, who are subject to a tough natural selection in their homeland. No hobbybreeder is capable of keeping his beloved ones so cruel but efficiently from degeneration as mother nature. Thoroughly chosen imports also make sure that the physical appearance of this breed doesn't distance itself too much from its Turkish original. This way new bloodlines come in, but the efforts for a good homogeneous standard are not endangered. This very old catrace apparently originates from southern Kaukasia and was spread by trade-caravans.

It is the origin of many other nowadays better known breeds, for example the Norwegian Forestcat, Maine Coon and last but not least the Persian. Once an expensive preciousness, the Turkish Angora abruptly lost importance at the beginning of this century just because of her non extreme characteristics. 

She had become rare in Turkey and had nearly disappeared in the rest of the world. When the Turkish government realized that its national cat was going to die out, the breed was put under national wildlife protection. The export of white Turkish Angoras was completely forbidden. In a nationwide appeal private households where asked to provide white Turkish Angoras. They were collected in the state-owned zoos of Ankara , later also in Istanbul, where they served to breeding and race preservation. In the zoos they did, as we know today, a fatal selective breeding on white color. But mother nature helped too in that matter, because this breeding on Whites expressed itself as a dead end.

The healthier, not homozygous white cats reproduced themselves much better. So the colored varieties were maintained (survived), until they got the appreciation they deserve- outside Turkey, first in America, then also in Europe. But it is due to the work of these zoos that this wonderful catbreed was preserved until its rediscovery. In the sixties breeding began in America, in the early eighties then in Germany. The origins of the old German lines are imports from Turkey and America.


What I like about this kind of cat is that it just looks like a cat – not some hairless freak or a Persian that looks like it’s been chasing parked cars.  It’s pretty – but mutt cats are pretty too.  And that’s what most people should get if they want a cat.  A mutt.  From the pound.  Like this one.

photo © Geonni Banner

What got me to thinking about Angora cats was the realization the breed name probably derives from the name of the Turkish city, Ankara.  This was brought home to me when I bought a freshly minted Turkish coin with the eponymous cat pictured on it.  I also discovered that the word for cat in Turkish is Kedi – or Kedisi.  Here kedi, kedi, kedi… 
Cats, like dogs, have the gift of making their owners more human.  A person with a pet is more like us.  The first thing we learn about the woman in the photo below is that she cares for her cat - even though her own life may be in turmoil.  This is a good thing.

Shaqouli, Iraq displaced woman holds cat while waiting for transport in checkpoint village east of Mosul. Photo Odd Andersen

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